Design a beautifully detailed arch-viz scene from scratch
Hrensko was a step up for me in terms of visualization, and a great challenge on how to use tools simply and functionally in archviz. The more I step into archviz, the easier the process becomes in my workflow. Better to say, as software and plugins are updated and professional it's easier for artists to make our dream world come true in an image or animation. The future challenge for the artist might be who can do the process better and faster and for this intention, we should learn how to use new tools and also keep our knowledge updated. This project as it seems in the main image may look like a very complex one, but we will see how easily we can create the realistic result if we go through the right workflow.
As I am always passionate to share my knowledge with others, I want to say a big thank you for giving me this opportunity to offer this tutorial. Special thanks to Wim Vanderschueren for helping too.
Modeling the environment
Maybe it could be a challenging step for artists to start modeling the environment but I advise, just think about what you need and don’t exaggerate the process. There are two types of workflow: We may need to build the whole area and need hundreds of renders or animation. In this project I modeled only the environment which was visible to the camera angles. So basically I started with a simple plan and divided it into mid-range segments and made my basic environment with pull and push in 3ds Max. It may take time but it’s the best and most optimized way of having a terrain.
Displacements & textures
As we made the basic terrains by pushing and pulling we may need to make more variety on surfaces with displacements to look more realistic. So, for this purpose, I started to make a simple ground texture with Quixel mixer. As I guessed most of the ground will be covered by ferns and bushes, I didn’t spend much time making the texture because mainly I needed the displacement. And for the rocks close to the camera I used Megascan 3D rock models with high-res displacements to bring more realism into the image.
As we reach an acceptable environment, now we have to make our environment look more like the real-world, and as our scene is more and less like a mountain-jungle shape, we need to know how to scatter each part. To get the process easier to understand for you and also easier to manage for myself, as you see I divided the environments with different colors, so each color took different species, but still, for making more variation I made two types of scattering for some parts with different settings to look more natural.
To have a very realistic environment you may need a way different species, and that was what I brought into my scene. I didn’t have a vast landscape among my camera, and as the distance of the environment ends at around 400 meters from the camera, it ensures all the details of the trees and ferns would be visible, so I chose all species in high-quality format to guarantee that after the final render in high-res format, there will be no lack of texture in the image. Then I gathered all the models together, deleted some of the leaves, and changed some of the materials in the way I liked them to be.
Bringing different layers always helps to achieve better results no matter if it's making material or scattering species of plant. With the amazing forest pack feature based on the color I considered for each part, I assigned different layers with different species to each part, chose different scale, rotation, and density for each layer, and also in each layer with randomizing the probabilities of each species, bringing more variety to scattering and the result was more natural.
Also, while making different painting areas I excluded or included more random spaces for scattering, and disabled unnecessary parts of the surface from scattering. Also, make sure you exclude different objects such as trunks or rocks from scattering layers.
With all the layers you made with the forest pack there are still some parts which need manual scattering, and you still need to scatter some ferns or stones in the places you like. For this, I chose Advance Painter which is a very useful and user friendly tool. Also, sometimes because of the object's formats forest may not recognize the right direction to scatter on x, y, z position, so Advance Painter helps to have more accuracy of scattering. When after a couple of tests you made sure all the species took nice, then we go for the next step.
Never trust an object's material and always do some tests before final renders, especially for the object exported from other engines like Unreal. Make the right gamma for the textures and right brightness to see better details. As you see I tried to make the process super simple but I didn’t fail, the more variety you bring into the materials and texture the more photorealistic results you may achieve. Go for different layers if it’s necessary and always choose a TIFF format over HDR for the displacement if you don’t have a strong computer. Displacement calculation will be a big issue in the final render for you.
I always like to make an artistic atmosphere, and mostly I follow the real world as my reference. The amount of fog or mist can have a vital rule in light refraction and sometimes in bouncing the light. It used to be a post-production technique but now with a simple material you can make for the whole environment. As you can see in the final image and the moonlight example, the amount of fog brought a mass of light around the light source and brightened a specific environment. That’s a trick that you can use in the artistic works. And here you can see the volumetric fog setting I used for this scene. Just note the scale of your work is effective in using the fog, but the process is the same for all environments.
I'm very meticulous about this part because I can harvest all of my plants here. Simply I can say yes I used HDRI texture but the question is how I achieved this light from an HDRI texture, the answer is that it was the most time-consuming part of the work as I tried more than 30 HDRI textures with different rotation in the vertical and horizontal direction. But the more time I spent the better the result. So the placement of the light and angle it glints to in the environment is the important bit. It may be an intention to tell a story or transfer a feeling with different color which can emphasize your philosophy of creation.
Turn off the autoback
In my personal experience around 80% of 3ds Max crashes are because of interference of autoback with your acts during the progress. So I faced this issue hundreds of times as we all do but in this case, I just turned it off and used manual saving on two different files and guess how many times my 3ds Max crashed? The answer is zero. If some of the objects in the scene do not have problems or all plugins work correctly this can help a lot. You may also check your scene with plugins like Sini software or Corona Render Scene Check to see if there is any problem with your file or not.