Making Of 'Box Car'


This box car is based on a train model hand painted by Ron Thornton. This project took about a week and a half. I used reference pictures of the model box car and measurements to create it to scale. The making of the box car is broken down into modeling, texturing, lighting, and compositing.


Modeling from the trucks all the way down to each rivet, details were crucial to make this look photorealistic. I teamed up with Alex Lee for the modeling on the box car. We used some blueprint references from the train set and many high resolution reference images of the box car on the track. The great thing about the box car is that we could measure a model of a train a lot easier than a real train. The modeling took about 4 days. More measurements the better, just make sure you keep organized or it can get confusing.


The texturing was fun. For reference I used images of real trains and lot of rust pictures. I used mostly image maps for my textures. I did add some procedurals over the images to break up repeating patterns of the rust. I found another great technique to get the rust images I was looking for. I used the blend if option in the blending options of each layer of Photoshop. With this I was able to control the blending of two images very effectively. You can blend the background into the foreground and vise versa; also you can extend the control by using the blending modes supplied by Photoshop like multiply, hard light, etc. If you would like to know more about this method please feel free to e-mail me.


When using a picture to composite into like these images you need to match the lighting almost exactly to hide the cg element in the scene. The main things I look for in the photo are the direction of the shadows, softness of the shadows, the light intensity, and the color of light. In the compositions I used two or three area lights to get the same effect as using radiosity, which helped with render times. I set up a warm light for the main light, and then I used cool lights for fill in.


In the case where I need the cg element and real photo to interweave, I use polygon blockers to block out the cg element in that area. To do this I take the same photo I am compositing into and create a polygon in modeler based on the shape of area I want to block. Then I would front project the image onto those polygons in layout to get parts of the image to be overtop of the cg elements. You can see an example of this in my third image with the box car in the meadow. The bushes in the front of the box car are the blockers with front projection maps on them. After rendering the image, I don't consider it cheating in any way to go into Photoshop and make the colors more vibrant or dull depending on the look you are going for. It can only help your image.


In conclusion I would like to say that making of the box car was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. This was my first project I used Lightwave to composite and was very happy with the results, looking forward to more compositing work. I've been working on various other CG projects and working towards getting my work out in the industry. If you would like freelance work done, feel free to contact me. I hope that this making of has gave you insight on some techniques. If you have any questions at all please feel free to email me.

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