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what's the most efficient workflow for making an animated character with decent topology as a one man operation? zbrush + retopo, or is there a more efficient workflow using max,maya,blender, or whatever that i don't know of that lets you get usuable geometry really fast? i'm currently poly-modeling in maya and it feels fine but i tend to just move vertices manually and i feel like adding inner rings for a collarbone is tough as shit. any advice?
Feel free to come contribute and explore the wonderful world of subd.
I'd say sculpt + retopo is the best method. The sculpt let's you get the character's shape and volume out of the way so you can purely focus on the topology. In my case, I still do some vertex pushing after retopo to get the final result, but it's not much.
You wont be doing this fast, getting a solid working topology for animation is a slow grind.
All the well made characters you see out there in games and movies are created by people with years of experience based on trial and error.
Refinement happens in small increments from rig to rig as you improve upon your failiures.
The behind the 'behind the scenes' of how the magic actually happens is ultra messy and non-linear.

Then when you go and make a demo of how to go about making something you tend to make it look way easy
because you show a 'lessons learned' version of where you are at now as a team/artist.

Keep building your own stuff and study masterful work of others. Rather than trying to find 'the most efficient' workflow
you must seek any workflow that enable you to construct art on the level you envision.
Worrying about efficieny is only important when you're to produce something of a level you've already mastered, not while you're pushing your envelope.
Buy a decent basemesh from cubebrush and use ZWrap https://www.russian3dscanner.com/zwrap/

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