Making Of 'Route Kanal / Mandalina'

Description

A connection between Half Life 2 game and my hometown, inspiration taken from a place called Mandalina, actually the path from Mandalina to Solaris, it really looks like Half Life 2 down there. I wanted to capture that bright sunny day glow, preferably morning.

Technical Overview

Modeling, lighting, setup: 3d studio max 8
Texturing: Adobe Photoshop CS
Rendering: Brazil Rendering System / Vray Advanced 1.45
Compositing: Adobe Aftereffects 7

Objects: 1,163
Polygons: 1,371,404
Lighting: 2 omni lights (baked in the irridiance map), generated skylight, HDRI background Global Illumination, Irridiance map, no secondary photon bouncing (yes it's only 1 bounce)
Rendering Technique: 6 layers, 3 passes (reflections, refractions, RGB map)

Rendering Times:
Irridiance Map - 1 hour
Rendering passes - 3 hours

Hardware:
Dual Xeon 3,4 Ghz
2,0 GB DDR
Quadro FX 4400

Inspiration / Idea / Concept

Here are some of the photos I used for inspiration, in most cases you probably won't connect Half Life 2 with these, because 90% of my inspiration is based on memory 7-8 years old. These are from my hometown of Sibenik.

Of course, Half Life 2 took a huge percentage in the total creation of the scene, especially when you're playing route kanal and water hazard, all the way through the sewers, dumps and garbage. The game is very artistic and the lightning is very realistic. In the begging I wanted to create something unique with elements that are out of place and don't belong to the image. The key elements were "hidden" in the image, I didn't want them to bring too much attention to them, but just enough to make the observer say "what's wrong with this picture ?" The key goal was to create a convincing morning bloom, everything fits here, the low rise of the water, something that looks like a swimming pool but it's not, grass, wires inside, the lights. Everything looks like an aged and rusted old -what- ?

Clean Towel, Welcome Sign, Sink Cap, Ventilator

Clean Towel, Welcome Sign, Sink Cap, Ventilator

Audio inspiration:
Half Life 1&2 game track
Prodigy - No Good, Breathe, Firestarter
Placebo - Sleeping with ghosts (whole album), Plasticine was the favorite pick

Modeling

Modeling was done in 3d studio max. 99% of the scene are polygonal objects, most of the things started from a 1x1 plane. The architecture of the scene was created from scratch, for modeling objects like barrels and bottles I used references from internet. Damage was modeled in most cases. The scene has total of 1,371,404 polygons. I tried to optimize it but I was seduced by layering the scene ;(

 Electric Wires, Valve

Electric Wires, Valve

Pool From Above, Exterior Objects

Pool From Above, Exterior Objects

Pool Close Up

Pool Close Up

Clay

Clay

Texturing / Lightning / Rendering

Texturing: I used references, and most of the images from http://www.imageafter.com/. I used 2-3 textures from the game, and those are only the graffiti, because I couldn't find any similar graffiti from the internet. All of the textures were composed, mixed and drawn in Photoshop CS, I used Painter 9 to draw some specific stuff. Every texture has it's own diffuse / bump and specular map, and those reflective have a reflection map as well. All the materials are VrayMtl shaders, the water and bottles are standard VrayMtl with fallof transparency and a bit increased reflections, either way, refraction and reflections were rendered additionally to get the better effect later in compositing.

 Right Wall Texture

Right Wall Texture

The wall texture is made of 7-8 layers. The clean wall has some grain to it. The upper mold is overlay,
same as the lower mold, except the lower mold is in more contact with water so it had to be more dirty and more grass-like. The last were graffiti, just overlay and hard light layers.

Welcome Sign Texture

Welcome Sign Texture

Welcome sign was made in entirely in Photoshop, graffiti from the game as well as the damage, composited in a bunch of noise and overlays. There are identical signs like these that welcome you to the town, so I used them as reference. If you're wondering what the sign says here's the translation;

pozdrav ekipi iz krvavica - greetings to the team from krvavica (a block)
dobrodosli u grad Sibenik - welcome to the town of Sibenik

Bottles and Water

Bottles and Water

Lighting and Rendering

There are 2 Omni Lights in the scene and Vray skylight. 1 Omni is used to light the entire scene, the 2. is only used to brighten the exterior. For the GI map I used Irridiance map, and there were no secondary bounces. I used "medium settings" with some small adjustments. The scene was broken up in 6 layers since rendering was the biggest problem. I didn't mix any mapping etc. I went straight to RGB pass. I first rendered the Irridiance map with all objects in the scene, saved it, and later on used for rendering the passes. The I rendered reflection pass and the refraction pass. After everything was rendered I opened AfterEffects and started to compose and work on the image.

GI Lighting

GI Lighting

Compositing

For Compositing the Final Image I used Adobe After Effects 7 rather than Photoshop. After Effects is primarily for animation and it has a big advantage over Photoshop, you can stack effects and change it anytime you want. It gives you flexibility, you can change anything you want any time in the production process without having to start all over.

 After Effects

After Effects

Final words

It was a quite experience on working on this project. It stretched for almost a year, but in total it wasn't more than a month, in between the scene changed it's original design like 10 times, I learned many new things and did a couple of hounded other projects. In my opinion this is not hard to do, it is more like, 50% of inspiration and 50% of actual work. Don't ever do free-form modeling, always have an image drawn BEFORE you start to work on something, because it will take forever to finish it.

Morning, Normal, Railroad

Morning, Normal, Railroad

Summer

Summer

You cannot use any of these images for commercial purposes, if you want to use these images in forum galleries you have to write the credits for the image.

copyright (C) Kristijan Stuhli 2006