Making of the 'Steampunk'

San Francisco based CG artist Vladimir Petkovic shows us how he made his awesome steampunk scene using Maya

I will briefly go over the major steps I took while constructing Cuberia – the Capital city of my imaginary world.

Inspiration

Cuberia is mainly inspired by Victorian era London, with some elements from various steampunk artworks I admire mixed in for good measure. I wanted to represent a powerful and dynamic city, which is a major epicenter of trading and political intrigue.

The tower

The main focus of this artwork is the tower, which stands at the front. The shape and design of my tower is mainly inspired by Disney Hollywood Studios - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I paid a lot of attention to the texture and intricate details that could make it compelling to look at, such as the pipes, power source etc.

<h5>Tower of Terror at Disney Hollywood Studios</h5>

Tower of Terror at Disney Hollywood Studios

<h5>The main focus of the piece</h5>

The main focus of the piece

The city implementation

I knew that implementing the entire city scene was going to be extremely demanding on my computer's memory. The workaround I used was to build a dozen or so unique elements and then use Maya particle instancing. The principle is that Maya only loads the instances (a house, a tree, etc.) one time and then you are able to multiply these elements almost indefinitely, without clogging the RAM memory. I added simple expression codes that randomize y-axis rotations and scaling. This helped randomizing instances even further. Autodesk has recently simplified this process with their plugin called XGen.

I had three major particle systems:
- background forest
- city elements
- island grass and ground plants

At the end, I had around 3000 architectural objects and a huge number of trees, grass and other plants. Overall poly count was over 600,000,000 polys but the scene was still manageable.

I scattered multiple particle systems on basic terrain geometry

I scattered multiple particle systems on basic terrain geometry

I used the <a href="http://www.scriptspot.com/3ds-max/scripts/instance-tool" target="_blank">Instancer tool</a>, which replaces each particle with a geometry instance

I used the Instancer tool, which replaces each particle with a geometry instance

Instance types

The city itself is a combination of houses and various industrial elements. I purposely mixed medieval with 19th century architecture and retro-futuristic elements in order to get the impression of a very old, yet advanced city that has conquered electricity.

House elements

House elements

Medieval elements

Medieval elements

To break the repetition I placed some unique buildings and elements such as the zeppelin, floating military vessel, the botanical garden, the city square etc:

The botanical garden

The botanical garden

The city square

The city square

I was aiming for an exotic and oriental atmosphere, so I used Onyx software to create tropical trees like palms and such. The grass and ground plants are modeled in Maya.

The flora

The flora

Lighting

The lighting is very basic; since it is an outdoor, daylight scene, I used a Mental Ray physical sun and sky. I tend to do lighting using the default Lambert material, without any textures.

The lighting

The lighting

Render passes

The three major render passes I used for this project were Beauty, Ambient Occlusion, and ZDepth.

Beauty pass

Beauty pass

Ambient Occlusion (contact shadows)

Ambient Occlusion (contact shadows)

ZDepth (used for both, depth of field and distance fog)

ZDepth (used for both, depth of field and distance fog)

Putting everything together in Photoshop

Photoshop was used for:

1. Render passes compositing
2. Color corrections and contrasts
3. Adding sky and smokes
4. Chromatic Aberration effect

<h5>Photoshop layers</h5>

Photoshop layers

The final image

The final image

Related links

Head over to Vladimir's website to see more of his work
Get your copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
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