Work In progres - from the first render to final picture
Everytime when I start to create a new picture, the first step that I do is to block the position and the size of the elements in the scene including camera and the basic setup of the light. For this, I use the standard primitive objects like box, spheres or some extruded elements which can be easily created. The blocking of the scene is one of the crucial parts since it shows you where the main objects will be, and how exposed - visible will they be to the viewer. From that you can make decisions of what will be more or less detailed parts of the scene. Also, at this moment you can experiment a little bit with the basic light setup just to see what kind of light colors would be apropriate, or maybe test intensity of the lights to check the balance of the colors and lighting. This is that first picture that I am talking about, the start of the Slow Decay:
As you can see from the picture above, there are three basic divisions of the scene. The first one is the middle object, the ship for transporting people over the river. The second division are the elements in the background ... the buildings and partially the highway. The third one is the building on the left, in the shadow. After a few examinations of this basic scene, I saw that the highway can be a great element to blend the background (buildings) with the front - near details (transport venichle and the building on the right). This is because the top part of the highway that is directly lighted with yellow light can gradually fade away to the dark part of the highway and blend the brightly lighted background with the shadowed elements on the left side of the picture.
Also, at the begining I have planned to use the variations of blue light at the shadowed parts of the scene. But after a few thoughts of what is the best way to show the poluted future and the process of slow decay of the life itself, I decided to give a try to the green color instead of the blue, since green enhances the feeling of more dark-toxic atmosphere. It is much harder to play with green color than with blue, but why not, let's give it a shot. ;)
The next picture is, I think third one that I rendered. It is still deep start. The buildings in the back have some basic textures that I found in my collection. I also put some textures on the right building just to see what will be the size of it. There is also the simple model of the sign above the ground. I also started to model the transport venichle. This is one of the first versions of it ... after the few hours of modelling. As you can see, the lighting is different (green) which is more suitable than the blue version from the beginning. Camera was also rotated a little bit.
As you can probably see I don't do full modelling and then go to texturing lighting. I tend to mix all of those three steps together. For me it is more fun to do it this way, but it is really up to you to decide how will you do it. Ok, now the next picture was one test that I did to see how the scene will react to the final gather pass. That's the reason why some parts are brighter compared to the picture from step above. Final gather and Globall Illumination can be of great help when you need to light up your scenes quickly and realistically, but as the name says it is globall and it can not be controled localy. For example if I want to light up that tiny part of the scene a little bit more, and I use spotlight for that, the effect of it when using FG will be more global because light reflects and bounces around the scene, compared to the version without FG where the effect of the light is local and directional. The other reason why I didn't use FG and GI was the time it takes to render your scene. For example, the render time for Slow Decay is around 3 hours. If I have used FG and GI it would take around 10 hours, maybe more. But don't get me wrong ... FG and GI are great, and I am using them in two new pictures that I am working on right now. Yes, I forgot ... you can also see that I also worked on signs, textures and new lights. I also moved the venichle a little bit back so that it blends better with the scene. Now the picture ;)
The next thing that I have tested is the fog. Now, the Maya has its own fog shader but once the fog is created it can not be changed without rerendering. That's why I tell MentalRay to render the Z Depth Map whith which you can easily add fog in postprocessing program like Digital Fusion, Combustion or some other. It's easy to get the z depth map from Maya, but I will explain that in the rendering part of the tutorial. One thing that I have worked on are the two monitors and the platform at the pillars on the right. The picture:
Once I tested the picture with the fog I decided to stick with it ... maybe I will change it a little bit later but I will concentrate on adding details right now. In the picture below I refined the transport venicle and added the first textures to it. It looks much better now but it still needs more details. I have also played with the intensity of the lights with which signs are lit, but in this test they stick out too much, so I will probably correct this in the next wip. I think that intensity, which is somewhere in the middle, is the one I am looking for.
That was the first thing that I have done in next picture (below). I have also created 5 new textures for the signs ... that was done in Photoshop. And there is also the new sign at the second row of the signs in the back. This one is oriented vertically to break up the repetition a little bit. I have also added the sign on the right pillars RCCS 75 which stands for Road Control Center 75. ;) There are also other new elements, be free to explore the picture below and discover them by yourself ;)
As you progress through the creation , you will add more and more small details that are not noticeable at the first sight but they make difference. For example, compared to the picture above I have changed only the model of the building on the right. Details are added to few balconies and there are also new elements on the top of that building. As I said not too much but enough to make a difference. ;) I have also included the second picture just to show you how I quickly paint my new ideas on the picture ... what I still need to do ... details details. Some of them will be realised, other not. Since I draw with my mouse it looks crappy but it is enough to serve as reference to what I have in my brain. ;) I also tend to print the image and paint with hand on it. It's a matter of choice...
After the red-brush crappy sketch I have started to work on those details. In the meantime I made a few other sketches with more elements. The picture below is just that. The new things are: dirt on back building, the details on the top of few buildings, the new mechanical elements on the top of the highway, the details below the highway on the pillars, the details on the left shadowed part, grafiti on the left wall and in the back pillars. I have also made a mistake: the white planes on the building are there because they lack the alpha channel since I converted the image to another format ... I just switched to old image texture and everything worked fine.
Just a few steps from the final image. I added more details like the wires between highway and left building. This wires gave the completely new touch to the image, it enhanced the world above and below them ... they made the cut between these two levels of the image. I was really satisfied with them, but they need a little bit more work on them. This was the moment when I decided to make image a little bit more brighter because my monitor was not calibrated very good, and at some other computer the image was too dark. So I tweaked nearly all the lights in the scene. There is also one detail in the passage at the top left part of the picture for which I didn't make a good light setup .... they were too dark. The last WIP picture:
And the final image. Brighter lights, more wires, few dirt spots, desaturated front left sign. This was the end of few months that I have spent on this picture. There were times when I had time and inspiration to work few hours per day, and then there were periods of week or two when I didn't touch it, but at the end I am pretty satisfied with it. It is a big project to do by myself, but why not if it makes you happy at the end? ;) Below are also two images that I rendered. The black and white one is the occlusion pass which I will talk about in the texturing section and the last one is the image without textures but with all the lights.