The Making of Last Travel

  • CGNetworks Feature :: Reader Project
    The Making of Last Travel
    11 April 2005, Laurent Antoine "Lemog"
       
     
    Concept/Introduction
    I love to watch all the great science-fiction films like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Babylon V’, but I must acknowledge that it is actually quite distant from my universe. I like to look at these futuristic ships, don’t get me wrong; but I don't think I’d ever want to build one, because I'm afraid that I wouldn’t want to make that sort of thing. I’d much rather take inspiration in something more cultural, with some historical references.

    That's the reason I decided for my particular GSO challenge, to imagine the future, from the past. I wanted to regenerate a vision by these people, visionaries of their day, from the middle of the 1850s. I wanted to recreate how they would imagine their future, and the conquest of space, and in this case particularly, traveling to the moon.



    In this spirit, I generated some images of ships based on materials, engines and technologies of this time, and also, the same errors made by these visionaries. For instance, in space, there's no oxygen, so wings and propellers don't work.

    There would be a lot of references, many caricatured drawing of these times showing such ships, which would be unable to fly in space.
    This is the first part of the story, named "Our First Travels".

     
     
     During the first three months of the contest, my mind was totally immersed in this story, and I did about 200 intermediate, preparatory pictures just for the sake of it. I really made an effort to generate as many wallpaper images for friends as I could.

    There were some quite intricate images of space ships, space stations, and that kind of stuff. Then, I tried to out-do myself, to find an idea, to finish this story, the last picture, the last bonus, the last wallpaper. I set out to create "The Last Travel".

    I had inspirational images of the first takeoffs of balloons, since that is, in their minds, how all vehicles work. I wanted to do something in the same spirit, but for the balloon Space Station.

    I had to locate a spot for the launch. I remembered some old photographs of the "Universal Exhibition of Paris 1900", with its magnificent houses. It remains a fact that they were all built for this event, and afterwards, they were all torn down.
     

  • CGNetworks Reader Project - Last Travel - Cont'd
    Sketches

    The concept of this image was made in two steps. The Space Station research during the contest was first, and the building of the balloon afterwards. 1) During the Space Station research, I had three ideas. The first idea involved some balloons that were used as supports to the metal and glass construction. The second, similar to a large balloon, the interior would be used as the Space Station, with a footbridge to board the vessels. And the third one, a sort of rotunda surrounded by a number of large propellers, with footbridges on four corners.

    I made sure to re-use the characters made for the challenge. The Space Sailors, who work on the ships and Space Station, and the passengers, in clothes of this time, inspired by real ones, dresses with crinolines for women, frock coats and top hats for men. 2) For the building of this scene, I took my inspiration from the Electricity Pavilion of the "Universal Exhibition of Paris 1900". No sketches needed, I modeled in free hand only with the help of this photo.

    Modeling
    Nothing hard here. 95 percent of my modeling is done using polygons and the rest is NURBS. All the soft pieces and details, pipes and tubes were NURBS.
    When I began with Maya, I used more NURBS than today. I found NURBS totally incredible, a revolution, even magic! But these days, I use more polygons, because I can texture them, it's easier to apply lot of different maps on the polygons, and I love the power of textures.

    I also love placing tiny details in the model. I like to model, but often I put in too much detail. I sometimes think that the more detail I put in, the better it would look and work in reality. However, when someone asked me about it, I suddenly thought I should model only what would be visible in the final frame. It’s a real pity, cos I tend to go overboard and do exactly the opposite.

    So that all this work is not completed for nothing, I do a lot of intermediate rendering, just to keep as a memory. If I modeled the various elements of the image merely for the final pavilion, it would be a waste. Rather like the construction of the actual Universal Exhibition of Paris 1900, the one was made only for the exhibition, something transitory, like a theater decoration. Although the work is sufficient, it feels incomplete. With the complete detailing, I can also use it elsewhere later on, from another angle if necessary.
     
     

  • CGNetworks Reader Project - Last Travel - Cont'd

    Texturing
    As discussed, it's not necessary to have a lot of textures, but everything helps. Simple maps of shaders should be enough. But I love the incredible power of the textures too much. They can express what we feel exactly, and create a true mood. That is one of the most important things in the image creation. In the first picture for the Grand Space Opera, I used more than 300 different textures

    For the smaller objects, I use tiles of textures. I have a great choice in my personal website. These are very practical for daily use. For bigger and more important parts, I love to generate them in Photoshop.

    I make a different choice for the pavilion textures. There aren’t too many variations in textures that I can use here, so I don’t. I use just a few different materials. Simple.
     
      
      
     Lighting and Rendering
    I have a lot of choice here, depending of the scene. I like Mental Ray for each simple scene, which enriches the look quite easily. But for a detailed scene like this one, I use the Maya Basic Rendering with a sort of half light dome of 37 colored spotlights (blue and yellow), to have a mood in the spirit of the background used. And a directional colored light (orange), to represent the sun. Nothing more. With this way and in spite of the weight of the scene, render time won’t be too long.

    Compositing
    To finish, in Photoshop, I adjust the levels to my personal taste, increasing the soft mood. I mix a little with a blurred picture and add a touch of photo grain.

    Related links:
    Laurent Antoine "Lemog"
    Download Full Size Image - 653Kbs
    About Laurent Antoine "Lemog"
    I was born in France, in the county of Champagne in 1964. My great passion since I was young was drawing, painting and photography. But I followed studies of mechanical engineering and of course, this way was not really mine. I left school at 17, and after many odd jobs, I worked as a drawer in an edition company in 1986. I was in charge of design and document creation as well as photo lab and printing works.
    When the company bought a Macintosh Quadra 950 in 1992, true graphic creation became possible for me. Later, Extreme3D quickly became a great passion for me, as well as Amapi, and ElectricImage for animation and rendering.

    Once Maya 1.5 arrived, that was it. No more limits. Since then, me, Maya and Photoshop have never parted.Software used: Maya 5 and Photoshop
    Hardware:
    Intergraph GL2 bi-800Ghz, 1Gb RAM
    Windows XP Pro
    Wildcat 4105
    Wacom Intuos A4+