Making Of 'Unbuilt House'
Csaba Bánáti takes us through the main processes behind the creation of his arch-viz image: Unbuilt House
Hi everyone! First of all I would like to thank 3dtotal for this great opportunity to share my working process! Secondly, I couldn't make this picture without the encouragement and patience my colleagues at ZOA have provided. So, onwards...
András Onodi at ZOA Architects designed this building, which was originally located on the shore of the Lake Balaton, Hungary. A few weeks after the planning phase, it turned out this wouldn't be realized because of other circumstances, but we really liked this project so I got the task of making a picture of it to put in our portfolio. All in all, I had approximately 5 workdays to complete it.
Because of the background story, it was obvious that I should make a melancholic picture (I also prefer these kinds of pictures). I thought winter in a summer paradise was a good starting point so I set up some contrasting pairs, for instance: forest and beach (which was not sensible in this case); crows and people; coldness and warmth; darkness and brightness. I know everybody does this, it's just that I like to think that if I can figure out a few guidelines it will help me to stay on track later. It does not mean that I can't refine the concept later; as a matter of fact, I evolve my story during the process almost every time.
I'd never made any snowy picture before so I was very excited! The other novelty in my workflow was to minimize the use of 3ds Max. I always do a ton of stuff in post but this time I really wanted to spend just a few hours on modeling and texturing, with a few minutes to render. This could be done because I only wanted just one good image. During the process I found it very hard to not work on details in 3ds Max so I decided to make pre-renders and do 'sketches' in Photoshop from the very beginning. This way I saw which parts needed more details in 3ds Max and which were simpler in Photoshop. It's not a big thing but it makes your workflow very, very effective.
I always use a linear workflow. The model was made earlier during the designing stage with simple box modeling techniques. Keeping in mind that almost everything is going to be made in Photoshop, I only made tweaks where it was absolutely necessary and inserted some props (like an armchair, firewood and so on).
To start modeling the snow, I made some simple boxes where I thought the snow would pile up – mostly in the corners and at the edges of the terrace. I then applied a few noise modifiers in different scales.
Fire and logs
The fire is 2 simple planes with a picture from cgtextures (slightly modified in Photoshop). One is aligned perpendicularly to the Z-axis of the camera and the other is parallel to the edge of the fireplace. It doesn't have to be very precise – it just adds dimension to the flat fire.
For the logs, I used a photo reference from cgtextures again. I put it on a plane and drew a spline around it. Then I extruded it and put a little chamfer on the edges. I used a different photo for the bark part.
The armchair next to the fire is a BoConcept Schelly chair which I'm very fond of. It's simple, yet cozy-looking! For more coziness and realism (you wouldn't sit there without a warm blanket that's for sure) I added a sloppily-dropped blanket.
The blanket was a simple plane made with a reactor cloth modifier. The plane also has very few segments. In this case 4 x 4 was enough to keep things fast and clean. For swiftness I also did a simplified low-poly model of the chair.
After a few drops, I was satisfied with the low-poly blanket, so I increased the vertices with a TurboSmooth modifier. Some vertices sunk into the high-poly model, but why should I waste my time on something that isn't even visible? By the way, this was a hard lesson for me because usually I like things nice and tidy. But efficiency must be the priority in this (and every) business.
The materials were very simple. Again it was because of the heavy Photoshop editing later on. I just focused on some reflections, for instance, on the wood terrace.
The VRayDomeLight is the main light with a HDRI added (vizpeople HDRI v1) and there are some smaller V-Ray light planes to light up the interior. To spice things up a little, I used some VRayIESLights here and there. For the light of the fire I chose a spherical V-Ray light with a warm color.
I used VRayEnvironmentFog to create the environment atmosphere, but I could have used ZDepth and post work. I just wanted to try it out.
There's absolutely nothing special about the render settings. I used very standard medium quality settings.
Again, nothing special here. There's no secret in just throwing elements onto the canvas and blending them into the picture. It's always fun to see your concept come alive.