3D Rendering Tutorial "The 22nd Gneiss Road" by Bardhyl Morina
I am Bardhyl Morina and I am an architect working mainly in architectural visualization, as I find it fills the remaining need for the artistic presentation left from designing. I prefer the visual arts in general, which is why in combination with architecture, archviz is the middle ground for a lot of us that find this art interesting.
The work presented here is done with 3Ds Max 2023 and Corona Renderer 9.2, for these are the main software programs I use and have been using for quite a few years now. It is a matter of what you are used to and feels familiar with, but in general, I feel like Corona Renderer gives consistent results in a shorter and simpler workflow, at least in my opinion.
About the project
The 22nd Gneiss Road is the title of the image that originally is a Simon Stålenhags 2D Illustration. A well-known illustrator of seemingly mundane moments in an alternate universe where things are a tad bit different.
The idea was to push and test my skills, answer myself with the phrase "I could do that", and put myself out of my comfort zone of regular archviz projects. Also, the point was to make it as close to the reference as possible without taking liberties that make the image somewhat close to or resembling the reference. Other than 3ds Max and Corona, other software used are Speed Tree for some simple leafless trees and bushes, Polysnow obviously for the snow, and Photoshop for creating the projected texture of some objects in the scene.
This part was simple in general for one main reason, the reference was used as a backplate. It started with a simple box with the dimensions of the particular car used in the reference, just to set the scale, and with that, I used the Perspective Match Utility in 3ds max. One thing to take into consideration when using Perspective Match Utility is that if your reference used tilt shift to correct verticals, or those were corrected in postproduction, it can cause problems in the workflow. Firstly, the match is not going to be as precise, and later in the Camera Mapping of the textures it will scramble everything and not work. So choosing a good reference and finding a camera orientation that needs no vertical correction at the start simplifies everything.
The 3D models are simple and were made while always checking the main view from the camera to see if it matches completely. And if something was not normally working, I took the artistic liberty of "skewing" some corners just to make it closer to the reference, as my main goal was to make it as close to the reference as possible and I did not want to take shortcuts in the process.
Fences were modeled from extruded lines and retopologized while adding a Noise Modifier to simulate the sagging of the chain link fence. Then the Corona Pattern Modifier was used to make it from a simple plane into a repeating geometry. The "Woven" metal links were modeled with lines turned in geometry and Cut at the exact points so it would be seamless in repetition.
As for snow, it was manually added on the main objects by painting option in Polysnow ( 3ds max Script by PolyDesign3D ) because the automatic addition of snow did not match closely to the reference. It was a slow process, but it gave reliable results in the end. Only the ground snow was a material made with maps.
The main texturing and materials were simple enough that do not have something specific, and the main struggle was getting the shades and colors to match the reference. Most of the textures are from the Quixel Megascans library.
The spotlight in texturing is the projection of textures with a Camera Map Binding Modifier, as it was a simpler way of making the textures for the Alien Tech Spheres. This technique works fine for single-point renders, but any excessive movement of the camera reveals the projection of the texture.
Camera Map Binding Modifier was also used to create a mask for the tiremarks in the snow, as this was used only as a black and white mask in the snow shader in mixing colors and displacement values.
Achieving the mood
Getting the mood was a bit tricky as the reference is an illustration, and in these cases, the artists mix colors to get "tastier" results. Stålenhag actually did a great job of being coherent with the image in general, so it helped in achieving the overall mood.
The scene was lit only with a simple "Corona Color" set to "Solid HDR Color" and values around 3, to make it a simple overcast bluish color. It worked better than any HDRI I’ve tried and it is a recurring lighting setup even in the interior sometimes.
The Fog is the main lifter here, as that sets the mood and makes it more realistic.
The Corona Renderer Tonemapping was a little messy and complicated, as it kind of changes along the way while adjusting the materials and lighting. In the end, there was a long list of different corrections and a custom-made LUT to achieve purple-ish shadows and cyan highlights.
This was all done just so I would not need post-production, or at least the corrections would be minimal. And that is what I try to achieve in most projects, as it reduces the tedious work in the postproduction phase and also if you render animations.
As a project, it helped me to understand more about the artistic ways of presenting that I can now incorporate into the usual workflow. But as a fun playground, it gives a creative boost that I would recommend to everyone. Find a simple reference and try to achieve it in your medium of work, and be as demanding as you can to be as close to the reference as possible while muting the "It's good enough" voice.
What is the advantage of the work I’ve done? Well, I can re-light the scene and try some more moods while all this work is done; after all, this is what this 3D medium we work with is better at.
Video of 3D Stålenhag Scene Recreation
Discover additional captivating moments of scene creation that were not covered in this tutorial.
Thank you for your attention, and I'm glad I had the chance to explain some of the work behind this image.
Thanks to Dmitry for the opportunity, and keep the good visuals coming!