In Featured Work

Alumni Student Matt Novak explains his Peice “Desert Scene”

Concept:

mattn_concep

Before any modeling, texturing or even a blockout. I always like to have a plan, look at the scene to figure out what the hardest elements are to tackle.The sandy ground is one of the things that would need quite a bit of attention since it appears to be quite a important part of the scene. With smart use of textures and a clever shader I had a idea of how I would be able to approach it. Due to the amount of buildings in the distance and dark shady areas, having objects that could be instanced or built up to create variations save tremendous time. Which is one the things I could have done a bit more with this scene, having too many unique objects can destroy your workflow and result.The lighting is very specific, the hard shadows are very dark and there is much contrast between the surrounding areas. One of the best ways to tackle outdoor lighting is to use a HDRI in combination with a physical sun.When blocking out the scene and defining the shape of objects, having a viewport with only flat shading is useful to see overall silohette and layout of the scene. Doing a test with a block out and only direct shadows from the sun is also useful to make sure your lighting and scene layout is correct before moving on and adding more detail.
Planning:

Before any modeling, texturing or even a blockout, I always like to have a plan, and look at the scene to figure out what the hardest elements are to tackle. The sandy ground is one of the things that would need quite a bit of attention since it appears to be quite a important part of the scene. With smart use of textures and a clever shader I had a idea of how I would be able to approach it. Due to the amount of buildings in the distance and dark shady areas, having objects that could be instanced or built up to create variations save tremendous time. Which is one the things I could have done a bit more with this scene, having too many unique objects can destroy your workflow and result. The lighting is very specific, the hard shadows are very dark and there is much contrast between the surrounding areas. One of the best ways to tackle outdoor lighting is to use a HDRI in combination with a physical sun. When blocking out the scene and defining the shape of objects, having a viewport with only flat shading is useful to see overall silohette and layout of the scene. Doing a test with a block out and only direct shadows from the sun is also useful to make sure your lighting and scene layout is correct before moving on and adding more detail.

mattds_a(1)

 

Environment Creation:

After the blockout was finished and the overall layout seemed acceptable, I needed to get a proper HDRI and environment in the scene to create proper reflections. The HDRI was desert panoramic photograph in EXR format, it had some hills in the background that I actually found appealing and beneficial to the feel of the scene. Having a image for distant hills never is too believeable but by having distant terrain geometry inbetween guides the viewers eye a bit better and makes the contrast between photo and CG a bit less noticeable. To do the distant terrain geometry I decided to use a heightmap since it could be done quick and yield decent results.

mattds_b

Generating the height map was nothing more than just a few procedural nodes with some value tweaking and a mask or two. One of benefits about heightmaps and terrain, is if you stack the heightmap/displace modifier on top of a plane/grid primitive while leaving the height and width subdivisions accessible. You are able to preview the heightmap quickly without slowing down the viewport, and increasing detail is just a matter of upping the width and height subdivison sliders. Those sliders can even be keyed for animations were it can act as dynamic LOD/tesselation. Environment fog was another thing that really improves the believability of distant terrain, especially in a scene were sand/dust would be expected to be in the air. It also gives you a useful pass that could be adjusted even further in Nuke or any compositing software.

Texturing and Rendering:

As always one of the most important things in a scene that either makes it or breaks it, is textures. Photoshop works great for the majority of work but on more complex shapes that have not so straight foward UV’s, I find 3D painting has a far better result and is much more efficent. Mari is by far my program of choice for 3D painting, it has wonderful mask capabilites which became very useful for grunging up edges or adding rust and decay.

mattds_c

The sand in my scene could have been approached by just having a very large painted texture however working with giant files isn’t always the best for flexibility or render times, especially if the terrain continues for a fair distance. By using multiple tileable sand textures and a procedural cloud in a shader that has multiple layers. I was able to use weight painting to create quick masks to reveal or cover up layers allowing me to break repedativeness while maintaining high detail. The best thing is that you could adjust/paint the masks directly in the viewport which speeds up workflow quite a bit. And once satisfied with it you can just save it to a image file and fine tune the mask in 3dsMax’s viewport canvas or Photoshop.

mattds_d

Rendering consisted of a gamma 2.2 workflow with a physical camera, and multiple passes which were reconstructed in NUKE to create the beauty. But much more valuable than the end result, were the techniques learned and the mistakes made from tackling this scene.

 

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