Making Of 'The Box'


Picture taken by Shaun O'Boyle.The full picture can be found on his website, Abandon Mine section.


As the title tells you, this is my very first tutorial so I hope that, inspite of my lack of knowledge of the english language, everything is told and layed out in such a way you find useful.

To begin a new scene I must admid that I always use existing situations to base my composition on, you know, things that can be found in real life, no fantasy stuff. It's not in my power to come up with something fresh and new. I leave that to the real 3D artists out there... I just stick to what I am capable of, and that's making a good looking copy of the real thing.

Like many of you artists out there, I'm always on the lookout for interesting pictures and textures to add to my ever growing library of 'source of inspiration'. And one day I visited this website of a great photographer named, Shaun o'Boyle. He takes beautifull pictures of old and abandened factories, hospitals and jails etc. with a typical atmosphere wich I find very interesting subjects for 3D scene creation. His website can be found here:

trueSpace,Caligari Corporation


Ok, it is a well known fact that the 3D software I use is not so widely used like 3D Max or Lightwave but as you can see in the final render, trueSpace 4.3 output a photorealistic image, even without the use of Brazil or VRay, due to it's powerfull Lightworks render-engine. As a matter of fact, not even a radiosity solution was used, even though it seems like it. Standard lights gives you enough control to fake all this and simulate GI and even a touch of HDRI...;-) Atleast in this scene. I can imagine that other projects do need radiosity or true GI like HDRI but bare in mind that the more realism you want, the more time your machine demand to give what you want! My scene only took a couple of minutes to render on a Athlon 2800...;-) Ofcourse in the near future I will upgrade to the latest version of trueSpace because this one has IBL (image based lighting) wich is a great alternative to HDRI. The results are truly superb!

Building the scene

The box
As you can see the base of the box is made out of primitive cubes. The back, left and right side are plain cubes and only the left and right side have a slight bevel on the frontside to soften the edge a little. The top, middle and bottom planks are quad divided cubes and bend down a little. The plank in the middle a little more due to the weight of the metal adapters. The notes under the pins are quad divided primitive planes, bend a little. I gues the beauty of this scene is not found in modeling but in the way the lights are setup and of course texturing.


The adapter
When you take a look at the picture, you notice that this object is not difficult to make - a primitive, extrusion, lathe and object union - that's all. Yet this will become the eyecather of the scene so it must be done as if it where the real thing. Only in my design the measurements are slightly different than those found on the photograph. The logo is a 'must-add' detail. It adds realism to the object, just like the real thing. It's in the details, remember?

Carefully randomly placed.

A small gap was created on the end of the left side, just enough to allow some light passing trough. It helps your imagination that outside this close-up view all kinds of happy little things are happening.(sounds like Bob Ross ;)

To realize this effect, a spotlight was placed in front of the opening, rotated slightly to illuminate the planks in the back of the box. Not much though, only to add some detail as if global illumination shines through a gap in this old wooden box. Never overdo it mate, unless it's ment to be. Remember, it's all in the details...;)

Building the scene

Global Illumination & sunlight
There are several ways to simulate this effect. For most of my scenes I use a dome of infite lights. More than 50 lights is no exeption. Sometimes with shadow map, other times with raytrace shadows. Depends on the type of scenery. For this scene I used a dome of spotlights, not many, only 25 spotlights were used in this dome enough to create that typical ambient kind of light with it's soft shadows. All lights are pointing towards the center of the scene and all have the same values exept for the shadowmap sharpness. The lights on top have high sharpness, the others low sharpness.

You can experiment with giving each spot it's own color and intensity. It sometimes can add that little bit of extra to achieve realistic illumination of your scene.


This is a cluster of infinite lights simulating the sun on a bright day. But because it's quite a bunch they are set to a low level of intensity. Casting raytrace shadows wich gives that typical sunny day shadow effect.

Why a cluster, pointing slightly in different directions? This wil result in a combination of sharp and soft shadows. You can do this with spotlights aswell but infinite lights are best suitable for sunlight and they also give better shadow results.


These are infinite lights that are added for ambient lighting. You could skip these if you have added some ambient glow to your objects. I believe to have better control to give no ambient glow to the objects. Instead I add this effect with these infinite lights set to a very, very low intensity and NO shadow casting.

Point them in straight directions, play around with color settings, that's all.


The spotlight mentioned earlier.


An array of spotlights to simulate light that bounce of from the shiny adapters. Shadow casting off and very low intensity. Just enough to slightly illuminate the edge of the top planks.


Building the scene

Texture maps
Finding a base for my textures was no problem since I have quite an amount of pictures and stuff stored on my computer. During the last few years I've looked everywhere on the net to find any usefull texture. And I must say that there is plenty to find these days, even for free. And with my 2 megapixel digital camera I can shoot whatever I want.


For the wood I just took a good, old looking plank texture, played around with the colors a bit and made it properly fit on each object. I hate distorted image maps. Added some grey dust on the edges for the horizontal planks, and that's it. The bumpmap is a greyscale copy of the original. Ofcourse I could have add different layers of displacements to add some detail but these planks didn't need that.

* Phong Shader.


To create the old-looking metal structure on the screws and strips, I have used 3 different kind of texture layers.
1st layer - a procedural texture generator
2nd layer - a texture map
3rd layer - a soft gradient
No bumpmap on these.

* Caligari Phong Shader.



The adapters made of steel have no texture map. I gave them a dark grey color and because of the layered reflectances, pong and mirror, it gets that special half shiny metal-steel look that reflects light very brightly as soon as a lightsourse hits it's surface but at the same time can be very dark and reflects almost nothing in the shadow. These shaders combined produce a fine steel look.

* Phong and Mirror Shader.

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