Making Of 'Like a Bull'

This tutorial reveals my approach and production pipeline of making the 'Like a Bull' image of mine. In the sake of clarity, I thought it would be nice for me not to go too deep into the technicality of 3D. Instead, I try to concentrate on telling what phases I went through and where I cut corners in order to reach the satisfactory outcome as fast as possible.

I used 3D Studio Max 9 and scanline, Mental Ray and Vray renderers. And for final compositing I used Photoshop  CS3 (and Wacom Intuos² A5 tablet).

1. Sketching

As usual, everything started with sketching on paper. I made a couple of fast scribbles of the car. At the time, I had no intentions to associate the car to a bull, unlike in the final picture. Actually, that idea came during the making of the front bumper.

2. Modeling

With some reference pictures, I started to model the engine of the car. The most important objects for me were the belt wheels and the three large pipes. All the little details were added with a very loose hand, as you can see in the pictures. Just a couple of cylinders that were scaled and copied around. As a matter of fact, during the making of any object, I tend to think the importance of that particular object in the final composition. These little details of the engine surely don't gather as much attention as for example the whole rear rim. In fact, when I model some objects, I've adopted an attitude of a painter who suggest a detail in his painting with some carefully positioned paint spot, nothing more.

At this time, I had merged an old car-mesh from my older image to the scene and stretched it with FFD-modifier to match the pencil sketch.

One of the objectives of this image was to be as close to the pencil sketch as possible. So I decided to break and disorient the objects greatly from a working 3D-car. This car definitely could not be animated well. And since it wasn't my intention, I didn't care. I saved a lot of time this way. Some people may see the perspective problems and such, but the image wasn't intented to be realistic anyways.

3. Materials, lighting and rendering

The only textures I needed were the front tire maps. The other surfaces were made very quickly. The car paint had some very simple falloff map and the chrome was a fully reflective basic material. Around the car I put a sphere, that had some simple blue and brown gradient as its material. This worked as a reflection map for the chrome.

I also rendered a different reflection pass with scanline renderer, so that I could emphasize the outlines of the car nicely. For this pass the whole model had a fully black and reflective Raytrace material on it. It had a output map in its diffuse channel to add some intenseness to the reflections from the reflection planes.

For the beauty render I used one VRayLight. In case you're interested in rendering with Vray, I recommend the tutorials in http://www.aversis.be

I wanted the final version of the image to be 8000 pixels wide. Vray didn't handle that big resolution without crashing, so I decided to render a couple of 4000 px wide region renders of the image. I had to scale and set the images on top of each other in Photoshop afterwards, but I'm satisfied with the result.

The reflection passes I just rendered in 4000 px and stretched them to the full scale afterwards. That worked fine.
Finally I rendered an ambient occlusion pass to give the car some solidity and contrast. I think Vray would handle this task nicely, but since I didn't know right away how, I used Mental Ray.

4. Compositing

Compositing is definitely the most difficult phase to explain. That's because I tend to be very experimental in this phase. Sometimes I might try to render the image with some very bizarre looking materials and test how they would seem in Photoshop's different blending modes and filters. Rarely it leads into amazing results, but positive accidents have happened. And sometimes I paint so much on top of the image that no-one could guess it was a 3D-image in the first place.

However, the basic approach of mine in compositing is to have the beauty render on the first layer, then on top of that the ambient occlusion pass in multiply blending mode and on top of that the reflection passes in screen blending mode. You can easily erase the bits in the reflection that shine too brightly or don't look good.

Then, I make the background for the image and finally I paint on a new layer a lot of stuff to cover the faults of the image. Some lamp flares, sparkles, dirt and ornaments on metal and paint surfaces and some smoke coming out of the pipes. About everything you think could improve the overall result.

For final touch you might want to put a black layer on top of it all and add a noise filter on it. Then reduce it's opacity to something like 10%. This method prevents the most intense spots of the image to pop out too aggressively. Like a very dark black area or a bright flare.

5. Final

Finally, it's ready.

Only thing I regret is the fact I didn't make the car chassis in a bit more dynamic and curved pose, more like an animal in a jump pose. Now it is a bit too stiff and static. But that thing aside, I think I succeeded quite well with this piece.

Thank you for reading the tutorial, and thanks for 3DTotal for featuring my image J

Manu Järvinen