Making Of 'Karmelion'
My name is Paul Wesley. I am born and brought up in Mumbai, India but currently live and work in Dubai. My hobbies and interests revolve around design and music in general. I enjoy playing violin, guitar, piano and love getting creative with computer graphics. I feel quite guilty when I neglect either one... ha, but that's how it is mostly!
The concept behind this piece was to design a futuristic automobile that was equipped with ammunition and had defense capabilities. A sort of a war machine that looked ready for a fight and could be a possible future armored tank. Keeping this in mind, I went with a look and feel that was decidedly futuristic but at the same time incorporated elements from current or yesteryear vehicles. Hence I decided to use seemingly "past" concepts like nuts and bolts, rivets, metal, grille, chrome and wires to make the design a little more believable (Fig.01).
I had a distinct idea of what I wanted the final car to look like before I began modeling on the computer. I knew that I wanted the car to be defined by smooth, streamlined curves as opposed to sharp angular shapes. I also felt it would be slightly shocking to leave the underside exposed, having the engine and wires running beneath it on display, thereby giving it that raw, unfinished look (Fig.02).
Agreed, this car was set in the future, but it still needed visual cues from present or past car standards to make the visual a little more believable. In the end, the visual had to be believable. That was at the back of my mind all along during the creation of the piece (Fig.03).
I did not have any references to model from, as this was completely conceptual. Therefore I had to create basic references to start modeling from. I began by sketching out splines in the orthographic viewports in 3ds Max. This gave me a basic reference image to begin working from. I kept modifying and tweaking till I got results that I wanted (Fig.04 - Fig.05).
After roughly defining the side profile, I proceeded to draw out the front shape of the car. At the same time, I was already beginning to flesh out the car by creating a 3D mesh from the side profiles I had drawn. The process of modeling began with a plane and I added a turbosmooth modifier on top of that. The advantage this gave me was that I could easily redefine my curves in case I felt that some parts didn't match up or that some shapes looked out of proportion.
The windscreens were extracted from the base mesh that was created (Fig.06 - 08).
The modeling was done using a mix of editable polygons and splines. For the wires and underside geometry, I chose to use renderable splines, varying the thicknesses or converting them to editable polygons for further modifications.
I used 3ds Max for the entire modeling process as it is very comfortable for me to work with and I have been using it for almost six years now.
The rods and frames in the backdrop were modeled using mostly spines that were set to be renderable (Fig.09).
The textures for this were mainly procedural V-Ray materials since I used V-Ray for the rendering. I received some requests asking me to post my windscreen material. It is displayed in Fig.10.
The wall at the side was a UVW unwrap with a texture created in Photoshop (Fig.11).
For the wheels and 'rims', if you may, I used an unwrap to lay the decals out and applied it to the wheel.
The chrome was a standard V-Ray chrome solution, with the reflection being almost 100 percent.
The ground texture was the one that proved to be my nemesis in the final renders! I wanted reflections that were blurry and soft, and hence decided to go with a Fresnel value for the materials but for that, I had to hike my rendering subdivisions quite a bit to achieve that result.
Lighting & Rendering
The thought behind the lighting was to display the details of the automobile as vividly as possible. However, I did not want to stick to a studio lighting setup. The intention was to have the car in an indoor environment but with lighting that suggested penetration of sunlight and natural light.
My initial lighting decision was to have part of the environment being in sunlight and part of it in shade. But I later felt that a lot of details were being blown out by the sun or most of the rear end was being obscured. So I decided to maintain an indoor look to it, whilst still being lit from the outside with daylight.
I used V-Ray 1.5 for the overall process of lighting, along with V-Ray Materials. I have used a total of six lights along with Global Illumination to light the scene. No HDRI was used. The breakdown of the lights along with their description is as follows:
Light 01 - Direct Light with V-Ray Shadows. Set to simulate sunlight with sharp shadows (Fig.12).
Light 02 - V-Ray Plane light with blue color to simulate light entering from outside through the blue glass.
Light 03 - Dome light to fill up the area around the car and to produce curved reflections (Fig.13).
Light 04 - This was added because I felt the wall in front was not receiving enough light and was causing sharp differences of light and dark. So, I added a V-Ray plane light and set it to face the wall and roughly matched its dimensions as well (Fig.14).
Light 05 and 06 were individual lights for the tires and decals, rims etc.
I did not use HDRI lighting, since I already had modeled the background and it was reflecting quite sufficiently in the car.
My rendering setup is displayed in Fig.15.
The original image was rendered out at 2560x1600 pixels. I had to render these out in separate pieces using 3ds Max's region render feature since I could not render a single pass fully on my computer (memory issues, processing times, etc). I had it set up on a couple of computers and it took about 11 hours or so hours for a single pass.
When I finally had all the pieces I wanted, I took them to Adobe Photoshop and joined them, lining it up at pixel level. I hiked the red channels a bit along with the magenta, and applied a .5 pixel blurring to certain regions that were I felt too sharp and needed to be subdued.
And here's the final piece (Fig.16).
Well, the response to this piece was quite good in general. Many felt it to be a good break from the straight, angular concept cars that are on display nowadays while some felt the design to be a bit too strong. Personally, I would like to place this in an outdoor scene, maybe an alien one and see how it goes. Let's watch out for that now, shall we.