ZBrush Time-Lapses with Style

by | Mar 16, 2016

front and side view of the insect creature done in ZBrush for the time lapse quick guide

Here are 3 ways to enhance your time lapses!

Do you like ZBrush Time-Lapses? me too! Here I’ll show you a few tips to make them stand out a bit more!

For two of the methods, you’ll need a software like Adobe After Effects to edit the output video. If you don’t have access to a video editor, the first method in this quick guide can be achieved all within ZBrush and I think it gives very good results. 

I think it would be fair to say that everyone enjoys a ZBrush time-lapses. There are exceptions of course, but overall they are a great way to show you work and your process.

Time-lapses in ZBrush are really easy to do, they look impressive when you speed them up and they can serve as a window to the artist’ workflow. You can also use them to review your own work, you might even pick up something you do that you weren’t aware you were doing.

A few samples:

The thing is…

Most of my time-lapses look very similar like the “Arac” creature, or “The boxer‘. So apart from the actual model that is being created and the material/MatCap I used to render the video, I think they all have the same look and feel.

So I decided to try a few things to make my time-lapses stand out a bit more, so I end up with a few variant that look more interesting. Keep in mind that for these examples, I increased the speed almost 400% so the rotation and movement gets a little crazy. This is just to show you the look and feel:

Now, here are 3 methods I have used that might work for you too:

1 – The radial gradient

NOTE: you’ll need to download these resources to follow along: RESOURCES

In most time-lapses, you’ll see a flat background or a linear gradient. The linear gradient from black to grey, is the default background in ZBrush. You can change the range and colours from the Document Palette, but that’s pretty much all you can change. So what if you want to add a nice radial gradient? not just a linear gradient or a flat colour?

If you follow these steps, you can easily enhance your time-lapses with a nice radial gradient in the background. The change is very subtle but it does make a big difference.


  • First, dock the light palette to the right tray and expand the Background subpalette.


  • Click on the environment texture slot and click “import”. Then select the ZBG_Background_for_time-lapses.hdr You can also use the Template.psd to create/tweak you own background.


NOTE: The background file from  this guide’s resources, is an 32bits HDR image. If you make your own background with the template I am sharing, make sure you save the file as “.hdr or .exr” for better results.

  • Rotate your view until you see the gradient and hold “Shift” to snap the view.


  • Turn the “Rotate with object” OFF (after you have rotated your object to have the gradient in the background).


  • Done! no you can play with the sliders to tweak the gradient before you record your time-lapse:

Zoom: Think about this as a Scale Gradient function. This will zoom in or out the background image, therefore changing the size of the embedded gradient.


Exposure and Gamma: These two are self explanatory, but if you don’t want to get very technical, think about them (for this purpose) as brightness and contrast respectively.


Longitude: move the centre of the gradient from left to right.

Latitude: move the centre of the gradient up and down.


That’s it, you can actually put any image you want in background before you record the time lapse. Maybe a subtle logo? or some background icon related to the project? for instance:


2 – The Side by Side build up

Another idea is to do a side by side time-lapse of the same sculpture, instead of the free camera movement. This is very cool if you want to show a front and side view of the construction of your model, simultaneously.

  • First, we need to change the background to a flat colour (you can also use the third technique for this part).


  • Then we need to record and export two movies, for the front and side view of your model. To avoid any camera movement, just use these settings from the movie palette:


  • Also make sure you record the two movies with the model in opposite sides of the screen. For example, I placed the front side of my model to the right of the document and  the side view of the model, to the right (front and side):

front_on_the_right  side_on_the_left

  • Record each movie (each side) and export them individually.
  • Once you have your two movies, you can open up any video editor and import them (I’m using After Effects). Put one movie on top of the other and mask out an area of the movie that sits on top, to reveal the model in the background.


That’s it.

3 – The Chroma Key Technique

I guess you can call this technique “Green Screen” too. It is a very simple, but very efficient method to enhance your time-lapses, is also probably the best option, if you like to edit your videos a bit (I use this method to create the first image from this post). All you need to do is:

  • Select bright Green or Blue colour for the background (or any other saturated colour that is different from the colour/material you want your model to have in the recording).


NOTE: The RGB value for pure green is R:0 G:255 B:0 You can specify these values from the colour palette, with the color components sliders:


  • Record your movie and export it
  • Use the Chroma Key tools in your video editing software to remove the “Green screen” (I’m using Keylight 1.2 in After Effects). Now you can have any background you want, you could even overlay the model on top of another video.


That’s it for now, I hope you find this tricks useful!

Put your cool time-lapses in the comments below, I’ll love to see what you make with this techniques!


1 - The Radial Gradient
  1. Open the background sub-palette from the Light palette.
  2.  Add theZBG_Background_for_time-lapses.hdr” image to the background texture.
  3. Frame the gradient and turn “click with object” OFF.
  4. Tweak the sliders.
2 - The Side By Side Build Up
  1. Change the background to a flat solid colour.
  2. Position the front (or any other angle) of your model and record your movie.
  3. Export each movie (one movie per angle).
  4. In your video editor, mask the movies to reveal the other layers (movies from other angles).
3 - The Chroma Key Technique
  1.  Select a green or blue background from the Document Palette.
  2. Record your ZBrush movie and export it.
  3. Use the Chroma Key tools in your video editor to remove the “green screen”.


Here are the resources for this quick guide again, just in case.