Forest, Legion

Testing out some leaf materials again here. I read Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou over the past few weeks, which I thought was a beautifully done manga. It took me a few volumes to get into it, but eventually I realized how much of it is about negative space, both in the dialogue and story as well as the art. I guess I was a little inspired by Ashinano’s sparse and effortless landscape drawings, through which much of the emotion of the story is conveyed. At the same time I’m also testing out plant and tree stuff for a bigger rendering I’m gearing up for (ie, recharging spent creative juice by gaming, relaxing, doing other things besides commercial work)

And now for something completely different. A few years ago I had it in my mind to do a fan-art of the creepy “legion” monster from Castlevania. Though in most of the games it’s a boss, in Circle of the Moon it was a normal, albeit tough and scary, enemy. If I recall correctly, when it touches you you’re cursed and can’t attack until you have something uncurse yourself. I thought Circle of the Moon was one of the harder games in the series, at least among the ones I’ve played.


Here’s the original art for reference:

Arch Fluff, Call On Me

Been playing with tree meshes and materials, partly to ramp up for a project idea I had and partly just because I’ve seen so many damned impressive archviz renders lately. There’s some really inspiring stuff out there. I used to have this opinion that architectural rendering was more about accuracy than realism and found them generally flat and boring compared to, say, game cinematics. But from what I’ve seen lately their level of detail and photorealism trumps even the most expensive game intros (see Ronen Bekerman, Bertrand Benoit and Peter Guthrie, for example). On the other hand, there’s been quite a shift over the past ten years from pre-rendered to in-game sequences, which could play a part in it also.

Technical acumen aside I’ve also started to appreciate the beauty of a meticulously detailed architectural rendering. Not unlike a well-done landscape, I think archviz too can be inspiring and bring out emotion, capturing the stillness of a moment, the contrast between the natural beauty of trees, land and organic textures with the orderly man-made objects, the way light and shadow play across both. I find it a bit hard to describe, but there’s certainly much more feeling and art in it than a simple presentation of a blueprint to a client in 3D.

Anyway, I’m no architect and only have a vague inspiration here, so I just wanted to play with materials and light and capture that sort of minimalism and stillness.

Switching gears, a couple weeks ago I busted out another Janet remix, this time sort of a quickie. I think it’s actually closer to the original, using mostly 808s. I had an idea to do a soft minimal drum&bass version of it with a little more play on the drums, some LPF chords and a decaying arpeggiated 1/8th note synth. Kind of has a lullaby feel to it, or it would if it weren’t for the pace of the beat.

Ist das nicht mein kraft?

So Sporkii and I started playing Minecraft last weekend. Of course I’d seen a ton of videos, screen caps and rave reviews, but I never really understood what drew people to it until I actually gave it a shot. Even still, I find it hard to sum up what exactly makes it so appealing. But clearly, part of the appeal is the blocky visual style. So after playing for a few days I got to thinking, I wonder if I could take an openGL “3d screenshot” and do a render with mental ray. Unfortunately, since it actually runs in Java the openGL capturing software I found couldn’t inject itself into the exe, and the global system monitoring workaround is only available on 32-bit operating systems. C’est la vie.

So after more searching I found this beta Minecraft world to OBJ converter. It’s slow and buggy and crashes with big worlds and has no progress bar to let you know how it’s doing so the only thing you can do is periodically reload the debug.log it poops out, but it got the job done, sort of. Although it came into max with multi/sub-object materials assigned to each axis, there were no bitmaps associated with them, so I had to manually crop and tile the bitmaps and assign UVs. Also, each plane of polygons comes in with its own set of material IDs arranged alphabetically, but if a certain rare material (say, diamond) isn’t on there then it won’t appear in the list, thus there’s practically no correlation between the material IDs on each of the six planes.

In short, it was a huge pain in the ass to connect all the materials and I did an exceptionally sloppy job with it, but I got my damned renders!

Sporkii also drew these two skins for our characters =) So I did a render using my blurry apartment environment map, which looks kinda like paper-craft with the lens blur applied. Also tested out max 2012’s new substance materials a bit, pretty cool stuff.

Whittles & Sticks

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Sporkii and I have been playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 and really liked these little characters we found in a couple of galaxies. Apparently they’re called Whittles! They looked really simple so I whipped up some quick models and slapped on some procedural wood textures. Also using Multiscatter for the grass, but had to go a funky route to get color variation in mental ray using the submap material and creating multiple copies of the same proxy in order to have it randomly distributed.

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More playing around with Multiscatter, using noise to modulate rotation on a bunch of boxes. Unfortunately I forgot to save out z-depth AND the max file (was just a temp thing to play around with) so no fancy DOF on this one. The close one is curved from lens distortion.

Pushing Boundaries

Testing out some new stuff:

* aa_stonePlacementTools, which creates some nice, procedural quad stone patterns I quite like.
* 3ds max’s native object paint to scatter leaves, grass, rocks and stuff. Had mixed luck with it actually placing objects on to the scene where I’d like them, but otherwise seemed responsive and flexible.
* mental ray displacement down to 1px, seeing how far it can be pushed without crashing. The patterned texture was an accident, but I continued with it because I liked the look. Reminds me of some tedious exacto-cut paper craft.
* Using Multiscattertexture to vary color of scattered leaves. Works wonders~

I ran them all through Photoshop Camera Raw for some extra color lovin’, though the tree test environment has too many ugly tiling/UV problems to deserve it.