Making Of 'FAUP - Path to Knowledge'

Inspiration

This personal work was created specifically for the Evermotion competition 2011. The digital artist could choose any interior space that inspired him. The main aim was for it to be photoreal.

I chose the architecture university where I've been studying for six years. For a long time I wanted to create the path that goes from the street to the end of the building complex, which is the library itself. Because of time constraints I couldn't model everything so I focused on a short part of that same path.

Inspired by Michelangelo, the original architect Siza created a difficult path that leads you up ramps, down stairs and through almost labyrinth-like routes until you reach the end of the complex: the library. It is, in my opinion, the perfect place to read, mainly because the shadow is so soft and doesn't interfere with your reading. There is great geometry, fine details and a remarkable sense of scale in this space.

The goal of my work was to respect Siza's architectural concept, simplicity, materials, light and design, and obviously make it look hyper-realistic.

Modeling

This part of the article covers the modeling of the museum space. For the floor, ramp and near wall I modeled simple boxes with the desired dimensions, around 1m x 50cm (Fig.01 - 02). Although it seems like the floor is one big object it is not. It's composed of different pieces (elements) separated by 5mm. This is very important because at the end of all this modeling I wanted to give each element a different ID - using the Unique Material plugin. Once the basic model was done, I applied a checker material with 2,0 tiling in order to know how well it was distributed after using the RailClone Pro plugin. In the end, I changed the checker material to a marble, which you will see in the texturing section.

Fig.01

Fig.01

Fig.02

Fig.02

I then created two splines, one for the floor and the other for the ramp. This determines their path when using the RailClone Pro plugin (Fig.03).

Fig.03

Fig.03

This is the final model after tweaking the parameters a bit in the RailClone settings. Everything else was set as default (Fig.04 - 05).

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

After I had done this I converted the Railclone geometry into an editable poly object. Then, using the Unique Material ID free plugin, I gave the floor and ramp objects different IDs automatically. Each marble unit (element) had a different ID now. This made the marble material (multi-texture plugin) work perfectly once it was applied to the poly object.

Texturing

Next I want to talk about the V-Ray dirt present on the edge of most of the wood materials. I will focus on the darker wood. Take a look at the detailing in Fig.06 - 07. As you can see, over the diffuse map there is a darker, thin edge with a few subtle differences on it. That is generated by V-Ray dirt with noise inside the diffuse channel. It's a little detail that can make the difference, especially in close-ups.

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.07

Fig.07

Fig.08 - 09 show the general settings for the wood material.

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

You will notice that the V-Ray dirt in the diffuse channel has a small radius, so that it does not go too far over the real wood diffuse. Also by ticking Invert Normal the parameter will change the direction of the raytracing. When it is off the rays are traced outside the surface; when on they are traced inside the surface. Basically it means that the dirt areas will appear on all the edges (if bias X, Y and Z are set to zero) (Fig.10 - 12).

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Fig.11

Fig.11

Fig.12

Fig.12

The un-occluded color is a normal diffuse map. In my work I always use color corrections and trigger the advanced settings, changing Gamma, Red, Green and Blue values and removing a bit of the saturation (in this case -30). It's never the same twice, as the material or scene is always different. I do all sorts of tests until all the materials blend together properly.

The noise inserted in the occluded color slot will make the edge behave in a random way. In this case, it was important to choose the colors inside the noise wisely so that they would blend well with the un-occluded color (diffuse map). This was so the edge didn't look too dark or too similar to the wood itself.

In some photos of the subject building I noticed that the marble on the floor had gained a slight green tint, probably due to humidity of some sort. I took that into account when texturing the floor. In Fig.13 you can see I used the famous multi-texture plugin in a subtle way.

Fig.13

Fig.13

Fig.14 shows the general settings of the V-Ray material. They are nothing too fancy. The diffuse channel is a composite with two types of map. Layer 1 is the aforementioned multi-texture, and layer 2 is the dirt map set to Multiply. The dirt map was painted in Photoshop (Fig.15).

Fig.14

Fig.14

Fig.15

Fig.15

Fig.16 shows the multi-texture settings that make up the first layer. I used about eight types of different marble maps for this multi-texture, which I acquired at CGSource.com.

Fig.16

Fig.16

Layer 2 was the composite maps, the dirt map and its mask. I used the same map, but rotated it 90 degrees to add more dirt (Fig.17 - 19).

Fig.17

Fig.17

Fig.18

Fig.18

Fig.19

Fig.19

Light

The light system used was basically an HDRI inside a V-Ray Light Dome and a V-Ray Sun. The big difference here (or perhaps the little secret) is the skylight glass and what happens inside the structure. At first, I wanted to have only a V-Ray light dome, but the result didn't look very realistic. So I decided to boost the light inside the skylight and treat the glass as if it were being hit by bounces of light that would eventually pass to the interior.

Fig.20 shows the lights and how and where they were placed. There is a V-Ray light with a skylight portal in one of the windows, but it had zero effect on the scene and was just there for testing purposes; it isn't used in the final scene. A V-Ray light with an intensity of 10,0 was set to Visible and placed inside the skylight.

Fig.20

Fig.20

I wanted the frost glass to have a glossy look and at the same time a nice refraction so that it would be possible to see the metal structure inside of the skylight. The glass was made using a V-Ray blend material, which was a glossy glass combined with a V-Ray light material. It was set to an intensity of 100, the color was RBG (57, 95, 153) and the blend amount was a gray value equal to 5 (Fig.21 - 22).

Fig.21

Fig.21

Fig.22

Fig.22

Here are the frosted glass settings (Fig.23).

Fig.23

Fig.23

Rendering

During the testing period I used universal settings, but I decided that I wanted to create an image over 3500 pixels high so universal settings were no longer an option. For the final images I used an irradiance map and light cache. I won't explain much about the settings except that I rendered the first images at a smaller resolution (four times lower that the final output; in my case it would be 875 x 619 pixels) and saved the irradiance map pre-passes (*.vrmap) plus the light cache map (*.vrlmap) to use afterwards for the final image. By using these maps you can skip the irradiance and light cache process and go straight to the render itself.

Take a look at the GI settings in Fig.24, which are the ones I used for the 875 x 619 render. In the irradiance map settings I set the Min and Max rate to -3 and 0 respectively. That meant a high quality irradiance map. If I had tried to render the final image with these settings it would have been impossible, but since I was rendering at a lower resolution I just saved the irradiance and light cache maps as it wouldn't take much longer to render than 1 hour on an 8 core computer. After the irradiance and light cache maps were calculated and saved I went back to the render settings and set the resolution to 3500 x 2625 pixels. Also, in the Mode section of the irradiance map settings, I changed Single Frame to a *.vrmap file and saved it. I also did that for the light cache file. For a good explanation of this process, check out the V-Ray Complete Guide written by Franscesco Legrenzi.

Fig.24

Fig.24

Fig.25 shows the V-Ray render and color mapping settings.

Post-production

Everything was done in Photoshop except the last part where I used After Effects Magic Bullet Misfire Vignette. You can see this in the free video you can download with this tutorial.

Click here to download the movie associated with this tutorial

To see more by Jacinto Monteiro, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection