Making Of 'The Alchemist Room'
A bunch of soft, bright beams of late afternoon winter sun is playfully sneaking through the grated window of the old alchemic lab, graciously eliciting its velvet warmth on all those thick books and manuscripts, full of ancient knowledge and forbidden secrets. It lightens up the strange equipment, various flasks and objects scattered all over the room (Fig01).
This vision attracted my attention and involved my imagination in the making of my Alchemic Room.Â The project itself occurred to me as a natural result of my passion for fantasy genre and my deep interest in medieval history.
In the next few paragraphs, I'll describe the main stages of my creative work process.
As in all projects of this kind, before getting to the modelling and building of the scene, the first step I usually take is to gather all the necessary background and reference images, which will give me a better idea for the design and the specific atmosphere of the future work.
In this particular case my interest was focused on collecting a variety of reproductions of medieval pictures and engravings, representing different varieties of alchemic laboratories.Â Thanks to that I got a better idea of the objects and equipment typical for medieval alchemic labs (flasks, scales, furnace blowers, etc.), as well as about the architectural peculiarities of those days (supportive columns, forms of the windows and so on) (Fig02).
In this case, collecting suitable references was of special importance, as in the making of this project I skipped the usual initial stage of creating a preliminary 2D concept of the scene.
From a technical point of view, the idea of the project itself was to create a visual representation of a medieval room, full of different, scattered objects lying around, giving the idea of the occupation of its owner and the messy ambience that he resides in.Â With this line of thought, it was reasonable to create the scene starting with the specific terrain on which all the rest of the elements would be presented.Â In this case, the terrain was framed by both the form and size of the room (Fig03 and Fig04).
Modelling The Room
The room model alone consists of several main sub objects - modelled separately, then unwrapped and finally combined together (Fig05 and Fig07).Â These main parts are: the walls, the floor, a patch of wall tiles, a patch of floor tiles, stone frames for the windows, a doorstep, a doorframe, and finally the main columns (Fig06).
All of the sub-elements from the room model were made using two standard primitives, box and cylinder, converted subsequently into editable poly objects and then edited using the standard tools for poly modelling in 3ds Max, such as cut, extrude, bevel, and by adjusting the vertex and edge positions, etc.
A typical example for this approach was the patches of floor and wall tiles which were made by slightly modified box primitives (Fig08).
Additional Objects In The Scene
After I laid down the base of the scene, by building the room shape, the next step was to create the rest of the objects which filled in the detail and content, and contributed to achieving more density and a rich, authentic atmosphere (Fig11).
In this case, the models were various and typical for the period; objects from everyday life, such as books, scrolls, candlesticks and so on (Fig09 and Fig10).
For the actual modelling, I used entirely standard primitives again: box, cylinder and sphere, converted into editable poly and then transformed using the poly editing tools.Â Â Keeping in mind that in the final scene there would be a considerable amount of variety of objects, whilst modelling the elements I tried to avoid any unnecessary waste of geometry.Â That is the reason why a big part of the additional details, such as cracks and the roughness on the floor tiles, pleats on the cloths and so on, were made by exporting the low-poly model into ZBrush where I sculpted the desired level of detail, and then exported the generated normal map through the ZMapper plug-in (Fig12 and Fig13).
For me, the texturing and unwrapping parts were undoubtedly some of the most important (and time consuming) moments of the 3D image creation process.Â There are various methods and programs to accomplish these steps; however my preferred combination is using the unwrap WVU modifier in 3ds Max (which gives me precise control over the texture layout) and Photoshop (Fig16).
For the actual texture painting in Photoshop, I used some previously adjusted versions of the displacement maps as base layers.Â They served as a good reference point for the following painted details.
After that I used several overlay layers to apply some simple base colours for the different objects in the texture, and then continued painting the additional details, combining them with some photographic textures to gain additional levels of detail (Fig14 and Fig15).
Lighting & Rendering
To gain the raw render of the scene I used a Target camera (Lens 27Ð¼Ð¼, FOV 39 deg.),Â along with a simple lighting setup: a Sky light, Target Spot light with ray traced shadows switched on, and an Omni light for some additional ambience lightening (Fig17 to 19).
For the final rendering I used Mental Ray (with Final Gather switched on) with a base setup and output size in HDTV format 3200 x 1800 pixels (Fig20).
Post-Production & Compositing
The resulting raw image of the scene was then ready to be used as a base for the final additional painting and compositing work (Fig21).
Initially, I duplicated the layer with the rendered image and painted away all the visible seams and undesired artefacts left by the rendering process.Â Then I adjusted the colour balance, brightness, contrast and saturation parameters (Fig22).
The next step was to paint some additional details, such as some moss in the gaps between the floor and wall tiles, additional scratches on the columns, some wax leaks on the candles, and so on.
I then used different pieces of photographs on Overlay and Multiply modes (at different transparency levels) to add a more realistic and authentic look to the additional painted elements and to blend them in well with the rest of the scene.
I then spent some time adding some extra light and overshadows in the scene using some soft brushes in combination with Hard/Soft Light layers.Â I also added some little dust fractions, especially near the window where the light beams have the highest intensity (Fig23).
The final step was to further adjust the brightness, contrast and level properties of the image, and to add some noise and smart sharpen filters (Fig24).Â
The final result represents my personal vision of a fantasy-like, messy, but still cosy, alchemist vault.Â I had a lot of fun whilst making this project and I hope it brings you pleasure viewing it.