As the geometry contained a lot of detail, there was not much texturing required for the final scene. I had originally used raytraced materials in early test renders, but since the scene was supposed to be somewhat 'unreal' or 'surreal' I dispensed with raytracing quite early in the project.
Although I used a lot of procedural modeling, I avoided using too many procedural texture maps in the final scene. The reason for this is that I wanted to be able to animate a camera move on the scene for showreel purposes, and procedural maps can be problematic as they tend to flicker. I did create some of the original maps using SimbionMax, but these were converted to bitmaps early on for manual editing.
I experimented with additive transparency on geometry very early on with some of the first egg and tendril tests. Coming from a gaming background, I have used additive transparency quite extensively for special effects. The main drawback is that, being additive, it can bleach out very quickly. On the final image, additive transparency was used mainly on the tendrils coming from the central crater, and the finer tendrils in the foreground.
Since most of the lighting was to be faked either by self-illumination maps or additive transparency, the lighting was fairly simple. An attenuated omni light was used to light the main crater, and a few area lights were used on the foreground. A Brazil skylight was used to create an ambient occlusion pass, which was rendered separately, and used in the composite.
I decided to break the image down into layers to allow tweaking of individual elements in the composite. I also added fog passes using standard Max fog, and Afterburn Combustion for the gas around the foreground layers. The layers included
- Extreme background
- Background (crater area)
There were also passes for each of these layers:
- Atmospherics (foreground_atmos.jpg)
- Ambient Occlusion pass
- Self Illumination pass
Apart from assembling the main elements
- Discreet Combustion was used for overall colour correction
- Volumetric effects on some of the illumination passes (using Trapcode's Shine plugin)
- A subtle lens flare to add a little glow to the crater (by Knoll Light Factory),
- Displacement using a Displace operator on the electrical arcs to make them look more organic (using themselves as the source footage); and
- A slight zoom blur to add to the feeling of movement.
In the end, the foreground tendrils and eggs were mostly silhouetted against the background, with small pockets of light to break it up. I also added a fair amount of fog and gas as I found some of the earlier renders to be a bit too busy and energetic. Adding the layers of fog not only increased the sense of scale but also provided the scene with a sense of desolation.
I'm 36 and live in London. My first real experience with 3D was with 3D Studio (DOS) R2, although I'd toyed with some of the 3D programmes available for the ST and Amiga, and had been creating 2D graphics before that. I studied Animation at Bournemouth College of Art and Design, then at the Arts Institute and currently work in the games industry. I have also worked producing CG effects for a short film. I mainly work with 3D Studio Max and am currently learning Maya. At present, my spare time is taken up working with a colleague on a short film which mixes 2D and 3D. We are currently previsualising shots.
The Alienware challenge has provided artists with the opportunity to showcase and improve their skills in a large community of CG enthusiast and be recognized for it. Thanks to all the artists and comment posters who made this such a rewarding contest.