Making Of 'Vantage at Dusk'
As with any project of this nature, the key to a realistic model is proper research and a decent set of blueprints. Having sourced the blueprints, I soon discovered that (as usual) there were certain discrepancies between the different angles represented on the blueprints. However, this was unavoidable as the angles were sourced from different locations and traced from different perspectives and photos.
Seeing as the side elevation had the most detail and was of a decent size, I decided to use this view as gospel and tweak the remaining ones accordingly. In doing so I ended up with a set of blueprints that lined up in all the important places and that I hoped would produce a final model with the correct amount of headlights and so fourth.
This specific concept initially started out as a studio render of a V8 Vantage Rally edition. I found a nice set of photos depicting this car in green livery with some orange pin striping around the nose area and over the tops of the door sills. At the time I was convinced that this was the nicest thing I've ever seen and I started on the project that same day (Fig01).
A few months after the Rally renders were done and my brain had sufficiently cooled down, I was walking along the local waterfront area in Cape Town and I discovered that they had opened a new Aston Martin Dealership. As I strolled passed the showroom floor and into the setting sun, a line of pitch black V8 Vantages with beige leather and walnut interiors peered at me from behind the glass.
That was more than enough to sell me on the concept and I decided that there could be nothing more captivating than a mood shot render of a black V8 Vantage under the setting sun. Seeing as the previous renders had a studio setup and a very clinical feel, the exterior setting for this render would be a welcome change.
First I set up the blueprints on their respective plains, lined them up and set up a slightly see-through material for my main poly modelling purposes. When it comes to cars, I like to start on the hood area, find and model a definitive line that runs from the windscreen to the front grill, and then clone that edge sideways to extend the mesh from left to right, or vice versa. If that first line is set up correctly to the blueprints, the whole bonnet of the car will be smooth and hopefully dent free (Fig02 and Fig 03).
With this same principal in mind, I moved over the sides of the vehicle where I matched up the nose segments with the wheel wells. The wells are usually set up as a separate tube's whose uppermost polys ( seen in the side elevation) are attached and welded onto the nose piece mesh (Fig04).
After integrating the wheel well, I moved over the rest of the vehicle from front to back putting polygons in strategic places to assure they lined up with the doors, windows, air vents and other details on the car's body. This was by far the most time consuming part of the project; you need a certain amount of patience to ensure all the vertices line up with one another and with the blue prints in order to avoid any dents or irregularities. After the basic shape was modelled out, I extruded and chamfered the detailed edges of the doors, body panels and other areas where sharp corners and folds were needed (Fig05).
For the headlights, I simply selected the polys where the lenses would go and detached them from the main mesh. These edges were then cloned inwards to make the beginnings of the light's casings. With objects like lights I follow one basic rule: to try and get it as close to the real thing as possible. Unfortunately I didn't have the luxury of hacking an actual Aston Martin headlight in half to see exactly what it looks like inside, but I did spend many a happy hour peering into the head and taillights of cars - to the concern of some of their owners.
Next on my list were the interior, mirrors, other trimmings and lastly the wheels. This is a part of the modelling process that I enjoy greatly and there are a couple of ways to approach these parts of the mesh. For the rims and tread pattern in particular I used a common segmented approach. I modelled only one slice or spoke of the rim, and then used the 'array' command to clone these elements around a central axis to produce the full circle. The rubber was made using a simple lathe, and then the extra details like the valve, nuts and stubble were added last (Fig06).
After finishing the modelling, I did an extensive material setup. The main challenge was the car shader, especially as black is, in my opinion, one of the harder colours to get just right. For this project I used a Vray Blend Material consisting of a highly reflective layer or clear coat on top, a grainy middle layer and a bottom layer with a lot of falloff and all combined as a non additive shellac (Fig07).
As I was expecting, the material of the taillighta also presented a unique challenge. I had to make use of double sided materials consisting of coloured fog and various bump maps for the red and orange outer lenses. Slightly less reflective chrome was used for the plastic headlight rims and other trimmings. For the rest of the materials I used pretty standard stuff; a nice bump map for the tyre rubber's writing, proper leather and other more tactile plastic materials for the interior and dashboard. The windows were also unwrapped and given refraction maps to allocate where elements like the tints and rear window defrosters were going to be.
The next step was a proper lighting setup for the model. Seeing as I had chosen an exterior scene and the vehicle would get some direct sunlight, albeit subdued, I had to make use of a single Omni light with low settings. To light the rest of the model I added two Vray Plane lights (no specular) towards the front and the rear of the car, one larger Vray Plane (also no specular) above the vehicle and finally an ambient HDRI setup (Fig08).
I set up the HDRI using a series of fast light cache renders of about 30 seconds each. These were rendered at intervals around the car so I could compare the use of light and shadow to get an optimal result. The Omni light was then moved to match the position of the sunset on the HDRI to make sure the shadows would be cast correctly (Fig09).
Finally the project was lit and ready for the rendering stages. These included a series of small test renders with very low GI settings, followed by the final render passes of 4000 x 3000 pixels and the subsequent post production in Photoshop.
Because of the reflective nature of the black car paint shader, it tended to pick up every little element in the scene, especially above eye level. Therefore I had to render the rims in a separate pass where I could add some extra lighting helpers (planes with Gradient Vray Light Material applied) to add some extra specular effects and push the metallic rim shaders to a more appealing level (Fig.10).
In post production I added the rim render to the main scene, adjusted the levels and added some extra detail to the tarmac material to make for a crisp end result. I also added some highlights to the headlight areas to make the scene more dramatic and tweaked the background to give the mood shot render a more stylised feel and ensure the focus remained firmly on the V8 Vantage in the foreground (Fig.11 and Fig.12).