Making Of 'Joy Tree'

The concept for this project is as follows: "The wind blows away heavy mist in a valley at dawn. A shinning start flies across the sky and lands here, the bright light rises, which lights up the red leaves of an ancient tree. The whole image is full of holiday happiness and exotic flavours."

As 3D work should be more precise than 2D work, the creation process should be longer and the effect is often represented only at the end. To avoid any deviation from the original design in the long making process, I've drafted a rough concept image which captures the atmosphere we're looking for (Fig.01).

Fig. 01 d_Fig.

Fig. 01 d_Fig.

According to the concept image, there should be a tree as the focal point of the image, so select "Banyan tree" from the Foliage options (Fig.02).

Fig. 02 d_Fig.

Fig. 02 d_Fig.

Set the tree on the earth table that has been made (Fig.03).

Fig. 03 d_Fig.

Fig. 03 d_Fig.

Open the Compile menu and adjust to get a satisfactory shape. What we need to pay attention to here is the following: by clicking the "New" tag on the left of "Seed" in "Parameters", a random tree shape will be generated. Clicking repeatedly will be unfavourable for returning to original shape and providing comparison, so I suggest using the parameters on the right of "Seed" to adjust the basic model. Secondly, the options under "Show" are about groups of tree, and one can remove redundant groups according to his needs. For example, in this work, we need a quite thick tree. Although the Banyan tree has quite an appropriate shape, its roots need to be removed. Such removal will be used more often in the following process (Fig.04).

Fig. 04 d_Fig.

Fig. 04 d_Fig.

Adjust the size of the work according to the draft, lock the scale and set up the cameras. Many artists like to do this step later, but as the work is "static", a lot of unnecessary work can be saved if it is done earlier. For example, it becomes unnecessary to consider the scene beyond the image (Fig.05)

Fig. 05 d_Fig.

Fig. 05 d_Fig.

Open "Material Editor", select a new shader and use "sucker" to suck materials off the "tree". We will find that the tree has six shaders, so adjust these shaders accordingly (Fig.06).

Fig. 06 d_Fig.

Fig. 06 d_Fig.

We're going to start with the leaves: open the leaves shader and we can see that there is only one alpha texture and no colour texture in the default materials. Click the "magic tube" icon to display the leaves cut by channels, and open the channel map (this is a default image provided by 3ds Max, and we can find location of the file by the path shown in the image) (Fig.07).

Fig. 07 d_Fig.

Fig. 07 d_Fig.

After adjusting the channels, adjust the colour of the leaves to get the effect shown in Fig.08.

Fig. 08 d_Fig.

Fig. 08 d_Fig.

Use the same method to do the textures of the trunk and branches. The texture has UV itself, and is circular, so adjust the cycle accordingly (Fig.09).

Fig. 09 _Fig.

Fig. 09 _Fig.

A circular texture is a seamless texture that is circular in the upper and lower, left and right parts. We can use the "filter-translate" option of Photoshop to create a circular texture (Fig.10).

Fig. 10 _Fig.

Fig. 10 _Fig.

As the density of the leaves on the Banyan tree don't really match up with the requirements for this piece, let's copy the tree twice. Hide the trunks of the two extra trees and rotate them to different angles. This should leave you with the true that we need for this image (Fig.11).

Fig. 11 _Fig.

Fig. 11 _Fig.

Here's what the tree should look like after primary rendering (Fig.12).

Fig. 12 _Fig.

Fig. 12 _Fig.

The next step is to add details to the earth table. Draw an alpha texture of grass. The method here is same as for the leaves, only this time put the circular texture on a different "plane". The colour texture is the same as for the leaves too, and use colour in place temporarily. (What you should notice is that the contour should be pure black, and there should be a black border where grass connects with the ground, otherwise there will be sampling mistake) (Fig.13).

Fig. 13 _Fig.

Fig. 13 _Fig.

Arrange the "planes" in a picturesque disordered sector, and grassland appears when the camera is shifted to a nearly straight angle (Fig.14).

Fig. 14 _Fig.

Fig. 14 _Fig.

To make the image richer, add some stones on the earth table, set up an Omni light at the root of the tree as the main light source, and set up a Skylight as the secondary light source. Select Mental Ray, open global lighting, and render to get the effect shown in Fig.15.

Fig. 15 _Fig.

Fig. 15 _Fig.

Now we want to add a special light effect (to represent the rise of bright light). We can use Omni lights with a suitable light scope and Video Post to achieve such an effect (Fig.16).

Fig. 16 _Fig.

Fig. 16 _Fig.

Next we need to make the background elements. As the tree is the clear focus of the image, it is unnecessary to make any background elements particularly detailed - it would just be a waste of energy. Take the stones in Fig.17 as an example; both the shape and structure of the stones are simple and clear.

Fig. 17 _Fig.

Fig. 17 _Fig.

The whole image consists of four parts: the first part is the foreground, the second part is the medium shot, third part is the mist layer, and fourth part is the background. While making the overall scene, it is unnecessary to build the overall scene according to real scale; it will be too large then. We can build "large" scenes in "small" areas if we a good grasp of the overall concept and abide by the perspective principle of "the nearer the larger, the further the smaller" (Fig.18).

Fig. 18 _Fig.

Fig. 18 _Fig.

As you can see in Fig.18 & Fig.19, the mountain is not very far away, but has been scaled down to be very small. This is so that when the camera angle is adjusted, a simulated perspective effect is achieved.

Fig. 19 _Fig.

Fig. 19 _Fig.

Add some atmosphere effects to finish, and the "Joy Tree" is completed (Fig.20).

Fig. 20 _Fig.

Fig. 20 _Fig.

As you can see from this tutorial, you can make a fairly complete piece of work just by using the basic functions of 3ds Max. However it's important to remember that software is just a tool and it is the artist's original idea that is the source of art creation. Skilful control and artistic appreciation can make work more beautiful but are not preconditions for creating a piece of work.

The technical content of this tutorial was not very high, but I hope I was able to effectively convey a concept to you through the creation process.

To see more by Weiye Yin, check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop

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