Making Of 'It's Going to Rain'
My name is Lebedev Denis and I work as a 3D artist at a CG studio in Moscow. It's nice to see so many people are interested in my most recent work and I'm glad to show you my Making Of tutorial.
I wanted to train myself to a higher level and so decided to create a kind of complicated environment scene that I hadn't done before. I'm really in touch with themes from the Soviet past, thanks to stories from my childhood, and one of the most striking images from this period, in my opinion, is farm machinery like the Belarus MTZ-80I tractor. I imagined how spectacularly this blue tractor would contrast with a ploughed Russian field on a background of fading autumn grass, under transmissions towers and overgrown with wormwood, and knew it was what I wanted to create.
As with any other work, I started by collecting reference images (Fig.01 - 02).
Because I wasn't completely sure about the composition of the scene yet, I made more of the model than I eventually needed (Fig.03 - 04).
To achieve a final realistic result, I increased the number of polygons and used a noise modifier and deformation in some places (Fig.05 - 07).
The main stages of composition can be seen in Fig.08.
The composition caused me a lot of headaches. The closer I got to the end, the more I saw that it just wasn't working. I started to analyze what was wrong and I came to the conclusion that the main problem was the configuration of the composition. There were a lot of duplicated straight lines, such as the horizon line and electricity cables; the repeating, straight power lines; the vertical line of the border of the shot and the vertical column at its edge, and, also, the lines of the field itself. It was necessary to break them up, to bring a counterbalance (Fig.09 - 10).
I selected several photos that most reflected how I wanted the grass in the field to look (Fig.11).
For modeling the vegetation I used a lot of photos that had been taken by me and my wife while we were walking through the fields in late autumn. I brought some of the plants back to my house so I could take more comfortable pictures, which further helped in the work.
My modeling principle might seem difficult at first glance, but it's actually quite simple. I broke each herb into subjects and then constructed the basic elements before merging them back into one object. Therefore each type of grass I used was made from four or five different pieces:
• Corn (Fig.12)
• Yarrow (Fig.13 - 14).
• Wormwood tarragon (Fig.15 - 16).
• Wormwood (Fig.17 - 18).
• Sow-thistle field (Fig.19 - 20)
• Burdock (Fig.21 - 22).
Fig.13 - 14: Yarrow
Fig.15 - 16: Wormwood tarragon
Fig.17 - 18: Wormwood
Fig.19 - 20: Sow-thistle field
Fig.21 - 22: Burdock
When you make separate elements of plants it is good to use UVW Unwarp as it will make texturing easier later. You will also need to use the noise modifier (Fig.23).
The grass was distributed in the field using MultiScatter and a few layers. The first layer contained green and dry yellow grass with varying heights and density. For the green grass I used four MultiScatter objects with various different settings; for the yellow grass I used three. Their settings were basically picked through experimentation and comparing the results (Fig.24 - 25).
The second layer has some higher grass, with different angles and various densities. There are also thick stalks of other types of vegetation. I merged them into groups and scattered them by hand. All the copies were instanced. Of course, the manual method is preferable as this way you always have grass where it is necessary and important for the artwork. Fig.26 shows some of the plants in my second layer.
The third and final layer consists of different types of vegetation such as wormwood, sow-thistle field etc. I experimented with different density options until I'd found a nice result. Here are some of the results of my experiments with the grass (Fig.27).
Before starting work on the ploughed land, it was necessary to study various reference images of the different materials so I could break them down into components/layers (Fig.28).
I broke the field into the following layers:
• The main soil bulk
• The small pieces of crumbled earth
• The big lumps of earth that have been cut off by the plough and show traces of the blade cuts
• Roots sticking out of the opened earth
• The grass, some of which still shows through the upturned soil
• Leaves, branches, separate parts of the grass and rust.
I started by creating a plane, forming the garden beds, increasing the grid density and adding a noise modifier. On this surface I scattered earth lumps using MultiScatter (Fig.29).
With the plugin RockMaker and a scatter proxy, I created the ground stones (Fig.30 - 31). I had to experiment as the earth wouldn't lie down beautifully like I required.
To start creating the second layer, I prepared a new surface. I selected some site for the beds and created their base. The stones had to be very small (Fig.32).
I then prepared objects for the following layers: roots and stones (Fig.33 - 34). The roots were made with the GrowFX plugin and I scattered them with MultiScatter. But in the case of the stones it was a bit more difficult. With stones it's better to distribute them manually to form a natural look and this is what I did. The last step was to add groups of plants with MultiScatter. You can see some of the steps here (Fig.35).
I had quite a simple lighting setup for this scene and was able to adjust it quickly. The scene was lit by a hemisphere with a sky texture in a LightMtl. In the hemisphere properties the Visible to Camera checkbox was turned off, and in V-Ray properties the Alpha Contribution value was -1 and the Visible to Refractions checkbox was unticked. I also made the sky absent on the render and in an alpha channel and behind glasses. A bit later I added a dome light to make the scene a bit lighter (Fig.36).
It's necessary to tell you a little about my scene organization. I actively used layers and it helped a lot when it came to navigation in the viewports, and controlling the render and materials as there was no need to calculate superfluous objects (Fig.37).
Textures and Materials
Many of the textures I used were from photos I'd taken myself, specifically for this work. These included textures for the earth, plants and blue tractor paint. The other textures were downloadable from cgtextures.com. Some objects in a scene have been unwrapped for convenience (Fig.38).
However I tried to use simple UVW mapping. For example, the tire of the wheel has box mapping (Fig.39).
The texturing process was rather laborious and time-consuming; however I tried to do justice to each detail (Fig.40).
The main materials in the scene are as follows:
• Soil (Fig.41)
• Roots (Fig.42)
• Wormwood (Fig.43)
• Wheel metal (Fig.44)
• Tire (Fig.45)
The final render settings are rather high and can be seen in Fig.46.
Post-processing was carried out in the Photoshop. The most useful features there were the following render elements (Fig.47).
These channels helped to emphasize those details, and if their actions had an adverse effect on any object, I could use a rubber to delete the channel's influence in those parts. The general principle of working with such elements is to select the blending mode over the picture and to adjust the transparency of a layer so the changes aren't too sharp (Fig.48).
The most important elements are the masks, which I worked with as follows. I added a MultiElement, selected it with Ctrl + A, then copied it and went back to Layers. On the copy of the main picture I created a layer mask and at pressed Alt it is clicked on a mask. Then I pasted the mask (Ctrl + V) and went back to the copy of the main picture. Now all of changes only concerned the necessary areas (Fig.49).
Also one of the most important channels is ZDepth for the creation of air, atmosphere and fog (Fig.50). Some other options to achieve that are as follows:
1. Over the main layer, place a layer with the ZDepth channel in Screen mode. Adjust the transparency.
2. Create an empty layer over the main layer and fill in it with a white color. Add a layer mask with Z-channel in it and just the transparency.
3. Do the same as point 2, but instead of filling the new layer with white, use a sky texture that's a dark blue color mixed up with the general paints. Remember that you can edit the Z -channel with Levels (Ctrl + L).
4. Use a brush to add fog manually.
The best result will be if you combine different ways and make selective changes.
Here's the final image (Fig.51).