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Making of 'Siren'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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I will not talk too much about the modelling process here, but will instead discuss more about the texturing. This is not a tutorial about the basics, just a general overview. I am assuming that the reader already knows the basics of the programs I have used.


I modelled mainly in Wings 3D, except for objects which are not supported by the program (splines, planes and particles). Most of the models were made from boxes or cylinders (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

The siren was modelled in a neutral position, and was later set in a lying position in Max. For this, I used a simple skeleton and some boxes, cylinders and spheres linked to the bones. The siren was connected to the geometry by a skin modifier. Later, in Wings 3D, I fixed some deformations which appeared whilst rigging, and I modelled a blanket underneath her (Fig.02). For the planks of wood, I took one of my textures, as a blueprint, into Wings 3D and modelled using it as a guide. With this method, the geometry perfectly fit the texture. I modelled a few different planks there. I mapped them planar, and in the Unwrap Editor I moved them so that each one was in its place on the texture. On the top, I applied a Meshsmooth modifier. I later added some dirt and a baked lighting map, but I will explain more about this later on with other objects (Fig.03).

Fig. 02

Fig. 03

The basket was modelled in Max with the use of splines. First came the thick spider through the middle. Each spline was given a different thickness so that it didn't look too regular. I worked all of the thin splines around, also using different thicknesses. I modelled the basket similar to how you would in real life, fitting each spline separately by hand and starting a new spline after each one or two rounds. (I modelled the basket over a week, so I recommend this method only to very patient people!) The texture is made of two; the first one consists of 7 different colours (shades of brown, green and yellow), the second one is a texture of old rust. The colours are distributed randomly on the splines so that each one is a little different. The rust is mapped planar across the basket as a whole so that it looks more like one (Fig.04).

Fig. 04


When unwrapping, if I know which side of the object will be visible to the camera, I make the seams on the back so that they aren't visible.Some elements which will be completely invisible I don't unwrap at all. For unwrapping, I used pelt mapping and later the relax dialogue. I put a checker map into the viewport to see if the texture was mapped well. I unwrapped nearly every object, except the grass, water, rope and basket (there's just a planar map). Later, I gave a grey standard material to the objects, put a skylight into the scene, turned on the light tracer (scanline) and render to texture, with the option lighting or complete depending on which had the better look and contrast. I set the resolution on the size of the planned texture. I use this baked map later on when I created the diffuse map for the objects (Ambient Occlusion can also be used for this, but I didn't know about it when I made this scene) (Fig.05). Some things which I follow when I create texture:

  1. Take a UVW map.
  2. Ground: Take a map which has approximately the desired structure of the object. So, if there should be planks, take wood. If there should be a curtain, take some cloth. And so on.
  3. Dirt: Here the structure isn't important anymore; it's more important that it's dirty and irregular. You can give moss or human skin to a fish, you can give rusted metal to wood - take whatever is available. There are some black-and-white maps of scratches, splashes, and stains available - they're good too, although coloured maps often look better. You can experiment on layers with the different modes, such as Multiply, Overlay, Soft light and others, changing the intensity, manipulating the colours and contrast, and so on.
  4. Baked: You can add a baked texture (which I mentioned earlier); I usually set it as Multiply. You can also colour this element or change the contrast. (The siren was the first scene where I used this method, so I don't know yet if I'll use it again.) This way, it becomes darker in holes and cavities, and near the bottom, so you can interpret that as more dirt in those areas. 
  5. Details: You can paint something with the brush or paste from a photograph. For example, for the fish I pasted the eyes from a picture; for the siren I painted freckles on her face; for the blanket under the siren I took seams, and so on.
  6. Bumps and others: In most cases, I just make them greyscale, but sometimes you have to change some things in addition. Usually, I make a bump, sometimes also specular, transparency or displacement maps. If a texture is taken straight from a photograph, or is not seamless, you can cut out a piece, make the edges smooth, and then copy. During texturing, I always make test renders to see if the colours are working well with the colours of other objects and with the lighting, and to check that the structure is not too small or too big. Here are some examples (the colours in the final picture look different from this because of the lighting):

Fig. 05

The Fish
  • Image 1: UV Texporter over Meshsmooth
  • Image 2: Reference image of a big fish - I cut out a segment and laid it along the UVW
  • Image 3: I copied the layer and set to Overlay Fig06d: I added layers for the skin (Overlay) and moss (colour corrected and set it to Multiply)
  • Image 4: I lightened areas for the tail
  • Image 5: I baked the texture
  • Image 6: The bump map
  • Image 7: The reflection map (Fig.06(

Fig. 06

continued on next page >

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