Making Of 'Steam-Powered Factory'
Hello! My name is Igor Rashkuev and I work at the local video game development studio as a concept artist. In this article I'll tell you a little bit about creation of my work Steam-powered Factory.
This work started as a concept art for a steampunk tower defense game, but eventually it grew into self-contained piece. I planned it to be traditional 2D art and even started doodling something in Photoshop, when suddenly I got lazy about constructing perspective and decided to create the sketch right away in 3D. Previously I thought that it's necessary to make a 2D sketch before any 3D activity, but it turned out that in some cases you can skip this step. I guess such cases are creating vehicles, different machinery, probably buildings, and other stuff that does not contain complex organic-like shapes. It frees you free having to construct perspective and lets you easily play around with shapes in space.
So I started blocking in basic shapes of this tank/steam-train/tractor/whatever-you-like-to-call-it - the same way you start something in 2D (Fig.01).
You see that initial idea was a little bit different. It was supposed to be transportation vehicle (that's why it doesn't have any weapons), so I wanted to attach a house-like thing to it, but it was spoiling the silhouette so I removed it later.
There was nothing particularly special about the modeling I did. I just started adding details; larger ones first, then smaller ones and so on. A basic rule (well, it's not a rule, more like a guideline - I believe there are no strict rules in art) is: group smaller objects around larger ones.
To make this process easier, firstly, I created repeating details like screws and gears. It's very important to copy such objects as instances - it would take an immense amount of time to edit them all after. It is also important that the original object has been given a unique name; it will make selection of all such details much easier. For example, imagine how much time I would have spent selecting all the screws individually when I assigned a material to them! And what if, after that, I wanted to change it again? Don't underestimate the importance of object management. Use layers, named selections and groups, and give objects proper names, and you will definitely appreciate this work when your scene starts to grow larger and larger.
To create hoses and the tank tracks I used the Spacing tool. It is a quick and easy instrument that duplicates objects along the path. It can be used unless you need to create dynamic structures - object copies won't move if you modify the path (Fig.02).
When the tank was completed, I started creating materials. I used V-Ray for rendering. I didn't have a clear image of what I wanted it to look like, so I just started experimenting. I created some suitable metal materials and started to place them on the tank until I was satisfied with result.
There are no unique textures for different parts; honestly, I didn't even edit a single texture in Photoshop! 3ds Max with V-Ray offers you a lot of procedural maps that give you great control over your textures. In many cases it frees you from using graphic editors to edit textures and saves a lot of time. Color correction can be achieved with 3ds Max's Color Correction map. In many cases I prefer it to using Photoshop because this way you don't affect your texture file and, what is really great is that you see the result of all your corrections immediately on your material. You don't have to save the file in Photoshop, switch programs, wait until it refreshes and so on, so you can make more precise color corrections.
It also saves a lot of time when you use the slate material editor. You can see on the following picture - all the information is taken from single map, and if you want to change it you don't have to replace it in every slot, like you would do in the compact material editor. You can also use the same maps for different materials, which saves time when it comes to editing it too (Fig.03).
After that I created the surrounding factory (or maybe it is a warehouse, or garage, or just some abstract metal environment; I actually didn't really care about realism and purposefulness in this work!) There were nothing special about modeling or texturing it; it was the same as with tank. It has less detail, because the main part of the scene is the tank and I didn't want the environment to take the emphasis away from it.
Then I created lighting. I like it to be bright and colorful, so all the light emitters have colored light. I created two large plane emitters - a blue one above, and an orange one below to make general lighting, and then created smaller local sphere emitters to light up different parts of the scene.
The next step was post-production. Do not underestimate the importance of this stage; raw renders look unfinished in most cases (Fig.04).
To make post-production more convenient, I separately rendered three layers: the background, the tank with the platform and the foreground pipes. In this case I didn't even have to make a Z-depth pass (I had it only for the tank); aerial perspective was achieved just through the color correction of different layer. After that I slightly tweaked the lighting with Color Dodge layers, fixed over-exposed parts, and added steam clouds and volume light (Fig.05).
That is, basically, it. I hope you found something interesting and useful in this article. And I'd like to thank 3DTotal for giving me such a great opportunity. Practice as often as you can, carefully examine the works of artists you like, never give up and eventually you will become a great artist. Good luck (Fig.06)!