Making Of 'Blade Runner Paris'
Brief Description of Image
This image was directly inspired by the universe of Blade Runner and Philipp K. Dick, and I can't forget Syd Mead. It was the 30th anniversary of the movie in 2012, and I thought this was a good reason to make this illustration. In this article I will explain my workflow on this project and all the new tips I've discovered.
Blade Runner has a very detail-heavy environment, and with the mixture of old buildings and new technology everywhere it has always fascinated me. The story takes place on the night of a big storm and I wanted to reproduce that.
I chose an avenue, which was a good way of including lots of realistic details, like a car in the foreground with pipes and dirt, and the lights of a big city in the background.
I wanted to add a new twist to the subject, so I chose to use a retro-futuristic version of Paris. The Haussmann buildings are very beautiful and to see them abandoned was a good way of adding character to the illustration.
In this project I had two main objections: to make a very dense model with fine texture details, and to create a realistic ambiance with a storm at night.
I wanted like the largest shot possible so I could see a maximum number of elements, which would help create the realism of an avenue. The composition was the most important thing at the beginning. I started with some bounding boxes to create the basic composition. After this I started adding more and more details by density level (Fig.01 - 03).
With this amount of detail it was difficult to keep the originality, the details and the shapes consistent. To help, I played with the Deformation modifier in Max, which is a very useful way of creating a new concept. You can use Symmetry, Twist, Bend or all of them together and from a basic mesh you can obtain a new concept with new shapes and details (Fig.04).
The car was made with the theme of Paris in mind too. I went with an old European sedan from the 30s, like a Lancia, Talbot, Delage or Mercedes. I added two big reactors at the front. For the modeling, there was nothing special; it's always a pleasure to make a car as there's something magical in modeling automotive design (Fig.05).
This type of the scene can cause problem with the polygon density and the number of objects. At the beginning all the modeling was done independently and with a maximum number of modifiers to permit quick correction. When I finished the modeling I merged all my objects by materials or the same element type to increase the unfolding texturing speed.
For the organization of the layers I used the same as my level of details divided into two parts: meshes and lights, with a more few layers like "train" (Fig.06).
Texturing and Shaders
After I completed the organization of my scene, I couldn't waste time with unfolding the UVs and the texturing, but I also didn't want to lose the quality.
The V-Ray blender was very useful here; I was able to blend some different shaders for each part of the final material (metal, rust, dirt, water, etc). When all the shaders were ready I just needed to put a tileable noise map as a mask in the blending slot and play with the tiling and offset values (Fig.07). Using this system there are a lot of possibility with a single map; imagine what you could do with five or ten!
For my UV I simply used the quick planar on the buildings and all meshes with low details, and I used flatten for the others (Fig.08).
The advertising was made with a map I put inside a V-Ray light material. Photoshop was very helpful to help obtain a realistic glossy effect for the neon. The Rosen advertising was a transparent cylinder, and I used a fresnel in the opacity map so I didn't have problems with the front and the back side (Fig.09).
The lighting was very important in this image. Usually light comes from the sky, but the night is different; the light come from the artificial lighting and light pollution in the sky of a big city.
I created one V-Ray dome light with a very low intensity for the sky and then used different light intensity for the street lamps and illuminated billboards.
In the last step before compositing I had to prepare some passes for the rain and the fog (Fig.10).
The rain was made with a very simple Pflow system with an emitter, gravity, wind and 3D sphere instance as a particle (Fig.11).
I used the speed of my sphere to create my rain with the help of V-Ray Motion Blur The result was very realistic, but it was a very slow process to render.
To increase the render speed I rendered three different passes of rain with 30k particles each, and I merged all my passes after in Photoshop (Fig.12).
The rain drops on the ground were made with a basic scatter with sprite and a rain drop alpha as the texture (Fig.13).
Finally the fog was a Z Depth inverted in Photoshop with a Level correction.
When I finished all my passes (Fig.14) I had just needed to import everything into Photoshop.
The matte was painted with some personal brushes and real pictures of buildings, which I relit so they corresponded to the scene. After this I sent all the renders to After Effects for the first color correction and to create all the lens flares.
I came back in Photoshop to finish the biggest part: adding all the VFX passes and painting the last details like the little rain drops, more detailed rain and the vapor where the water hit the objects (Fig.15 - 16). I then went back to After Effects to add filters such as blur, grain, etc.
Environments are not my specialty, but this was a very great experience. My wish to use Blade Runner as inspiration, and include so many details, was a good challenge. Creating this image also helped me to learn how to stay organized and many things about modeling, texturing and lighting. I was particularly surprised by Particle Flow, which I found to be a simple, but powerful tool. I hope my tips will help you (Fig.17).