Sunday, June 06, 2010

Trail Mix!

Illustration Friday: Trail. He's leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. OK, it's a stretch. Sue me. Click on the bad boy above for some real detail. :)

A few weeks ago, the Illustration Friday word was Equipment. I sketched out a well-equipped warbot:

I then went to 3ds Max and created some dummy objects as placeholders so I had an idea of how I wanted to model my warbot:

It took me about a week and a half to finish modeling him. ("Equipment"'s time as a subject was long over) Most of it was fashioned by deforming shapes (spheres, capsules,) or from creating an outline and then extruding it. I wanted him to have a copper steampunk look, but at the same time look futuristic. I suppose the Bioshock game series were a bit of an influence, though my son says it reminds him Proxy from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. (And I personally think all fictional war machines since the 80's owe a debt of gratitude to ED-209.) I played a lot with different metals and textures to get effects. The copper bitmap was made from a digital camera photo of the bottom of my teapot. To get finer detail, I extruded and beveled many of the objects faces. Sometimes after I beveled them inward, I overlapped the sunken faces with another material (such as the blue glow.)

I can be a bit of a mechanical / engineering wonk, and although the warbot is a bit top-heavy, a lot was created with functionality in mind. You can only see the top of it in the image, but the thighs have shock absorbers, and the feet have springs between the tallons (which never worked the way I intended.) Every joint has a screw that rotates with the child limb. The neck is on a gear, as is the rotating barrel of the gun. Rivets are just low polygon spheres. I tried to use the scatter modifier, which places duplicates of an object on the surface of another, but no matter what parameters I changed, the placement always wound up being slightly random.

(By the way, I have no idea why I created a rotating barrel on a weapon that looks like it's a laser beam. Maybe... maybe the two glowing bits are small relativity furnaces which convert energy into matter and feed it into the firing chamber, which would then, for rapid speed, need a rotating barrel to prevent overheating? I love thinking about the details.)

Once I finished modeling him, I wondered what sort of a setting to put him in. I decided to put him in the ruins of a city. Keeping the camera in the same location and at the same angle, I created some dummy objects for buildings, using a sphere to remind me where my finished bot would generally be:

Some of the buildings were difficult to model and took days, others were easy. The round tower's skeletal structure with dripping gray matter was from how I remembered everything looking after 9-11. It disturbed me that all these buildings that contained objects that had form and purpose and years of work were all reduced to a dripping gray ash, and after I finished modeling, I realized just modeling it brought back disturbing memories. I laugh at myself because I worked very hard to make the outer shell realistically smashed and broken- and you can't even see it behind the warbot. The second building on the right is very detailed and modeled right down to fire escapes, but you can't tell at all because of its placement. I love how the first building on the right (the one with the cracked and damaged facade) came out. I drew the cracks in Photoshop, modeled the facade with a very high mesh, and then used my drawings as a displacement map (which raises the light areas and sinks in the darkened ares.) The broken brick building was easy, it's just an opacity map (I made a black and white image in photoshop over the picture of the bricks, blacking out where the building would be invisible. The building is simply a 1 face by 1 face box.) The bridge was simple to model. You can barely tell because of the fog, but if you look all the way to the left, you can see that it's broken. That's why the main suspension cables aren't there to the left of the main support. (The thinner cables are hanging.)

The far off buildings were created by talking a plane and adding the Greeble modifier to it. This extrudes the faces to random heights. with extra "widgets" on top. I used a simple pattern of light squares on a grey grid to make the window lights (which I also used for an illumination map) They just repeat off into the distance, but they're just there to give the background depth, and are mostly covered by fog.

I tried to make the clouds in various ways. I took digital photos I had of skies and tried to manipulate the colors until I had what I wanted, but it didn't look right. I tried drawing them and then using the burn and dodge tools to give them texture. It still didn't look right. For the record, Photoshop's rendered clouds are absolute shit. I remembered I had used a facing-particles technique to make a cloud vortex for the IF entry 100%. I dug up this fantastic tutorial by Jonas Ussing. The only thing I did to add to the clouds texture was giving them a "smoke" diffuse map. With the spotlight (and moon) behind them, I finally got exactly the effect I was looking for.

The thing Is, I could keep detailing and adding and detailing and adding, (I considered having jets fighting in the sky,) but I'm very happy with what's here. You have to stop at some point.

As far as the final effects go, praise the FSM for Photoshop! If I was creating an animation rather than a static image, I would have had to make pains to make sure everything was perfect in 3ds Max so it could be correctly rendered frame after frame. I could have tweaked and tweaked and tweaked the settings to get the eye glows and the glowing fire in the mouth exactly as I wanted in 3ds, all it took in Photoshop was the addition of a few mouse clicks of linear light. The same goes for the electricity in the warbot's blade. I don't know who first came up with the technique, but it's very simple to make realistic lightning in Photoshop using rendered clouds (See? I knew they had a use!)

The final image was rendered with a width of 1920 pixels so it could be wallpaper on a widescreen hd monitor. I'm going to look for a site that has 3d wallpaper galleries on it to get a little publicity. I would have posted it at that resolution here, but Blogger's filespace is not infinite, and I have a lot that I've shared and plan to share in the future. But 1024p is nothing to sneeze at either!

So here's a Rorschach test: is the warbot humanity's destroyer, or it's defender?



faeorain said...

Excellent work! And don't worry, it's not too much of a stretch. I think it can be difficult trying to illustrate some of the one word topics, least for speaking for myself :)

heidi aldin said...

Awesome! So interesting to see the process, and I think it fits for the theme.

Alé Mercado said...

Jaisus! I always thought 3D Modelling would be difficult, but after reading this I think it is just impossible... How can you keep your head after doing all that?!!!

Tony LaRocca said...

Thank you everyone! @ Ale - even though sometimes I just want to get it over with and get on with the actual rendering, sometimes modeling feels like a crafting process, and I enjoy it.

elqueacechaenelumbral said...

Hi, Tony, spectacular your work, I really like, congratulations.

AHAviews said...

Great image, yr. words really open up the process - thought and practical. Simple energy of the sketches is my favourite, though...


wow incredible work! Nice to read about the process. excellent! ♥

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I like knowing how you did it. I'm thinking 3dMax is a Mac program? I haven't looked for 3d Photoshop stuff....
(Oooh the word verification word is "flush." I hope that's not an editorial comment for either of us!!

Tarun Padmakumar said...

looks really to cool! the-step-by-step is helpful!

Faruffa said...

it's beautiful, large size is really awesome!!! you did a great job and it intrigues me to 3d sw

Aravis said...

You put so much work into this and it's amazing. Next time have him tromping through a field of cows peacefully eating grass, maybe picnicking alongside them. Would be incongruous, don't you think? *G*