Making Of 'Ancient Spaceship'
My ideas for new images are quite often born at night, and such was the case with this piece. I immediately sat down to draw so that I wouldn't forget the idea. Then I left it to rest and some time passed before I returned to it.
The first sketches had been done on paper, of course, and various versions and modifications were created in Photoshop afterwards (Fig.01).
The next step was rendering the base objects in ZBrush, where I tried to get the right perspective and composition. After achieving more or less the desired position and shape of the object - which, of course, evolved throughout the process - I rendered it in ZBrush and transferred it to Photoshop. I sketched over this initial render to find appropriate forms (Fig.02a - b). This consisted of continuous discovery, improvement and visualization of the idea.
In the next stage of conceptual work I added some lighting and fog, trying to find the right climate. Then I drew some elements that I subsequently modeled in 3D. All these sketches constituted a rather hasty record of my ideas. I did not need any details at this stage of development; it was more of a notepad for my own reference.
When creating a new object or a scene I always perform multiple trials of drawings and renders. I have a certain keynote, a certain idea, and when I discover or create specific effects (very often differing in a form but retaining this primary thought) I feel great excitement as something that was born somewhere deep in my mind takes shape right in front of my eyes. Every time when I create something new I aim to challenge myself. I always carry out an idea, no matter how difficult it is to do and how much more time I have to spend looking for solutions. I try not to go for shortcuts or compromises when it comes to graphics. I continue to look for an answer to the problem until I reach a satisfactory result.
After achieving the appropriate base forms of objects, I proceeded to the detailed modeling. I modeled individual pieces, alternately paying attention to the proper distribution of details on all the objects. Where necessary, I added new ones or removed them if there were too many at some sections.
The main body of the ship comprises several layers. My intention was to obtain a giant, heavy object, which at the same time would have many layers and levels within itself.
The ruins at the foot of the main object were created as several elements, which were modeled and textured in ZBrush. Then I simplified them using decimation and set them around the base of the ship in various configurations to create damaged buildings. I also adjusted individual buildings to fit the uneven surface of the area.
Next I added a lot of tiny objects such as railings, scaffolding supporting the ship, connectors and cables. These were all 3D objects drawn using Shadowbox in ZBrush. After that, I simplified them so they contained as few polygons and were as optimal as possible. A lot of them were objects that contain polygons just in the front, but just to be sure I used the bilateral rendering for them. At the top of the main body of the rocket I used the same effect in rendering.
The development phases of the models are shown in Fig.03 - 06.
The entire scene was created in ZBrush. After many sketches and trial renders, I placed the main objects more or less where they were meant to be. Thanks to this I could put everything into the ZBrush project with a particular camera setting and initial lighting. In this way, after making changes to individual objects I could quickly see how they looked in a particular scene. I was able to control the placement of details and the whole composition more precisely. The scene consists of many subtools, which were grouped after being placed in the proper locations in order to facilitate the process through greater order and control over the scene.
All of the individual objects have been textured in ZBrush. Painting directly on the object, I instantly saw how it related to the whole and, for example, where it was too dark or too bright, at which point the texturing was too detailed and which of these elements were lacking.
The idea was to make the scene as attractive as possible by texturing, while not spoiling it by overdoing the textures, which is unfortunately often the case. Sometimes it happens that clean, illuminated objects with, for example, ambient occlusion only look very appealing, and after texturing and adding effects they lose their attractiveness and, consequently, lose what is best in them. Therefore, I believe that texturing complicated scenes and objects requires a sense and a considerable amount of attention.
Texturing, or painting directly onto an object that's already in the scene, allows you to control the process and highlight the most attractive elements without disrupting or covering what is best in a model. The idea is for modeling and texturing to complement each other to raise the attractiveness of the scene, and not interfere with each other. In this project, due to the rock scenes and detailed models, I just tried not to make texturing too strong (Fig.07).
Rendering and Composition in Photoshop
I arranged, lit and rendered the whole scene in ZBrush using BPR. Then I combined and composed individual rendered layers: shadow (Fig.08), ambient occlusion (Fig.09), color, mask (Fig.10) and depth (Fig.11) in Photoshop. I added the background and some post-process elements such as light haze or color correction.
And here's the final image (Fig.12).
As often happens while creating new images, I encountered numerous problems and through seeking solutions I learned a lot of new things and techniques. I hope you like this work and that it will, in some way, inspire you.
To see more by Tomasz Strzalkowski, check out Sketching from the Imagination: An Insight into Creative Drawing