The Making of Dioptase Colony - Power Diving


Architectural illustrator Tamas Medve reveals the creative workflow and inspiration behind his image, Dioptase Colony - Power Diving.

In this tutorial, I will explain my workflow and show the main steps I took in creating this image – from the idea phase to the 3D setup and on through to post-processing.

First, let me say a few words about the background of this project. I have to say that my new hobby is to create sci-fi scenes and watch VFX breakdowns whenever I get some spare time. This idea came from the new Star Trek movie. I was particularly inspired by the scenes in the film which showed the USS Enterprise starship crashing into the city center. I found that scene amazing, so I decided to create a small scene featuring skyscrapers but imbued with action.

References and lighting

If I make an arch-viz image or any personal work, I never start without reference photos. I think this is a really important part of any project because it helps you to setup and direct the lighting, and also provides a good pallet reference when applying the final tweaks.

Generally, from the beginning I have an image in my head about a certain camera angle and mood, but of course this does not mean that I won't do any experimentation during the remainder of the process!

In this case, I knew that I wanted to create an aerial shot and I had a certain mood in my mind, so I just started scanning through photos online.

After getting an idea of the scene I wanted to create, I began by setting up the lighting using basic geometry to test compositions and values. For this scene, I used VRaySun and VRaySky. Again, the reference photos helped a lot in setting up the lighting and achieving the right angle and intensity.


The scene with the sun in position


I didn't spend too much time on this stage because everything was going to be glass and metal. I used really simple, generalized materials because I realized this would give me much more freedom to take the materials in different directions during the post-production stage.


The generalized materials allowed greater freedom later on

Modeling one building

In the first stage of the modeling process, I used simple geometry (like boxes) which defined the location and the scale of the buildings. Honestly, I didn't think too much about the design, and so its refinement was achieved in a somewhat random way. Of course the initial idea of ‘Dioptase' gave me some direction. Dioptase is a bluish-green translucent mineral and these features affected the whole design.

For the modeling, I used only the basic poly-modeling tools like Bevel, Extrude and Connect. First, I modeled a segment of the main building and simply cloned and rotated it, with some alterations here and there, until the complete skyscraper emerged.


Using basic modeling tools to model the building

More skyscrapers

I used the same method to create the other skyscrapers.


Showing some of the building elements in the scene

Smaller elements

Here you can see some other small Lego-type elements like roads and objects floating in the water.

On the X-shaped feature in this scene, you can see some small extruded polygons. I made these with a plug-in called Greeble. This is an awesome old-school plug-in and it's so much fun to use.


Creating some elements of the scene using the Greeble plug-in

Trees and people

When I finished building up the towers and roads, I scattered some generic trees from one of the Evermotion collections, and a few low poly people around the buildings. As it turns out they are barely visible and are only seen if you zoom in.


The final modeled scene

Render setup

These are the render settings I used for this image – it's pretty basic as you can see. After a 4-hour render, I had the base for the post-processing.


The render settings


The rendered scene

Checking the image

This is one of the most important parts where life and personality is added to the image. I deliberately didn`t mention this before, but halfway through the 3D setup I did a quick sketch in Photoshop to check that it was going to look as I had envisioned. This small sketch then became a good reference as I entered into the Photoshop stage.


The Photoshop sketch used to check the image


In Photoshop, the render elements seen below were imported. I have made a short post-production breakdown which shows some steps of the process. Don`t forget to put on your headphones!


The render elements used to finish my scene

Final image

Finally, just a few thoughts: I often find that it's true that ‘less is more'. At a glance it seems I worked a lot and included a lot of detail in my image, but that's not true! I think many people get lost in detail and forget to take care of the more important things like mood and emotion. I want to emphasize that this is just useful advice though, if you are not sure that it helps you in what you are doing just grab some basic shapes then go to Photoshop and do some quick sketches. It's all about experimentation…


Dioptase Colony – the city in smoke


Dioptase Colony – power diving


Dioptase Colony – The council attack

Related links

Tamas' original gallery entry
Check out Tamas' site for more

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