Making Of 'Left Behind'

This image was created using Lightwave for all 3D-work and Photoshop for textures and post-processing. Most of the material for the textures was taken from the complete "Total Textures" collection of

My intention was to create a very detailed architectural scene. I was aiming at a natural look with dirty surfaces, old and broken materials. I choose a motive that I got to see almost every day: A decayed house from a town nearby the place I work.
Locations like that house can have a strong appeal, especially when you can imagine its whole history just by looking at one image of it. So this is what I wanted to capture in my image: A place with a story, a strong feeling of history


The house was made of several smaller buildings. So first thing, I created planes representing the top view of the house. Then these planes were extruded. To get the walls, the top polygons were beveled inwards. After the walls were complete, windows and doors were cut with Boo lean. Frames were put into the window and door holes to create smoother edges

I wanted the roof to be made of roofing cardboard, so I only had to create some large polygons without any structure. The detail here is achieved later with textures. To get rid of sharp edges, other rounded polygons had to be created for every gab and edge. For the outer borders, angles were used to represent sheets of metal. These metal parts were used all around the roof to create transitions between the different materials.

Since the scene was intended for use in images and animation, it is supposed to look good from all points of view. This required all parts, which were attached to the basic geometry, to be created at a high level of detail.
Windows and Shutters were created from boxes. After the first window was done, it was copied and modified. All window-glasses were broken in a different way. The broken glass was created with polygons instead of textures, because there were only small pieces of glass left.

Doors were made in a similar way. The wooden doors had larger surfaces, so UV maps were created before copying to make texturing easier.
It is always a good idea to create the UV's as early as possible - something I usually forget.

Free broken walls, stairs, handrails, door knobs, cables, light switch, lamps and other details were created, using various techniques. Mostly I used solid modelling, for other parts I modeled poly by poly and used sub patching.

The ground - which you unfortunately don't see in the image - was first made low-poly. This model was then refined in Z-Brush and later exported back to Lightwave at a higher sub patch-level. A normal map was also exported since I wanted to keep the poly count reasonable. Main reason for using Z-Brush was for practice. There are other and surly faster ways to create a nice ground, for example with displacement maps or Terra gen.

For the little stones on the ground, 3 types of stones with different materials were created. The distribution on the ground was done with the tool "Point Clone Plus": A copy of the ground was froze at a high sub patch-level. Random points were selected. These points were copied and pasted in a new layer. After a little jitter, these points served as template in a background layer for "Point Clone Plus".


All textures were done in a similar way: I started by creating the UV-maps. A morph target was created. Then the outer polygons of an object, for example the walls of a house, were unfolded to a flat, continuous surface. The vertices on one edge had to be un welded to prevent overlapping polygons. The UV-map was created with planar projection.

If the texture was supposed to be repeating, then the mapped image could be used on the color-channel of the according material. Then the UV-map was scaled, so that the texture looked good in the textured view port.

If the image map was going to cover the complete unfolded part, the UV-map remained untouched. A screen shot was made from the unfolded mesh to get the correct aspect ratio.

All bigger parts of the house, like the walls, used high resolution textures, composed in Photoshop. Most textures had resolutions from 5000 x 3000 pixels, some even higher.

Before composing these new textures, basic image material was taken from the texture collection "Total Textures". 40-50 images of stones, metal, wood and dirt were chosen for my work.

To get the used and dirty look on the surfaces, a lot of images had to be mixed in Photoshop to achieve different details and variety.

For the composed textures I had to create my own bump maps afterwards. All Photoshop layers for the color map were copied and desaturated. Then some layers like the bricks were inverted, some layers like the dirt maps were removed, others like cracks and holes got more contrast.

After all layers were merged, the image adjustment "Shadow / Highlight" was used to sum up some of the detail. This way the bump-values are smoothed a bit, which I think looks more realistic.

All materials basically had the same material-setup because all surfaces are quite old, rusty or dirty. This way I only had to vary the values of bump and shininess. I wanted to keep it quite simple, because I had a lot of materials to deal with.

Procedural textures were used to create the materials for all smaller parts like the little stones and most of the other details. Procedurals were also used to create some variety and dirt for objects that used the same image-maps.

For simulating dirt, the procedural texture was used on the color channel and also on the specular channel. This way the dirt looked matte when lighted.

Rendering and post processing

As usual I made my scene file early in the process. This showed me where I needed more details in the model and later provided me with feedback of how my materials look in the final render condition. I used one area light representing the sun and radiosity.

Rendering was done in passes. Since I made almost all textures in high resolution there was not enough RAM to render the final image at a fast speed any more.

I made three passes: One for the house, one for the grass, and one for the ground without grass.

The render pass for grass was realized with Sasquatch. A copy of the complete scene using only one green material - with alpha value set to shadow density - was made. Only one black and white texture was used for the ground to show Sasquatch where to grow the grass. Beside the Sasquatch "length" channel, the map was inverted and used on "density" channel. So when the grass grows longer, it is less dense. If it is shorter, it is denser.

The final piece was composed out of these 3 parts. For the background, I used my own photographed backgrounds, sky images and some plant textures from the Total Textures.

After mixing and image filters, the image was done. It's kind of a strange coincidence: the day I finished the image, the decayed house I used as reference had been broken down. The next day only debris and bricks were left.

Anyway, I hope this overview was interesting for you to read. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via my website. Thanks 3dtotal for this fantastic texture collection!

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