Making Of 'Green Rogue'

Andrei Samardac takes us through the creation of his stylized Lada Viburnum-inspired car.

For some time I had wanted to make a model that combined two opposite elements; big and small, or gentle and brutal, for example; but didn't have a clear idea of what that could be.

One day I saw a really funny picture online. I had originally seen it some time ago, but didn't really pay attention to it. This time the picture had a funny caption across the bottom that made me laugh and inspired a new idea.

This caption is in Russian and says ‘Lada - Gooseberry'. There is a Russian car called ‘Lada Viburnum' and Russian people love to joke about it because of its bad technical characteristics and unattractive design. So here in the Post-Soviet states (I'm from Moldova) this caption sounds very funny.

So I thought about the tiny size of this car and decided it would be great to give it a ‘little' upgrade...

The final model

The final model

The concept

As I said before, I wanted to combine some opposite elements, and this tiny car was a very good starting point.

The first idea I had was to add big wheels, like Bigfoot tracks. And second was to arm it heavily with some guns and rockets. These things had to make it look both crazy and funny, but at the same time I wanted it to look like a real vehicle. These were my concept requirements. So I opened Photoshop and made this collage here to outline my concept for the future model.

Throughout the creation of this model, I thought about how to name this vehicle. At the start, I wanted to name it ‘Gooseberry' but then thought it wouldn't make a lot of sense for people from different countries. So in the end I decided to name it ‘Green Rogue', to make the main idea clearer.

My first concept idea created in Photoshop

My first concept idea created in Photoshop

Modeling the cabin

Unfortunately the word limit of this article doesn't allow me to show every step of the modeling process, so I'll just give you a brief overview of all the stages in the creation of this model.

I prefer to make my models using NURBS modeling software, MoI (http://moi3d.com).
I've been using this for about a year now, and it's a great little software that is very powerful, very intuitive and at the same time very fast in creating hard surfaces. This software was developed by Michael Gibson, the brain behind Rhino when it makes its first steps, and just I wanted to say big thanks to Michael for his great work.

So with this project, first I made the cabin. I made this without any blue-prints; I just looked at the original car and tried to reproduce the overall shapes. I didn't aim to make it match the original exactly, but, as you can see, it's very close to it.

To create this, I drew 2D profiles then ran the Network command (though there are other ways to make these kinds of shapes in MOI). As you can see I only created the right half, then used the Mirror command to make it symmetrical.

Creating the first lines in MoI

Creating the first lines in MoI

Detailing the cabin

After that I started to cut into the cabin to make windows, doors and other details. In this image, you can see that I marked curves in red – these were used as cutting profiles to make windows, doors, and so on.

To make the slots for the headlights, I just pulled the model in with the Extrude command, and then closed its bottom with a cap using the Planar command. After that, I applied the Fillet command to round off the corners. To make the mudguards I used the Blend command.

Adding more detail to the cabin, such as doors and windows

Adding more detail to the cabin, such as doors and windows

The chassis and tires

After that I started to make the chassis and wheels. I found a lot of references to help me recreate important details for this, and found that MoI allowed me to create the pipes for the chassis, in only a few clicks. As always, all I needed to do was draw 2D profiles and then run commands like Extrude, Sweep or Loft to make surfaces. If I wanted to connect objects together, I could just run the Boolean operation, which creates smooth and clear geometry, (the opposite to Polygonal modeling).

After chassis I made the wheels. I used some references from low-rider cars to make the rims. I made the tires myself, having been inspired by soviet tractor rims. I used a circular array a lot, which works great in MoI - I just needed to select the object I wanted to array then select the center point and it was ready! I just had to enter the number of copies I wanted.

The tires were inspired by soviet tractor wheels and low-rider cars

The tires were inspired by soviet tractor wheels and low-rider cars

Modeling the armature

Making the armature and rockets was not a hard task. I used references of unguided aircraft rockets that I really like! They are mostly known for being used on a Russian MI-24 helicopter (my personal favorite!)

To make the armatures I made tubes that I ‘Boolean'ed with Union commands, and then used Fillet to round the edges and the areas where the tubes connected.

Making rockets was also a very simple task. I just drew a profile then used the Revolve command to make it solid. After that I used 2D profiles - circles that I copied using the Circular array and cut holes with them.

Then I created the Green Rogue label by projecting text onto surface, cut this surface using the Trim command and then used the Shell command to add a little thickness and remove the upper caps. In NURBS, this kind of task is very fast and simple.

Creating the armature and rockets in MoI

Creating the armature and rockets in MoI

The engine

After I completed the model I started to think about the kind of engine it would use, as there aren't really any places to put the engine on the model. I wanted to make it as real as possible, so I imagined that it uses two engines that lie under the cabin.

I get those engines from a model I made previously. I still have no idea what kind of engines they are, but I hope that car will run (at least, virtually)! I assumed that the weight of the wheels, engines and chassis, compensate against the weight of the rockets and allow to the car stay balanced.

The final step was to Fillet all the sharp edges.

Imagining and placing the engine the vehicle would use

Imagining and placing the engine the vehicle would use

Exporting the file

As I said before, I can't explain all the steps in detail, so I'll give you quick overview on how I use NURBs to create the model. What I like about NURBs is that it works as it should in real life. Imagine you are in the Orange County Club, making choppers. You have big sheet of metal and trim it give it a shape, if you need holes, you just drill them. Everything in NURBS is the same as those real life actions, you just use commands instead of real instruments.

After I finished the model, I deleted one half and started to make objects from the model. I needed these to make the render easier. For example, I wanted all the tires to be one object so when I assigned a material to that object they all get the same material at the same time. Thanks to Michael, (he made this custom command for me) I was able to assign a unique object name to selected geometry and then hide them, so I could see which geometry needed to be assigned a name. After all the objects were hidden, I knew that all parts of model were named.

After that, I mirrored the model to get the symmetry and started to export it to OBJ for rendering. MoI has a great Export to OBJ function that allows you to control the geometry of the polygonal model in different ways. For example, you can control the polygons form and make it triangular, quads, or n-gons.

After it had finished exporting, I started the render.

This shows the model at this stage. I changed one or two details, such as the big rockets, and found it looked more attractive

This shows the model at this stage. I changed one or two details, such as the big rockets, and found it looked more attractive

Rendering light and UV maps

The idea for the render was to make the car appear very fresh and clean, as if it came directly from workshop. I didn't want any dirty areas, and wanted it to appear polished and shiny in a big production studio with a white background. I love this studio look, as I frequently worked in them during my career as a music video director. I thought the model would look great on white background because nothing would distract the viewer's attention from the car and it would look like a real studio environment.

For the rendering I used Cinema 4D. I like how the rendering part of this software is implemented - it's very simple and intuitive. For the background I used the Greyscalegorilla Seamless floor and the HDRI Studio Rig. This is little patch in the HDRI library that allows you to work with HDRI more easily.

I used very simple HDRI to light up the scene, and as you can see it's almost white. I wanted that white, smooth, and diffused light for the scene, so no other lights were used. For the background I used the Greyscalegorilla Seamless floor, but it can be easily replaced with objects that reproduce the white studio background.

I didn't create any kind of UV unwrapping, I just used the UVW mapping that Cinema 4D automatically produces.

Examples of the effects created with the lighting set up

Examples of the effects created with the lighting set up

Materials

All the materials on the model were very simple - nothing extraordinary. I like to make all materials from scratch, but some metals were created with custom textures I used from the Cinema 4D library. No additional textures were used, except some procedural noises that I made to make some parts look more realistic (these were standard noises with a big scale.

I very often use layer shaders when composing materials. One thing I learned from my render experiences is that simple doesn't always mean bad. I play with different colors, reflection, transparency and specular every time. It's important to remember though, that if there are no lights, specular doesn't work. Sometimes I'll add lights to produce a custom specular effect on different details, but I didn't use them in this case.

Using layer shaders to compose materials

Using layer shaders to compose materials

Procedural textures

Also I used procedural textures (or tiles) to make certain materials, for example those that you can see on the chassis. For the glass I used the standard transparency settings and played a bit with the Refraction index.

One very important thing to keep in mind is how close you want to show your model - if something looks good from a distance it can sometimes look bad when you see it close up. So, for example, the backlights on the car are just tiles with black and red quads, and it looks good from distance, but if you zoom in, it doesn't look so good. This rules works for every detail.

Making sure the procedural tiles work well at the distance needed

Making sure the procedural tiles work well at the distance needed

Render settings

I used the standard render engine; I like this more than the ‘physical' render engine. Standard is faster and I can't see a lot of big differences between them.

I always use Ambient Occlusion. I like it a lot and think that it's the first factor that makes a model look like it's from the real world. The AO settings in Cinema 4D allows you to increase the contrast of AO. I prefer to have the AO very noticeable, so I increased this value to 50%.

To use the HDRI lighting in Cinema 4D you have to turn on Global Illumination. I often make some tweaks to this parameter to reduce the render time. Here, in the Irradiance Cache tab, I changed the Record density of min and max to -8 (it's maximum). I can't see big differences when it's on maximum and on minimum, but the render time is dramatically different at 20 times faster.

I always render at 1600x900 if there are no special requirements from a client, because I don't like to spend a lot of time rendering very big images. The average render time for this model was 4 minutes.

Tweaking the render settings for a faster render

Tweaking the render settings for a faster render

Conclusion

So that was my workflow. As you can see, I prefer to keep it as simple as possible; and everything has to be easy and fun. I use this workflow on practically all my concepts and models, though sometimes I start from a photo collage and others I start by drawing basic shapes by hand or sketching directly in MoI. I think the main thing is to create a good concept - the modeling and rendering are just tools to make this idea.

Views of the final image