Making Of 'Back In Memory'
Hi there, my name is Esam, I'm from Palestine, and I'd like to thank Lynette and the 3DTotal team for giving me the opportunity to talk about my work in this article.
The main goal of this project was to create what I personally feel when time takes us back to our childhoods, where we used to play together every day; to recreate a place that holds lots of memories of peace and love. Another motivation was to practice my texturing some more. I also originally wanted to make a simple camera motion for this piece, but the render time was not on my side in the end.
Before getting stuck into the work for this project, an important first step was to collect reference images that I thought would help in the creation of the image. There are many sites and many sources for high quality textures, such as collections like 3DTotal's Total Textures (Fig.01).
Modelling was not special in this scene, although you must always take care of the little details and things that will make your work distinct, such as cracks on the edges and interlacing wires, some pieces of scrap here and there, and so on. The buildings were so easy: to begin with just a plane or a box, and I then made the windows and doors and finished off with the fine details. With regards to the plants, I simply cut branches of a tree from Evermotion's Archmodels 52 collection of trees and bushes.
Here you can see that the power and telephone cables linking the buildings were also quite simple to create (Fig.02).
Here are some close-ups of the scene (Fig03).
Texturing was the most important part of this kind of work - it's all about the texturing! First of all, I had to prepare the buildings for texturing, which meant unwrapping. The unwrapping of the models in the scene was not too complex though, because the shapes were simple and so planner mapping worked well for me. I unfolded every part of the buildings and then rendered them in high resolution for texturing, at about 4000 x 4000 pixels. Here is a sample of an unwrapped building (Fig.04).
In Photoshop, I then created the main texture, which was composed of two different wall textures. I then added the other details such as cracks, dirt on the windows, cracked bricks, and so on (Fig05).
It all looks pretty easy from the images, but it actually takes a lot of time in order to search for the proper images of cracks and dirt, and then of course putting them in the appropriate places, for example between walls and under windows as it's natural for it to be dirty there.
With regards to blending and adding layers, this can be done in different ways; sometimes masking, painting, or even burning colours, but I like blending them using the layer blending options - putting the dirt layer above the main texture layer and playing with the blend IF sliders (Fig06). With this method it's easier, and it's all blended well in the under layer texture.
After making the diffuse texture, it was time to create the displacement texture. Please don't think that this just consists of a black and white conversion only, as you must treat every layer separately and calibrate its brightness and contrast. Also, some layers may require colour inversion, such as the "footer bricks" layer in our case (Fig07).
All textures were created in the same way. An important thing was the resolution, which had to be high - no lower than 3000 x 3000 - to get fine results. In this work, the building textures were close to 3000 x 6000 pixels, and the ground texture was 8000 x 4000 pixels. The ground texture was composed of three different textures (Fig.08).
Lighting & Rendering
I tried a lot of lighting setups, from hot sun to sunset, but I was not satisfied with the mood or the direct shadows and so I decided to make it a late afternoon lighting scenario, with a purple overall colour. So to do this, the Vray light of the Dome type was an appropriate choice for me, as there are no hard shadows and well-defined edges and details with this one. I also used HDRI in the Texture slot for the Vray light and a Vray physical camera (Fig.09). You can't set any of the light or camera parameters alone; you must work on them in parallel, even the render settings, especially for the colour mapping. The intensity of the Vray light depends on the ISO and shutter speed of the Vray physical camera, and these two depend on colour mapping, whether it's linear or exponential and vice versa.
In this case, I worked in LWF (Linear Work Flow). What LWF does is it sets the display gamma to 2.2 in order to display the linear rendering data correctly on the monitor, but it needs some procedures such as calibrating the monitor brightness, setting gamma values in 3ds Max settings (Fig.10), and correcting the colour-corrected textures.
Now let's take a look at the rendering settings (Fig11).
With regards to colour mapping settings, I used Gamma correction because I was using LWF. The inverse gamma value was 1/2.2, which is 0.4545. Important note: If your monitor is CRT then the gamma will be 2.5!
Post - Production
The post production process was not a big deal really. I used an Ambient Occlusion pass and added a bright purple photo filter layer - that was all!
Texturing was the main part of this work; it gives the life and reality to your scene, and the right lighting will also add to the mood of it!