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Walkthrough: Alpine A110

As I was following the typical tropes of a 3D artist with my last project, the Paintball Gun, I decided to keep going down the generic 'what can I model' list and I decided to make a car.

"Cars take like 5 mins to model and I can probably blast this out in a couple of weeks max" - Cunningham, February 2017.

And to be fair I did get off to a flying start once I found what car I wanted to model that had half-decent technical drawings to follow. But I don't know if its because I have a job now or that this is literally my job that made me spend such little time on it until I palmed it off to do something else. However the main reason for making a car is so I could speed up my progress at work and maybe develop new techniques.

Because who doesn't want to spend 8 hours in an office doing something and then after getting home they want to do that same exact thing?

Is it passion or stupidity?

Probably both.

I digress.

The camera pans across the vast herds of 3D Artists grazing amongst the planes. The environment artists are pawing at the mossy verge up on the rocks, the tech artists have found refuge to script write under a shady canopy, and by the side of a dust-thrown wasteland of generalists and students lies a small calf with a broken ankle; waiting for a predator, waiting to die. This gif is that calf.

FIRST UP we have Ye Olde Edge Extrusion techniques with a few planes slapped in the background. A modelling technique dating back to the neolithic era, when we didn't have HDRI maps and MSN messenger was still a thing.

Quick shout-out to for my probably very plagiarised technical drawings.

I tried to pick a car that wasn't going to be too difficult. The main body of the car was fairly straight forward. The front end had some tricky little indents and extrusions where lights and bumpers sat, but apart from that it was a doddle. I've found a nice technique when working with subdivs that you can extrude an edge. This creates two more edges running along side the original which is great for tightening up corners. I used this a lot on the front headlights and down by the side of the car where the curved indents run along side the door.

"Now you have to texture it" cackles the voice of the fading motivation in your head.

This is the part of the project we all hate. We've modelled it all up and now we have to texture it. I by no means hate texturing, in fact I quite enjoy it. But what I mean by this is that you think you've got the bulk of the work done and it should be plain sailing from here on, but it's not.

This is what I call the binary stage. When modelling, nothing is really subjective. It's binary. Does this car look like the car intended? Yes. Done.

What isn't binary is how much of a Fresnel you should put on the metals or how wide to make the aperture for the DOF. This is the hard part, the most time consuming.

I find that peer review is good for this. Take your art into work and let your colleagues tell you how shit it is. Do this 2 or 3 times or until you feel the need to bring a gun into work, then you should have a much more refined view of your final comp.

Glass is a tricky little bugger to get right in VRay and doesnt seem too versatile. There seems to be only a few fractions of a Fresnel value between crystal clear glass and a mirror. I found out there was a major flaw in trying to get it looking realistic, and if you haven't guessed by the screen shots above that are labelled "thickness", well then it's adding thickness.

Putting a shell modifier on my glass tightened up the refractions so much and helped it give a much more realistic feel. I suppose for mimicking reality then this is pretty accurate, you can't really have light bend through a two dimensional object.

You can also see on the image below what difference it can make applying a shell to a textured plane. The only negative side of this is the weird smoothing issues I get at the bottom of the glass. I have no idea how this was caused and doesn't seem to be anything related to the bump map, but in my case it's nothing detrimental and kind of looks alright. Thanks VRay, I guess?

Next comes the mapping of the wheels.

When starting to texture these it was a no brainer that it was going to be done with a displacement map. It's cheap, clean fun and you can do it all in Illustrator. In hindsight I could have probably modelled the tyre treads in a similar time but there's something about the efficiency of not having to have that mesh on my screen until it draws it at runtime. *trembles*.

And we both know by now that I'd be some sort of mug if I didn't apply these materials in Substance Painter. I unwrapped the wheel twice in the same UV. Once length ways and the other from the side.

I could have done it all in one unwrap but when you start applying textures it can pinch them back in and create a weird warped effect. The negative of creating seams is that when you displace them they will always displace at the seams. It's a compromise.

Feel free to enjoy some of my hard work, free for your disposal.

Ok what's next, oh yeah, Lighting. You're gonna enjoy this one.

HDR Light Studio. The saviour of our 3D sins.

So I did these on the free 14 day free trial of Light Studio. Why, you ask? Because I'm a 3D Artist, I reply. Not an investment banker.

So as you can see from the gif above, I have numbered each light and will explain their purposes and my process of lighting.

1. Always Rim before you Fill. A handy motto to use not just inside the studio. I always start out with a rim light. When you're working with dark backgrounds they're amazing for highlighting the edges and making your subject pop. Also you can create really ominous effects with only using the rim lighting to get a render. Then you can make your work look like an Apple product launch.

2. The Double Rim. The first light did a good job of distinguishing the back of the car but I thought another was necessary to highlight the headlight. I also like the way the light seeps over the bonnet.

3. Uncle Fill. Fill is a great guy, he's never in the way and does a great job at highlighting the parts you want to be focused on. Fill is a great laugh to have in any 3D scene. He always arrives after the rim and is nice and soft around the edges.

4. Barry. Unlike Fill, Barry is a bit rougher around the edges and can often be a bit harsh. As long as Barry doesn't over do it, he is by all means welcome.

5. Highlights. This is what we all came here for. Some nice sexy and sharp highlights across the side. Turn that opacity falloff to 0 and go wild. I managed to get a nice lightening-bolt-esqué type reflection down the side which looks quite nice. I think it's important to have your main lighting done before you start adding in reflection highlights.

6. Double it up. We're going hard here in the Cunningham house hold. Double rim, double fill, double reflection. In this case I duplicated #5 and dialled down the sharpness and brightness and it helped the other reflection really stand out.

7. I made a lot of lights. Like a bruised banana in the fruit bowl (or just my childhood), I felt a part was neglected. I added another Fill at the front so Barry had someone of his ilk to talk to before he went around spiking drinks.

8. Side light. Close but no cigar. Again I shed some more light on the right side of the car. This illuminated the shape of the curved indent and highlighted the detail on the wheels.

After the part was over I rendered two different images and comped them together.

One with a floor bowl and one without. The floorbowl gives a nice weight to the subject but can also take away a lot of the lighting. This is why I rendered one without. So that I could pick and chose where the lighting was going so it can look as fake as humanly possible.

Like my personality.

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