By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationInspiration

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.

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInspirationInterviews

The following is an excerpt for Digital Arts Masters: Volume 4. In Digital Art Masters, you will meet some of the finest 2D and 3D artists working in the industry today and discover how they create some of the most innovative digital art in the world. In this excerpt, Jelmer Boska walks you through his creation of his own personal work, Portrait of Keith Richards.


It all started in a Vancouver theatre around May 2007 where I watched the third part of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for the first time. About half way in, Keith Richards made his introduction in the role of Captain Teague. When he appeared on screen I had goose bumps; the way Keith looked in his red pirate costume reminded me so much of an illustration of the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, in a children’s pirate book I used to own – I loved that image and have kept it in my head ever since. A few months later, Disney released the book The Art of the Pirates of the Caribbean where I once again met with Captain Teague. This time he appeared in the form of an amazing drawing done by one of my heroes, Mark “Crash” McCreery. There the idea was born.

I felt it was time to add something new to my portfolio, and this would be something I’d very much enjoy doing. Although I started off with the intent to create a portrait of Keith Richards as Captain Teague, he never made it to that state. I changed my mind during the process and decided to go for a realistic portrait of the man himself instead. Well … at least it got me a good “piratey” introduction for this article – Yarr!


I started off the way I usually start any project, which is by gathering related reference imagery. I found a couple of decent photos of Keith and also took some screen grabs from the movies, where I had the opportunity to see him from more specific angles. During my search for references it was inevitable that I came across some of the famous caricaturist, Sebastian Krueger’s work. He has portrayed and caricaturized the Rolling Stones, and Keith personally, quite a few times. Throughout the process I constantly had to be aware not to caricaturize my portrait too much. Keith has got a lot of characterizing features in his face, and sticking close to his real proportions, instead of caricaturizing them, was a challenge!


I mocked up a base mesh for the bust in XSI fairly quickly, with the idea to get working on the likeness in ZBrush as soon as possible. I kept the base model very simple, since it would be used for still purposes only, and wouldn’t have to deform (Fig.01).

Fig 1


When doing a likeness, details hardly matter; it’s the main proportions that matter, and in particular the visual triangle indicating the relations between the eyes and tip of the nose. I found that once you nail those proportions, the character usually starts to become recognizable. You do start to stare blind after a certain amount of time, so I tried to get as much of the main work done as possible within the first hours after starting work on the model.

I tend to start off by subdividing the model about three times right after importing it into ZBrush. From there I start to refine and build the main forms. I have become a big fan of the Clay Tubes tool, which allows me to change and add volume in certain areas in a very natural way. After getting the bigger primary forms down I carved in a couple of Keith’s most characterizing wrinkles, which are formed mostly around his mouth and cheekbones.

Having a dual monitor setup was most helpful for this project: I find that being able to have my main reference images up on one screen, while working on the other, is almost mandatory for this kind of work. Once I started sculpting it was just a matter of constant refinement: looking at the reference photos and comparing them to the model. I didn’t really find any shortcuts or tricks doing a portrait – it seems to be just a matter of training your eye and trying to sculpt what you can see (Fig.02 – 03).

Fig 2

Fig 3

Texturing & Shading

The texture painting was completely done in ZBrush as well. Using the polypaint tools I quickly painted a diffuse texture directly on the model. Knowing the final image would be black and white, I didn’t spend too much time on this.

After having exported the diffuse map from ZBrush, I hooked the image up in a pretty simple shading tree using Mental Ray’s standard fast skin surface shader (Fig.04). I applied this to the high-res model, right out of ZBrush. The model sits at about 2 million quad polygons at its highest subdivision level, and I sadly wasn’t able to render this in XSI without crashing my machine. I ended up exporting the second highest resolution mesh and generating an additional map, based on the volume differences between the highest two levels and applied this as a bump map to the model in XSI.

Fig 4

The hair was done in XSI, too – the hair tools are great and pretty easy to use. I grew about eight different selections of hair to form his haircut. I looked at sections and strands that characterized his hair most to base my hair selections on, and focused on those specific areas. The hair was very much modeled to the camera, and looks rather ridiculous from any other angle (Fig.05).

Fig 5

Lighting & Rendering

The final light rig was made up out of a standard threepoint light setup using area-lights. The key light was placed on a sharp angle high above the model to create deep shadows under his eyebrows – something I found to help sell the likeness a bit more. A bright rim light was placed directly behind Keith, to separate him from the background a little. To soften out some of the shadows on one side and generate some nice contrast in the lighting, I placed a soft fill light on the left side of the model (Fig.06).

Fig 6

The image was rendered in 4 passes, those being two specular and beauty passes for the head and the hand plus the cigarette. The beauty pass showed the model lit and fully shaded, but without any specular highlights. Those were rendered out separately in a specular pass, so that I could have a bit more control over it later on in Photoshop.

Compositing & Finalizing

There wasn’t too much work left to be done in Photoshop besides combining all the passes, desaturating the image, adjusting the levels a touch and adding a depth of field effect using the blur tools. The smoke was painted in later, and to finish the whole thing off I added some grain, which I found added a lot of character to the final image (Fig.07a – e).

Fig 7a

Fig 7b

Fig 7c

Fig 7d

Fig 7e


And that’s about it! I very much enjoyed working on this portrait and am happy to call this one done. I hope you like it.

Excerpt from Digital Art Masters: Volume 4 by 3dtotal.Com © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Art Masters can be purchased Amazon.com,BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationInspirationInterviews

By the time you’ve figured out your conflicts, reactions and tactics you probably have your events in some kind of order. This is where you want to see if it is creating the experience for your audience that you want. Sometimes you have all of the elements for a story but it still isn’t entertaining. Often this is because the story is laid out and the audience can see what is coming. It makes it boring. We already know how it will end.

What engages an audience and keeps it engaged is carefully laid out narrative questions. Narrative questions set up curiosity, intrigue or suspense in the mind of your audience. Some questions you will answer immediately—they are setups. For example in Defective Detective the first thing we see is an apartment building when a light in one window is on. Immediately your audience is wondering—who’s in the apartment? And then we can show them. Other times, when answers to the questions are given too quickly the audience loses interest. So the key to good storytelling is to make the audience wait. But it is also important to determine what it is waiting for. (more…)

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

This is a drawing of a male skeleton, with the muscles overlaid on one side. Study the sizes of the bones in relation to one another, and then notice how the muscles fit over and attach to them. When parts of the skeleton are moved, this has an effect on the shape and form of the muscles relating to that area. This can be seen in the drawing of the arm muscles as the arm bends at the elbow; the bicep contracts and bulges as it pulls the lower arm up, but the tricep located on the back of the arm is stretched and so appears flatter. This is essentially how all the muscles of the body work, they contract or stretch, and as each muscle deforms one way, there is another muscle deforming in opposition to maintain balance and physical stability. It’s an amazing system, well worth taking lots of time to study.

RIGHT The body split into a skeletal half and a muscular half.


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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Working Traditionally “We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” —Walt Stanchfield

When my interest in making art became serious and I knew that I wanted to turn it into a future career, the only option available was to pick up a pencil and a sheet of paper and draw. This might seem old fashioned to many young artists these days, but to others of the “Digital Creation Generation,” drawing traditionally has developed an exotic allure that I find both encouraging and ironic. In an age where using a computer to draw is the norm, those who choose to use a pencil and paper are sometimes seen as “forward thinkers”!

There is something special about working with a pencil. The tip will blunt at different speeds and in different ways depending on how you use it, and at what angle you hold your hand. These variables and the everevolving shape of the tip offer an almost endless variety of textures, line shapes, and finishing effects that are always surprising—and all of the above can be changed again depending on what paper or art board you work on. For sheer expressivity and breadth of varied application and technique, it has no equal, at least for me, and every project I undertake begins as a pencil drawing in a sketchbook. It is possible of course to recreate many of the exercises in this book using a stylus and tablet, but it is my hope, if you haven’t already, that you’ll invest in a set of pencils and discover for yourself how versatile and rewarding working traditionally can be. There is simply nothing to compare with it.

One of the common criticisms I’ve heard about traditional methods is that they can be messy. I can’t deny that, and barely a day goes by that I don’t have to clean up after a nasty case of “drawer’s hand.” (This is where the action of moving your hand over a paper covered in pencil creates a smudgy mess between your outer wrist and little finger.) That said, the messiness is an essential part of how you interact with your art, and besides, I’ve made numerous random serendipitous technical discoveries due to the messy nature of working traditionally. This simply isn’t possible when using a computer. When working with soft pencils, crayons, chalks, and pastels, you have the option of using your fingers or a cloth to adjust textures and create effects, and excess smudging can be removed or worked into using a variety of erasing techniques. From a purely gratifying perspective, finding your desk covered in bits of eraser, pencil shavings, and other detritus, as well as dirt under your nails and even on your face after an artistic session is an indicator of a day well spent. It’s a tangible sign that you’ve really connected physically with your work, and this engenders a state of mind that is invaluable in relation to how you approach future design problems.

ABOVE This sci-fi character design was drawn using a blue Col-Erase pencil over a printed digital template.

ABOVE This penciled panel from a comic clearly shows how messy traditional working methods can be.


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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Keep Growing

I used to look up to top cartoonists- not for their money or fame- but because they could draw whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.  From my young artistic perspective, my ultimate goal was to be able to draw whatever I could think of- perfectly.  That’s when I would know I made it as an artist, I thought.    That’s when I could relax and stop having to practice, learn, and strive.   I would have all the answers and just be able to express anything on paper to the enjoyment and amazement of the world.  That was my dream!


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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Sell yourself

Some artists, animation supervisors and directors have agents to help get them work but it can be cost prohibitive for most of us.  An agent can take anywhere from 10%- 30% of everything you make!  That’s a lot for someone to just speak well of your work.  You should be able to do that yourself!  But it is hard.  Most of us grew up with the idea that a humble person does not “toot their own whistle”.   But in the competitive industry of animation, humility can mean not eating too!

Selling yourself as an artist just means getting the word out about who you are, your past accomplishments and what you can do for an employer.   Be confident!  Don’t speak about your work in terms like, “I think this could have been better if only I had more time” or “other people liked this so I put it in my portfolio” or “I know I could do better then this now…”  These are all negatives.  I have heard all of these and more from artists showing me their portfolios while applying for a job!  I can’t believe it.  Be positive when talking about your work!  If you are not confident about who you are and what you can do then why would I be?  Remember, you are the best person to speak about what you can do and what you have done. (more…)

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Tell the story in a “ sequence of juxtaposed images. ” 5 The most important thing to remember when storyboarding is to make sure your sequence of images is telling the same story that you think you are telling. It is all too easy to assume that they are doing so, but you need to pitch the story to people and then see if they got the same story and the message you intended.

Three Little Pigs has a simple repetitive structure that even children learn how to tell easily. It begins, “ Once upon a time, there were three little pigs… ”


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By: admin                Categories: AnimationInspiration

The neck has been a difficult area for many of the students in the evening Gesture Class. When asked for help, I usually just sketch for them my simple, “shorthand ” version of the neck in question; hoping that will suggest at least one more step out of the quagmire. I remind them that the back of the neck is a continuation of the backbone, and is usually shorter than the front of the neck. The front of the neck starts under the chin and extends down into the chest area, culminating at the point where the clavicle bones attach to the sternum. I also caution that parallel lines make the neck stiff and “pipe like. ” Here are some examples from the class — I often add a simple “diagram” sketch (in circle) to suggest the general construction. As usual the student’s drawings are on the left.


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By: Dave                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

A couple of months ago, we published Quick Sketching with Ron Husband, a book covering gesture drawing. This book is near and dear to me. It was one of the first few titles I commissioned when I started at Focal Press, and I had a pretty big hand in its development: the design, the content, some publicity. I worked with Ron Husband and his wonderful family to help create this book. To say I’m proud to have my name attached to it would be an understatement; it was truly a family affair. The book has sat on my desk for a while, and I realized today that I’ve completely forgotten about the best part about the book: the sketchbook in the back.

I’m no artist, but I scribble and pretend that I can draw sometimes. So I opened up Quick Sketching, found the sketch paper in the back, and started to doodle. Here are the embarrassing results:

For this picture I used a number two, mechanical pencil and a pathetic lack of knowledge for human anatomy.

This poor person has no bones.

The giraffe is upset-looking because it now exists.

This looks like my former Romantic Literature professor. But he never wore Bermuda walking shorts in class.

Decided to go back to the basics taught in Chapter 1. My triangles are pretty good, right?

This bunny was copied off of the cover for How to Cheat in Adobe Flash CC.  My keen eye and deft hand captured it just perfectly, I feel.

I guess the moral of this story is to stick to my day job.  For those who have a copy of Quick Sketching, I’d love to see your back-of-the-book sketches.  Tweet pics @FocalDave and #quicksketching.  I’ll select one random person to win a free Focal Press book.

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