Making Of 'As Time Goes By...'
First of all I have to say that I'm not the classical CG-Artist. I'm coming from game-development especially leveldesign and environment modelling for game-engines. So many people which are doing CG will find my approach to this scene simple or to easy because I'm using no fancy shaders or light solutions. As it comes to "As time goes by.." the scene was supposed to be part of a big sport-center in Pripyat near Chernobyl for the "Point of Existence 2" Battlefield 2 Modification. The area can be captured by players and hot firefights will take place there (Fig.01).
Expanding the Sport-Center came to my mind as I had a lot of ideas for the area but have to stay within polylimits.
So I had all this great references on the web with the abandoned city and the old look but no freedom to place all
the details in there to create the mood coming from this city.
The modelling is done with simple polygone editing. I always start with a plane or a box. Then I extrude, cut or slice the faces to get the desired results. When modelling the swimming hall I didn't know that it will be expanded into a CG scene so I build it with certain polylimits in mind. The entire sport-center was supposed to have not more then around 5000 polies. If you do such a scene I would recommend that you chamfer the edged of the pillars or other concrete parts to give it a more natural touch. For close-up renders more detail is neccesary for the wooden parts or the debris on the floor. In my case it was ok because of the blurry and shiny look in the scene.
An interesting part was the vegetation. I used the Ivy-Generator (IG) for the ivy which grows up the pillars into the hall. So I exported the main-parts where the ivy should be placed later as an .obj into the IG (Fig.02).
For the trees I used Arbaro. Its a free Tree-Generator for povray but very flexible and capable of exporting to the .obj format as well. Even lowpoly trees for games can be done with it.
The most work were all the different kinds of debris laying around. Broken tiles, covering panels, old ceiling isolation, window shards and so on... My first idea was to place them with the scatter modifier all over the place but I ended up modelling two or three templates and placing them all over the ground, rotating and arrangeing them new. It wasn't to hard or time consuming and gave me more control. As it comes to small details you can't have enought of them.
For the background I had some big russian appartment-building for my game-level done. So I decided to place them in the background. The modelling of them was easy because you can do one level, unwrap it and dublicate it as often as you wish (Fig.03).
If I think about texturing for such a scene the first that comes into my mind are the words "rust" and "dirt". As I mentioned before I'm using simple techniques for the texturing. I applied UVW-Unwrap modifiers to the parts.
I would suggest to make a skinmesh for the big parts like the walls so you can use layers in photoshop for
additional dirt, worn paint or other nice ideas. I just used one texture and applied dirt using an extra mesh (plane)(Fig.04 - 5).
For the textures I mainly used the free ones from CG-Textures and made them tileable in photoshop. I used a diffuse,bump and specular map. Additional opacy and reflection maps for the leaves and tiles. You can also use the fine "Total Textures" compilation. Especially the "Aged and Stressed" or "Dirt and Grafitti" are very suitable for such a project.
Lighting & Rendering
For the lighting I used the new physical sky which comes with the new FinalRender-R2. You can set the date, your location and the rest is done in the renderer. So it can save a lot of work.
Finding a good camera position was more challenging and I ended up with two good positions (Fig.06).
One focuses on the whole hall and the other one focuses on the ivy and the left part. At this point I decided to delete the surrounding blocks and replace it with a background image which fits my needs as good as the buildings (Fig.07).
The post-processing in photoshop was also a big part for the image but not that diffiult. First of all I put in the background image for the environment and fit it to the rest of the scene. I turned it b/w and changed the contrast of the image. The blurryness is also painted in. It's not really a proper Depth of Field because I wanted to draw the focus on certain parts of the image like in a dream where some fields are blured out and others keep in focus of your virtual eye. The last two steps are a light film grain and the sharpening of the image.
All in all it turned out really nice and was a holyday from the limitations of doing game-assets.
I hope people without years of experience in 3d can benefit from this little making of and see that its not that hard to create good looking scenes in 3d with easy techniques.