Making Of 'Mercedes-Benz 300SL (1955)'
I was planning to model the 300SL's spiritual successor, the SLS AMG. During the research phase I came across the original and I made a quick decision. The 300SL's design, visual properties and shape itself made quite an impression on me. Once I had taken a second look at the car I recognized instantly that it must have been a courageous and unique concept for its time. The one last detail to be decided was the model year and I chose 1955.
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL is a two-seated, closed sports car, built by Daimler-Benz from 1952 until 1963. It was one of the first cars to use the distinctive gull-wing doors. It was introduced in 1954 at the New York Auto Show and there were only 1,400 coupe versions released by 1957. Its top speed was phenomenal for the time at 225 km/h, with later models reaching 249km/h.
Modeling - Beauty in the Detail
The first thing to do was to gather enough background info and references. This is the only way to understand all of the detail on the vehicle. That is where the beauty of this car lies. At the time I started modeling this car, Bratislava Auto Show took place, enabling me to shoot some photos for my work. I then had everything that I needed for correcting the blueprints that I already had, which were of varying qualities.
Poly modeling was used to model the base of the image (Fig.01). Even the basic body shape needed correction during this phase because of the conflicting blueprints used at the beginning. This meant that the model required ongoing modifications which were possible because of the photographs I had taken.
The mesh was then divided into several entities (body, door, glass, interior, little details) so my work became a little more organized and the desktop was not as cluttered as it had been before (Fig.02 - 05).
One thing to keep in mind is to not use an excessive amount of polygons. This will take its toll later when you are trying to correct some of the details. To smooth the surface of the model I used the TurboSmooth option, along with the Isoline Display function. After that, it was a matter of Cut, Extrude, Weld, Chamfer and so on.
Don't forget that the more details the merrier. After finishing the model and making sure that no mesh corrections are necessary, I was able to move to the next phase. Clay renders have proven to be effective in spotting mesh errors between the phases.
Texturing and Materials
Texturing the car was a fairly easy affair. For the most part I used the Unwrap and UVmap function of 3ds Max. No third party software was necessary. As far as materials go, I used the standard V-Ray material. The quality of the materials and textures proved to be adequate for my purposes. I avoided using complex materials in areas where it didn't matter so that I didn't increase rendering times - the foot pedals are a good example of this. You can see the dashboard materials in some of the final images.
To light the scene I used V-Ray lights and V-Ray light materials. It is very beneficial to learn the principles of photo studio car lighting. There is a main V-Ray light above the car which sufficiently lights the whole car, as seen in Fig.06. I tried to use photometric lighting to enhance the interior, but the result was not satisfactory so I used V-Ray again.
The light planes placed around the car created a nice easy light transition on the body. It is possible to use the gradient V-Ray light, but planes provided better results in this case. For them I used V-Ray LightMtl with a Gradient Ramp map, correcting the transitions as needed (Fig.07).
The placement of light planes depends on the body shape, camera placement, animation usage...there is no universal advice available, which leaves room for experimenting. And sometimes, when the results are unsatisfactory, it is better to remove all the lighting from the scene and start from scratch. Lesson learnt.
The model was then finished as were the texturing, lighting and rendering. It may seem as if everything should have been finished by this point, but the truth is the image was far from completed. It is imperative to remedy any rendering glitches in the post-production phase. Fig.08 is the original picture without any corrections. The need for lighting and interior corrections is fairly obvious, as is the need for coloring adjustments.
The progress can be seen in Fig.09 - 11. I hope you learnt something new from this Making Of and that it gave you an insight into the creation of my image of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.