Michael Hirsch reveals how he modelled, textured and lit the ultimate, luxury sports-car from Italy in 3ds Max, using the Madcar plug-in.
There was a fantastic, expensive car, built in Italy, called the Lamborghini Aventador that featured a V12 engine, capable of 0–100 km/h in 2.9 sec and with a top speed of 350 km/h. With futuristic styling for the carbon fibre body, I was really impressed by the car and decided my next CGI project in Maya would be to create one.
To start with, I had the idea of an old factory building in combination with a new piece of architecture which should symbolize the temporal change, and somewhere in the middle would be the Aventador.
It was time to think about the car paint colour. I knew it should be a bright colour, maybe metallic white. I love white cars and in my opinion, a white paintwork fi ts perfectly into a sunset situation. I used this creative decision as a starting point for my new project which was to be called, “Dream Factory”.
Step 1: Modelling the Factory
First of all, I went on the web to search for some photo reference materials. By looking at the actual car from various angles you get a good idea of how it should look. The alternative is to get hold of blueprints of a vehicle, if you want to make a perfectly accurate version. For modelling the assets, I used the poly modelling technique. I just added details at the points of interest. The first stage was to build the factory itself.
Step 2: Adding Details
The key point was to have a roof overhead, but that the side would be wide open to let the light in. I added basic circular tubes as supports and created the fence and doors to the factory area.
Step 3: Unwrapping the UVs
For the UV setup I used standard mapping techniques like planar, cylindrical and automatic mapping. Furthermore I used a very nice tool called “ZenTools”. This tool makes unwrapping of complex geometries very easy. You just have to select the first and the last edge of an object and the tool does the rest – very clean and fast.
Step 4: Creating textures
For texturing the buildings and the floor, I used Photoshop and my DSLR camera. I shot all images in RAW format to achieve more flexibility and higher quality textures. For the floor I created three different high resolution displacement maps. For a better result and more flexibility, I split the ground plane in smaller pieces by the same proportions.
Step 5: Angle Hunting
Almost every time, when I start modelling an environment, I know pretty well how the scene should look before I am finished. It’s exciting for me in a still project to find a nice camera perspective. In this image, there were a lot of things I had to pay attention to. The first was the car’s position. The second was the final alignment of the buildings. The third was to find a good looking camera angle which is equally suited for architectural photography and also car photography. For the maximum amount of realism in architectural photography it’s best to keep vertical lines actually vertical. In this case the camera has to be at a 90 degree angle, horizontal to the floor. To get the result I wanted I took advantage of a technique called “lens shift” so that the car was standing in the position I wanted with the vertical lines of the architecture still in their vertical position.
Step 6: Shading and Lighting
After modelling the scene and creating the UVs and the textures, it was time for a render preview in an Ambient Occlusion look, to prove whether all the geometrical parts and the displacement textures were working.
Step 7: Lighting positions
For lighting the scene I used three different types of lighting. You can see in this screenshot all the various sources, designed to shine onto the car to make sure it was bright, even with the bright sunlight outside.
Step 8: Natural light
For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.
Step 9: Paint shading
For the car paint I used a V-Ray blend material to control diffuse colour, specular highlights and reflection values separately. In realistic environments, the car paint consists of more paint layers. For example, the base colour layer, metallic effect layer and a clear coat layer.
Step 10: Rendering the scene
For rendering the whole scene I used V-Ray. I rendered the complete scene with render elements to get maintain flexibility in the post process later. I rendered eight different layers plus some RGB masks for the car and environment. These included diffuse lighting, normals, reflection, refraction, shadow, specular layer and Z-depth layer. For the linear workflow I used the method with a gamma correction node in all shaders and not the method over the linear workflow button in the Vray Render settings, because this button is for testing purposes only. For better handling in Photoshop I rendered the car and the environment separately. Step 8 Natural light For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.
Step 11: Compositing and adding the final touches
The time had finally arrived to add the final touches in Photoshop, to bring more drama into play, with sun rays, haze effects, a little bit of photographic grain, depth-of-field and so on, but with as little manual retouching as possible.
Step 12: Reflection layers
I try to squeeze as much as possible out of the 3D part so that I have as little as possible to add in Photoshop other than final colour corrections and some reflection improvements. For the reflection improvements of the car I rendered four different reflection layers – one each for the side, the trunk, the front and the top part. This is nothing different to what a professional automobile photographer does when shooting on location to get the most out of the car.
Excerpt from Digital Mayhem 3D Machine Techniques edited by Duncan Evans © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.