Making Of 'Lonely and Left Behind'

Hello everybody!

I already started this project overview some time ago with a very detailed tutorial on modelling a human head using boxmodelling in Max5. Then, after already having written 35 pages, I realized, that it would probably become too long and started all over again. ;-) Nevertheless, If you're interested in the complete modelling tutorial, please feel free to visit my website ( where you will find this tutorial within the next weeks (hopefully it's all finished until then). You could also write a nice E-Mail to me and ask for the tutorial - if you're especially nice, I might even send you the head-model. Well no - that would just spoil the fun you will have with modelling your own head! Harhar.
So let's go! Here is the finished rendering as well as a "blue-shade", rendered with a normal grey material and a skylight.

First of all, I have to admit that I was actually quite lazy when creating "Lonely and left behind". I didn't have a lot of spare time but still wanted to create this picture. So I took a basic head model, which I already modelled about 1 year ago and used it as the starting point. The head was completely boxmodelled, excluding the ear, which was created using a mixture of boxmodelling and polymodelling. It was then welded into the head afterwards. The next pictures show some basic modelling-steps of the head, starting with a simple box which was then subdivided using edgeloop-modelling techniques. A very detailed and quite similar tutorial on headmodelling can be found on Arild Wiro's site I actually followed his tutorials step-by-step until I got the idea and started to develop my own workflow. Follow those steps from left to right and top to bottom!

Please notice that it will certainly take several approaches and a lot of time and patience until you end up with a more or less realistic looking human head... I think I modelled at least 20-25 heads until I ended up with something I call a "basic head". That is a very neutral, very undetailed but correctly modelled head with a clean edgeflow. Starting with this basic head I can easily and quickly design new heads and shapes by simple doing some poly-pushing in soft-selection mode. The mouth and the eyes can also be opened using morph-targets.
Personal hint: I really really recommend to do the same thing.. as soon as you think the basic proportions are blocked out and the whole thing looks nice when smoothed, save your head as a unique model or scene, so you can go back to this stage whenever you want to. It might save you a lot of time...

The following pictures show a rough working-progress on the actual picture. The most important steps will be explained afterwards:

Here is a wireframe of the finished model. You might find it helpful to see before reading the making-of:

After I gave some shape and expression to the face, I made a clone of the head (which was very important for the later steps) and hid it, I didn't need it yet.
I then started deleting polygons in the original head to create gaps in the mesh. My idea was to model from the outside to the inside, using different layers of meshes to get a highly detailed model with reasonable efforts of time.
I then applied a simply "solidify"-modifier to the mesh. (If you're working with max 6,7,8 simply use "shell", there's no need for solidify any more) and chamfered the outer edges to get rid of the "mesh-smoothy-look". I also altered the vertex-weight of the hard and sharp looking corners to avoid those being rounded at mesh-smooth level.
After I was satisfied with the outer "shell", I unhid the head-clone, cloned it again (!), hid the new clone and renamed the first clone in "layer 2". Please don't get confused here! I did not work with Max-Layers, I simply call it layers, because I worked from the outside to the inside.
Layer 2 received a push-modifier with a negative value first to scale the head down, keeping the proportions at the right place. A simple scale-down wouldn't do it. Then I did the same thing with layer2 as I did earlier with the outer head-shell: I started deleting polys to create gaps for layer4 (four, yes). I then applied a greeble modifier to the mesh (a lot of people hate greeble as it always looks cool but doesn't afford any work at all!). I love greeble, although this is the first time I ever used it in one of my personal pictures. It saves tremendous amounts of time and looks cool as long as it's used in combination with the right elements...
I also created some smaller cylinders with chamfered edges and scattered them some dozen times on layer2, using the scatter-compound-object. This was done to break up the boring greeble surface and insert some cylinders and circular shapes.
Before creating the next really noticable layer, I cloned layer2, removed the greeble-modifier (I wanted a clean mesh again) and created the fine cable-details using the create shape-command. If you've never worked with this fantastic operation: Simply select one or more edges (in this case I selected almost every edgeloop of layer2), right-click in the active viewport and click on "create shape". Now your selected edges are transformed into independent splines, which can also be treated like splines! You can define the steps, the thickness, the amount of segments etc. I used this method to create fine cables running through the greebled surface adding another level of detail.
Afterwards I unhid the clone of the original head (I didn't need another clone) and started to work on layer4. I extruded whole blocks of polys like in the neck, I extruded polys inwards to create depth and filled intruded gaps with simple geometry like cylinders, boxes etc. just to give it a "filled up" look.

One very precious tool that I was working with is called "CS-Polytools" which can be downloaded here:;=2432
It's an additional package of modelling tools for polymode - and hey.... There's ONE command which really helps creating technical looking models - I'm talking about the untangle-command.
Untangle allows you to transform any polygon (from 3-sided to x-sided polys) into a perfect N-Gon, that means a perfectly symmetrical polygon. A 4-sided poly for example gets converted to a perfect square - a 100-sided poly (if something like this ever exists in your mesh, shame on you) will be converted into something like a "perfect" circle.
What's this good for now..? Well, as you probably all know, the boolean-operations in Max are crap. They're not working at all, for some reason the whole mesh gets messed up and can hardly be repaired afterwards. But you might want some nice looking circular holes in your mesh, don't you? You might want some screws, some openings for cables and hydraulics... etc.! Normally you would need to move vertices manually until you end up with a perfect square, so that it could be smoothed out into a circle at mesh-smooth-level. With the CSPoly-Tools simply choose a polygon (or take a selection of polys and collaps them to a single poly), choose "untangle" and you get a perfect poly, which can  be smoothed into a circle. You simply need to adjust the rotation and the size of the new poly - but as the "local" setting gets activated automatically and most of the time the polys don't need a lot of readjusting, that's not a lot of work.
Here is a short guide how to use untangle! I used a specially ugly basic shape to show you how untangle works with irregular bodys and objects. This is not part of my picture, it just shows how the cs-untangle command can be used: (Isn't that helpful!)

Explanation: Select as many polys as you want to use for your circular inset. Use them rightaway or make an inset if you want to keep the original edges (as I did here). Delete the inset polys (!). Select the rim-edge and close it with one (!) poly - you can use the cap-holes command. Select the new poly and choose "untangle" from the cs-polytools. You might need to scale and rotate the new untangled, circular poly. Now extrude it as you like.

Now look at my picture and you'll find a lot of variations of untangle there: Extruded polys (outwards and inwards), holes, buttons, screws....
I really recommend this plugin for anyone who loves bots. It just makes work a lot easier.
The screws are of course combined with a screw-texture (from the sink in my bathroom). Did I mention that I was quite lazy when creating this picture? Well, then you might notice that I forgot to turn the screws individually. They look all in the same direction ;-) Shame on me. You wouldn't have recognized that, would you?..

After I finished layer4, I extruded some polys on layer1 using extrude along spline, to create the "cage" which surrounds the whole mesh and is meant to protect the fragile electronical parts inside the head in case of a collision or sth. like that.

The fun part! What about some materials?

I personally love the process of creating materials. I don't really like the lighting process and I'm not very keen on the rigging-stuff. But I love materials! Choosing the right materials, you can even make a bad mesh look better. When I look back, I would not create the materials for "Lonely and left behind" the same way as I did it. I still like the orange parts, but I would certainly choose a different material for the rusted parts.

Anyway - Most of those materials are mixed procedural materials, that means the materials don't need any real bitmap textures, they work - well procedural! Also the objects don't need any mapping-coordinates, which also speeds up the whole process. The problem with procedurals is, that you can hardly define creative details within your texture, like single scratches or bumps. As I said earlier, I wanted to finish this model in a short amount of time, so I decided to create procedural materials.
I always work in the same way: I first create a clean base-material. For example, a fresnel reflecting orange material was used for the base-layer of the face.
Then the material is getting transformed into a "blend" material and a second material is inserted in slot 2. This time I would go for a slighlty brown shaded grey colour with a crusty surface. I wanted this poor old bot to look like he had been forgotten in his docking station, still starring at the sky where his ship disappeared. He's standing in the rain, getting covered with dust and dirt over the years.
So I created this dirt-crust layer and mixed both materials with some fine-tuned noise-maps (high contrast, high detail-level). I also used some glossy-reflections which looked great combined with the raindrops. It just gave the whole material a very greasy look. I often use simbiont materials as well (simbionts is a free-plugin and can be downloaded here:
All of the materials were created in the same way. I first decided, which basic material the object is made of (for example: metal, plastic, rubber...) and created a clean version. Then I thought about how the material would probably behave when getting into contact with dirt and fluids. Afterwards dirt-layers were created and mixed into the clean materials.
The cables were really fun. I chose simple splines and ticked the box for automatic uv-coordinates. Then I played around with some bitmaps of black and white lines to create regular segments, differences in colours, reflection and bump-depth. It helpes a lot to make the textures visible in the viewports to adjust the tiling-value for the textures.. For some of the cables I chose a dark rubber-material as base-material, for others I chose a metal-look. Well - those are cables! Not a miracle, only cables.

The raindrops were also created using a scatter-compund object. Because I wanted those drops on the entire mesh, I selected every part of the model, grouped them and cloned the group. I hid the first group and then ungrouped the second one. I did this just to make sure that I don't accidentally create one part twice and forget to delete it afterwards, that would produce render-errors. Now I converted the whole selection into editably polys and ataached them to one object. Now I created a simple sphere (very low poly) and applied a water-material to it. Then I used the scatter-compound-object to scatter 2500 raindrops on the whole model, which were then randomly scaled, squashed and rotatet to alter the look of the individual raindrops. I know that the behaviour of the raindrops is not realistic! If you'd put a model under strong rain for a longer time, you wouldn't see any raindrops at all because the whole model would be covered with a thin layer of water. Also raindrops would normally run down a surface and create a trail - but first of all I didn't have the time to really think about how to solve this problem... secondly, I had decided earlier to create greasy surfaces and that actually made sense. Water doesn't run down greasy surfaces and create trails at the same time - only little drops. So that was fine.

Lighting the scene

The lighting for this scene was very simple.
I basically wanted a rainy, cloudy, dark atmosphere, on the other hand I wanted a clear direction for the light. It looked good to align the light with the rain, it created a harmonic look. I also decided that the viewing direction of the face would probably be the best direction fot the light and the rain to come from, so that issue was clear.

I placed a quite strong spotlight above the model and moved it slightly into the direction of the camera to avoid a perfect symmetrie of light and shadows. Two additional spots gave a little bit of "contra-light" which is helpful to avoid black shadows and to light the darker areas.

Then I made rough a light-sphere (also refered as light-dome) consisting of 24 omni-lights which are aligned in an almost spherical shape (I did not keep to the basic spherical shape here, I adjusted the position of the lights to simulate diffuse light coming from above, from the sides and reflected light from the ground!). They're all instances (except the upper lights) and have the same intensity and color. This way you can fake a global illumination for most of the "stand-alone-models". Some fine tuning on the shadow-paramteres gave the lighting some smooth shadows (Shadow-Map: Paramters-Rollout - Bias set to 0,01, mapsize set to 1024 and sampling rate set to 15).

Post Production

This picture was really retouched in photoshop quite a lot. Although I rendered the model in front of a blurred background, I used the alpha-channel to separate the model from the background during the process of postproduction several times.
Most of you will know photoshop so I don't explain the basics.
The falling rain was completely created in photoshop though and maybe some of you would like to know how I did it.
First of all I created a separate layer and added a pure black-white cloud-pattern, using the "rendering à create clouds" option (maybe it's called different in english, I'm working with the german version of ps). Then the clouds are modified with the "mezzotint"-filter, using long-lines. This will just give us some nice parallel contrasts within the clouds. Then I applied a motion-blur to the layer and rotated the direction until I got the right angle for the rain to come from. Now all that had to be done was, to play around with the fill-settings of the layer, that means, the way in which one layer interacts with the layers beneath. I chose "lighten" so only the bright elements of the rain became visual. Then I cloned the layer and chose a slightly different angle for the motion blur to get rid of the parallel look of the raindrops. This way I created crossed lines which looked a lot better then parallel raindrops.
And that's it! Some colour-corrections, some blurring and sharpening of different areas and a slight glow in the white areas and I was finished.
Last but not least, here's a little wireframe with everything included except the raindrops:

If you have any questions concerning this making of, please feel free to Email me, but I can't answer general questions about Max like "what's a polygon, how do you extrude a face".

Thanks for reading!


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