Tuesday, 6 May 2014

More CG retro goodness...

In our 3rd year 3D diploma, our students first assessment is to create a realistic rendered scene from photographic reference.  They've just been learning Mari, ZBrush, Renderman and Nuke - all tools that they utilise to produce the final image itself.

As always, I tend to find that there's not a lot of things I can do when these roll around.  The 3rd year is very self-directed, and by this level they should be very competent with their tools and require just a little guidance creatively now and again.  So - with my mid-life crisis still burning away at my soul, I decided to just do my own mini project with the inspiration again coming from my obsession for the 80's computer era.

Recent Acquisitions

If you saw my other post, I recently refurbished a C64 breadbin case.  I'd taken a few photos for that blog post, and I figured I'd use one as reference to create a small scene.  I was also inspired by other things around me, but more about that as we go...

Starting with something simple as reference

Getting started

Obviously the first rule is to not do more then you need to when working on a project.  For the C64, I created the visible corner rather then the whole machine in this case (no pun intended).  There were some background elements - a screw driver, a tablecloth and flat white paper.  I figured that I may toy with these a little and take some artistic license...

The screwdriver luckily was pretty simple.  I modeled the attachment for the end, but only the main shape rather then indent the head detail.  I expect this detail to be out of focus anyway, so there was no need to produce a high detail model.

Materials and textures

Textures in Maya aren't hard, but things such as the procedural textures Maya offers I've never been a big fan of - and I wanted to make use of a fine fractal to generate the molded plastic.  Maya just doesn't make it easy to achieve this quickly, creating odd skewing and weird mapping issues...

So I resorted to the approach of 'best tool for the job'.  One of the students also needed a fractal texture to apply to the bump of a plastic case as well...  Using Lightwave's 'texture image filter' plugin, I created large 8k images of small, clean fractal noise that we could use to add textured detail to the plastic.

I was inspired by work going on around my desk in the office, where air-con repair created a lot of plaster dust as ceiling tiles were moved...  That meant I also needed some dust along edges of the case grooves, and some more fractal variations for breaking up the surfacing subtly...  Using Lightwave's Surface baking camera and the UV map I'd generated, I baked out a few more textures I could use in Photoshop to paint up other maps.

Put a model in the oven, bake on high for 30 seconds...


Another detail I wanted to add to my dusty concept was of course larger particulate matter.  Again, I made use of Lightwave's vertex based particle emitter to spray and randomly spread particles into grooves, edges of the case for placement of 'solids'.  Baking the final frame out to an object layer, I then used them to randomly clone a 'plaster particle' with variations onto each vertex.

When bought back into Maya, these aligned perfectly.

But what of that background?

I had a piece of black art-board sitting on my desk that was collecting dust from all the dust being generated...  That gave me the idea to use the board as part of my background...  Plus a bonus was that with a little wiping and shaking, I could slap the real art-board on a scanner to pull off realistic textures that I also used to add plaster streaks to the computers case as well.

A few small screws that I modeled and placed on this board added to the story behind the image.  The screws are perhaps a little higher detailed then they needed to be, but they were relatively quick to create (for this I used LightWave and its very useful lathe tool to create the thread)

Completely screwed...

The tablecloth - also using Lightwave (its nice to be able to work around multiple applications) - I created a cloth simulation for a subdivided mesh, then pushed the board geometry on it to wrinkle the cloth close to the edges of the board.  That I also baked out as a mesh for modification

I took that into ZBrush for touching up, and then textured it with 2 layered renderman shaders to simulate the tablecloth which had a shinier threaded pattern through it. I drove the mix of the two materials through a tiling damask pattern.

Setting up some of the background details

Finishing off

As I had done previously with the C64 dust particles, I repeated the same process with the cloth and art-board to add more details...

Background dusted up and ready for render

The same dusty smeared textures from the art-board I also threw onto the table cloth and C64 case to detail it more, then a quick adjustment of camera angles, some very simple lighting (primarily a large area light and a simple HDR environment) and DOF produced the finished image

Done and dusted as they say... Eh, I mean dusty

To be honest, I'm not 100% happy with it - it could do with work with the lighting - but its a project I enjoyed working through.  The benefits of doing something like this presents the occasional challenge, and its those challenges that encourage more learning of the tools and technology.


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