• The Master Artist in the Still Life category in EXPOSÉ 9
    takes us all back to the classroom.


    CGSociety :: Special Walkthrough
    7 June 2011, by Meny Hilsenrad

    I would like to describe the creative process of the Classroom Scene which we are proud to say won the Still Life Master Award in EXPOSÉ 9. There were four distinct stages of production. First of all the modeling, second the textures and shaders, third the different lighting setups and fourth the ‘post work’.

    I co-own Studio Aiko with Yair Alony, and we specialize in a wide variety of services providing high-end CG content and product in several fields such as architecture visualization, TV content, commercial ads, product and medical simulation and more.

    ‏An important issue that needs to be mentioned is that before getting started with the project, a lot of research had to be done. Almost every object in the scene was created after long periods of research. This web trawling and photographic research also continued throughout the process and I don’t believe it could be done any other way.


    The big challenge in the modeling process was creating and dealing with the amount of details this scene consisted of. The goal here was to create an impressive amount of details which would help project the realism aimed for.

    The first step was to create the basic composition while focusing on only one camera point of view, a POV that took in the entire classroom. I created basic blocks representing the main props I would put later in with more details, like the walls, chairs, desks and blackboards. I arranged them in space while adjusting the camera angle.

    ‏While getting near the end of the general composition work, I then started to work and focus on the desks area where I wanted to put a lot of effort. The modeling method was similar to the one I did on the general POV seen above. I started with the close up on the electronic devices, magnifying glass and drawers, then proceeded to the entire surrounding electronic wires, circuits parts, screw drivers, papers and all the small pieces that merged everything together. This work process took a lot of time and was quite frustrating at the start, but as I moved on with it and started to see some results it was definitely worth it.


    Textures and shading
    After finishing off the modeling phase, ‏I started creating objects that had the most presence in the scene such as the walls, floor, and blackboard. Then the chairs, desks and the projector. Many of the textures have been created from scratch in Photoshop but I also used photos from the web (books and magazines covers, papers). They were dirtied up and layered in Photoshop.

    The next stage was texturing the electronic devices and the objects on the desks area. ‏The scene was rendered using V-Ray engine therefore I used V-Ray's shaders. My first thought when approaching this work was, that because the complexity of the scene and the amount of details, I must keep the work on the shaders as simple as I can otherwise the work and test renders will be endless.

    Beside here and there I mostly used the basic shaders parameters, played with the Fresnel reflections, with the amount of reflection glossing and a little bit with displacements. I let the textures do the work and only on specific main objects, like the blackboard, chairs, desks and similar to those, I used more complex shaders with specular maps, glossiness maps etc.

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    When planning this scene, I didn't think of doing four lighting setups, but as the project progressed I saw the potential, had the momentum and wanted to create something to remember.

    For ‘daylight’ I used two V-Ray lights and put them in the windows. I used this method instead of using direct sunlight because I wanted to get a soft kind of look without hard contrasts. ‏I also generated a ‘sunny day’, something around morning and early noon kind of mood. For this I used V-Ray Sun and adjusted it together with V-Ray physical camera parameters until I got it right.

    The third light setup was ‘night time’, a completely different mood. Once again, V-Ray lights were placed in the windows and their job was to bring subtle blue-ish light to the room, imitating the light that comes from the atmosphere in this hour. I placed the artificial lights in the scene: the fluorescent light, the desk lamp and the appliances lights which gave good yellowish contrast to the bluish feel. The ‘camera flash’ used only one Omni light created to imitate the way a flashlight works in camera. An important task was to adjust the attenuation of each Omni in each camera POV in order to make the scene lit mostly in the foreground and getting far away it gets gradually darker.

    NightSunny day

    Rendering and compositing
    The very important post work for this image was done with After Effects. I found it is easy to use After Effects not only for animation but also for stills. I can adjust effect and filters at any time instead of running through a render process.

    I created a shifted ‘depth-of-field’ effect by using Z-Depth pass in 3ds Max. Faking this effect allowed me to control and adjust the amount of focus in real-time.
    ‏The out of focus dust particles were created as a post effect as well. I used a particle system of simple spheres that filled the entire 3D scene, then I rendered it and used an ‘out of focus’ filter in After Effects.

    For the final touch I did some color corrections. I adjusted the levels to get good contrasts and also used a forced color balance. Some colored layers were then added to wash the entire frame, blending everything together.

    Meny Hilsenrad is co-owner of Studio Aiko, a VFX and animation studio in Israel. He started his career as a 3D artist at age 22, after three years of army service. He also finished his Bachelor studies in the History of Arts. “The inspiration to my work comes from a wide range of aspects. films, TV, books. They all influence me and expressed in my work. I found that everything that surrounds me also has a great impact. The wilderness, a trip I once did in the desert or a walk in the city, they all affect me my work.”

    Ballistic Publishing’s EXPOSE 9 is available to Pre-Order now from the web site store.

    Related links:
    Meny Hilsenrad CGPortfolio
    Studio Aiko CGPORTFOLIO
    Studio Aiko Facebook Page
    Autodesk 3ds Max
    Adobe Adobe After Effects

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