Making Of 'Sector 21'
The idea for this scene came when I was going through a few web pages showing old, abandoned industrial photos, which is often one of my primary sources of inspiration. I came across an old steel plant and a shot of a huge blast furnace covered with bolts and pipes. I've always loved making scenes with loads of detail work, so I thought it would be cool to use the furnace as a large platform-like, hanging structure and place it into a fairly cramped city environment. This would blend both industrial and futuristic elements. Inspired by what some parts of the world would be like in terms of air quality, I decided to turn it into a sort of air filtering machine and add a number of vents to both the machine and its surroundings, as well as adding a few characters, mainly for scale purposes but also to add some life to the scene.
With any scene I work extensively from primitive objects and build all the models from smaller parts. I used the same technique here and started out with a torus object as a base, which I started covering with extra plating, vents, bolts etc., as well as pipes made of sweep nurbs (Fig.01 - 02).
Covering only the portion of the torus visible to the camera, I then started working on the upper platform. I made a set of railings surrounding the base and added a few ladders allowing access to the platform from the ground. I also added a few simple characters to show the scale. Next I built the body of the structure, which would support the base. I modeled a set of air tanks surrounding it and connected these with thicker pipes. The thought was to use the body as the control center of the structure, so I also modeled a smaller service platform halfway up.
The next step was to fill up the empty part beneath the base. Although the structure was supposed to hang freely, I still wanted it to be somewhat connected to the ground. I had already left a hole in the ground plane for this, and added a number of thick pipes to its center. I also placed wiring all around as if they would connect the structure to some sort of machinery beneath. Once that was done I modeled a few billboards and placed them around the structure (Fig.03 - 04).
Next I wanted to pay closer attention to the walls surrounding the structure. My initial idea was to use huge columns surrounding everything and a more open space, but as the model progressed I decided to go for a more closed environment instead. I used a number of tube objects for the walls and Booleans to cut some holes for doors and fans. Then I reworked the large fans used on the base and embedded a few of them into the upper section of the walls. I also covered the door openings with blinds (Fig.05).
I did some more work on the outer walls, and then went back to the main structure and added the support beams that would actually hold the entire structure up. During this stage I also set up the proper camera view.
I decided to position the camera close to the ground to add a little bit of scale to the scene and also allow the viewer to see both the ground and the people on it, as well as most of the structure. I also kept parts of the sky visible for atmospheric purposes.
Once I had attached the support beams to the outer walls I modeled a platform on top of the main structure, a few walkways leading out to the edges, as well as additional fans. To fill up the scene even more I added some wiring, a few extra billboards and additional detail on both the main structure and the walls (Fig.06 - 07).
Materials & Lighting
This part was a no-brainer. I decided to go with a simple consistent material for the whole scene and do the rest in Photoshop. This is a procedure I've tried before that worked out quite well with one of my previous images called The Gateway. I then used Maxwell's physical sky and sun set at mid-day as the only light source and let it cook overnight (Fig.08).
Once in Photoshop I started out by doing a few initial color corrections then applied a few textures to add a little bit more detail, mainly to the plating of the base. With the help of an alpha mask, I also added the sky which could be seen in the small gaps at the top. Then I used a copper texture for the areas next to the fans on the outer walls. Although I wanted the image to be slightly monochromatic, I also wanted to add a little bit of color in certain areas; not much, but just enough to break the uniform look. Once that was done it was time to add some dirt to the scene. For this purpose I used black and white dirt maps and various layer effects, applying these at the edges, cracks and larger clean surfaces etc. I also made a few imaginary billboard textures for the blank modeled ones in the scene (Fig.09 - 11).
The next step was to add a little warmth to the overall atmosphere, so I decided to add a few sun rays coming through the opening at the top. For these I used the Line tool to create a few thick lines, added a fairly large amount of Gaussian blur to them and decreased their opacity slightly. I then used a layer mask and the Gradient tool to shape the rays. I also used the Ellipse tool in a similar way to create a little bit of haze where the rays come through the support beams. To wrap things up I did a few more color and gamma corrections before I baked all the layers and finalized the image (Fig.12).