• CGNetworks Reader Project :: Alessandro Baldasseroni's Drydock
    Floating Drydock 1943
    Alessandro Baldasseroni
    Edited by Lisa Thurston, 17 September 2004
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    Floating Drydock 1943 is a magnificent CG piece with great attention to detail and technical accuracy. Designed as a scenario for the animated short film Code Guardian (directed by Marco Spitoni), the scene is a playground for daring WWII pilots to engage in dramatic dogfights. Alessandro Baldasseroni who made this project his labor of love, talks to CGNetworks about the development of the concept and creating the scene.

    What is the Code Guardian project?
    Marco Spitoni (author)

    Code Guardian is a short all-CG movie project which started in 2002.

    Three other artists are involved in the production – working for their passion for CGI. The three are Alessandro Briglia, Giovanni Bianchin and Alessandro Baldasseroni .

    The story is about a battle fought during World War 2, between giant robots during an attack against an American military harbor. The period settings required a lot of documentation, like photographs, footage and so on. The huge carrier being dismantled in the dry dock is one of the sets that will be used for an attack sequence. A formation of P-51 Mustang fighters will fly beside and throughout this set.

    The work proceeds as fast as we can go (in our spare time), but there is still a lot of work to do...


    Marco's vision for the drydock was to create a backdrop for P51 airplanes to perform some evasive acrobatic maneuvers. He started us off by making a (very) quick sketch of what he wanted to represent: a rusty and decadent environment focused on a hull breached and dismantled carrier inside it.

    After this came the research for some drydock reference pictures on Internet. The images below were the most suitable and inspiring:

    Since I didn't find any online pictures quite satisfying – the carrier in particular, I bought a plastic scale model of a second world war carrier to examine – nothing better than something physically 3-dimensional to realize something in 3D CGI.


    Floating Drydock 1943 continued...


    The modeling part was quite basic. Most of the structures are elaborated primitives. The water in front of the drydock is a flat plane displaced with a noise map. The carrier was the most challenging part to model, being created by box-modeling and subdivision surface editing, with all the detaching panels placed carefully over it. The cranes and truck are some previous models I made for this project, while the people are a mix of pictures mapped on flat polygons and realtime models made for the project by another Code Guardian artist, Giovanni Bianchin.

    Of course the detail of the whole elements was finalized and focused only on the camera shots, and some elements are invented and probably not very historically accurate.

    The real challenge was to deal with the poly count; to optimize here and there to prevent the scene collapsing in the viewport, and to make all sort of nasty details with a limited number of polygons. In spite of this effort to keep the scene optimal, the whole scene took almost 6 million polygons in rendering.



    Floating Drydock 1943 continued...


    This was the most challenging and time-consuming task because I carried out many trials and experiments to get the correct mood of the textures. It also took a lot of time because the textures were quite large, the bigger ones reaching 4096x4096 pixels.

    Most of the textures made for this project were made by retouching and painting over existing photorealistic textures (thanks to 3D Total for the nice 3D Total texture collection used extensively in this project). I usually then arranged my PSD files in catalogued folders including one for ‘rust layers', one of the diffused dirt, one for the hue and saturation color corrections and so on. This way I could easily experiment with them, turning them on and off and playing with layer fusion modes of entire folders. Of course, I could also drag and drop them from one PSD files to another in an easy and practiced way.

    Just think how useful it can be to simply drag entire rust layer folders to have the same rusty mood from 2 different metal textures files… Or imagine the importance of building a folder containing the color adjustments layers for specular and glossiness maps and then being able to simply drag it from one PSD file to another to share the same shininess map settings.

    Most of the materials are standard max materials with Blinn shader, except the water material which is a glass material from Brazil modified slightly.

    Some other elements use Darktree's Simbiont procedural shaders. These were really useful for very rusted metallic surfaces such as the frontal gate.



    Lighting and rendering

    Although the animation will be rendered in Scanline render (as the whole project), this still was rendered in Brazil r/s 1.2.

    The daylight scene uses one yellowish max standard target direct light casting bluish shadow maps, a Brazil skylight, and indirect illumination with one bounce.

    Complete lighting setup: click to enlarge
    The complete rendering and lighting setup (click to enlarge):

    The aliasing filter is Catmull Rom type. I love the sharp and neat quality it produces, although in some cases it can generate aliasing problems.

    After the straight render in 3ds max which took about 45 minutes, the scene was processed in Photoshop in order to fine-tune the hue and saturation of some areas, furthering increase edge sharpening, add a subtle depth fading effect, and of course composite in the sky and the background picture.

    System configuration
    Pentium 4 3GHz, 1GB RAM
    Geforce Ti 4600

    3ds max 5.2, Photoshop

    Related Links
    Alessandro Baldasseroni 's website
    Code Guardian trailers
    Download large image: 1280 x 960 | 1576 x 760

    Words by Alessandro Baldasseroni, Lisa Thurston & Marco Spitoni
    Images © Alessandro Baldasseroni





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