Making Of 'Vaulted Street'
The idea of this project comes from traditional Turkish narrow streets. It is usual to see narrow streets in Mediterranean architecture. Another idea was to use a dome and put some Turkish style traditional ornamentation on the interior surface of the dome. This construction technique is invented by Roman's and later it is commonly used in Turkish mosque architecture. Most outstanding examples of dome structure are Hagia Sophia and Suleymaniye Mosque (see images below).
In the first steps of design process I decided to replace the dome with a ribbed vault. Ribbed vault is not exist in Turkish architecture. It is used in Europe as the construction system of cathedrals. But it can also be found in archeological sites in several places in Turkey. As I always create imaginary environments, I thought it can be very interesting to use a Turkish style decorated ribbet vault in a narrow street (see images below).
Anatomy: The term "anatomy" is not used only for living organisms. Every object has their special anatomy. As an example, buildings has a structural system (steel or concrete) as their skeletons, and walls made up of several materials, bricks, wood, mortar, paint and several layers of other materials. Buildings have special proportions, people live in them, they have floor height, door and window sizes. I mean whatever you model, you have to learn the anatomy of that particular object first. This can be a car or a character.
I have thousands of photographs in my computer about almost everything (about 30 000). When I start modelling a scene I carefully select reference photos for old walls, pavements, characters, vehicles. I spent a lot of time to study on the photograps to see the details. How materials get old, how they broken, what is under them, how light is reflected on the surfaces. Before starting to model you better find answers to these questions.
Beginning: In the beginning I modelled the overal scene very very roughly. I tried some different compositions in the far end of the street. Will I put buildings, will I put an arch, How will I do the lighting, some decisions about the materials and textures. Actually I always make decisions like these in the very beginning (see image below).
Finally I decided to put stairs on the right side of the street, and an arch over the street carrying a building and balconies of the building are facing the street.
My other decision was to use iron work on the balconies and on the windows.
Advance: As I advance the modelling stage, I start putting some cracks, broken edges, irregularities on walls and stones. And I never use sharp 90 degree edges on models. They look very unnatural. In nature perfect forms are not exist. Nature is chaotic. 3D MAX has a command which is named "chamfer" to get rid of the right angle edges. This took a lot of time. While working on this kind of images I do not care time. I just try to find the perfect look. I can make endless changings.
I modelled "iron work" using splines. Thats a very enjoyable process. Play with the curves and suddenly you find the perfect curves. After that give thickness to splines. Thats it (see images below)
Advanced modelling and texturing
Irregular walls: Most of the times I make detailed modelling and texturing in the same time. Because somethimes it is difficult to decide which detail is texture and which detail is model.
In this project I have old walls, old walls are not totally flat. In time they move slowly in several directions. So if I am drawing an old wall I always put extra segnemts on the prject and move the vertices randomly in different directions. Not much, maybe 2-3 inches can be enough.
Texture or model?: Somethimes texturing is not enough. If there is a big crack or a broken piece exist on the wall you better model it. Bump effect can not give shadows. Punching the wall by using opacity maps is not very realistic because opacity maps do not give edges thickness.
Therefore, if there are big cracks exist on the wall surface I always model them (see image below).
For the bricks, I mostly use displacement. I increase the number of segments of a plane, prepare a black and white displacement map in photoshop and use that map to give the real 3d brick look (see image below).
I prepared all textures in photoshop. They are very large files. Some of them are 7000x7000 pixels. When you want to render your scene in high resolutions, you need higher resolution textures.
I used some real photograps to crop the crack images from them (see image below).
For the floor pavement I prepared a map in photoshop and used it in 3D MAX for the mental ray displacement map. This time I did not need to increase the number of segments on the object. Displacement is calculeted in the render time only. I use this method for large areas.
For the doceration of the vault I painted my own ornaments but as always I say, I used a lot of refence photograps to learn about that kind of ornamentation (see images below).
Lighting and Camera Placement
Lighting is a part of design. Don't forget it or don't leave it to the end. Be aware of that light gives life and atmosphere to your design. And think of it in the very beginning. Make changes on the model if necessary to give the right ambiance of shade and shadows.
On the other hand the points where you put cameras and even field of views of the cameras are very important too. There can be very very small differences in the photographic composition but eye can feel comfortable in one but disturbed in another (see images below)
For architectural rendering somethimes you need to use a camera correction modifier to correct the verticle lines of the walls. Somethimes these lines can make disturbing compositions (see image below).
In this project I used a skylight and a mental ray area spot light to simule sun. In the vault, I put some very low strength spots to give light to the inside of the vault.
My render engine was built in mental ray engine in 3d MAX 7.5. I rendered this work in 3636 pixels on the vertical direction. Total rendering time was about 10 hours on a double CPU AMD Opteron with 2 GB of RAM. (see final image below).