This illustration is part of a series of pictures that tell a short story. It is a 2d/3d mix created with a variety of different tools using digital matte painting techniques. I’m a big scifi fan so I did have a lot of fun creating this piece!
This picture was originally created for the topic of an artgroup I’m in. Find the artgroup here: The Luminarium and the topic here (Sequential). The topic requested a series of images that had to tell a story or show some kind of progression. I decided to create a series of pictures and named it ‘Endeavours Part 1’. It shows two transporters leaving a city on an unnamed planet to get to a spacestation in orbit. There then part 1 ends. The picture we talk about is (what I would call) the hero picture of the series. We see the two ships gaining height above a gigantic scifi city landscape beneath them. My goal with this scene definitely was to convey a sense of depth, scale and space between the ships and the city. I also wanted to maintain a simple setup. You have the two ships in front and then not much else than the city. So there is nothing for the eye to be distracted and just dive into the depth beneath the two ships. I also decided do go a more cinematic route with the presentation. Which is probably more of a comfort zone thing since I tend to always work with that kind of composition. But it also helps to make the elements of the scene sit well together.
My usual technique is to layout a scene in E-On Software’s Vue and then move the rendered material into Photoshop, where I tend to refine and add detail where necessary. Of course there usually is a lot stuff that requires some fixes. Elements that did not render the way you expect.
The city is created with kitbashing several models I had from previous projects. The process there was to create something that more suggests detail than something that would actually make sense as a city. So the city itself is more a chaos of all kinds of shapes, buildings and towers. Inspiration were cities like the Los Angeles in Blade Runner and other more dystopian looking materials. In Vue I created that field of buildings and towers (Fields OF Steel) and placed some mountain terrains around it. Vue is specialized in creating large scale environments and a perfect choice for scenes like this one. Even with the general chaotic look of the city I created blocks that kind of suggest a system of how the city is built and split into different areas. There went some extra time into balancing out the city elements, so it does not end up looking too cluttered. The ships were also done via kitbashing older models. Kitbashing can be a lot of fun because it doesn’t require too much work and is more focussed on creativity. And the results can be surprising at times.
After finishing the scene setup I rendered a plate with multipass options. Multipass is an option that most modern 3d packages have and it’s a component that can save a lot of time. For example it allows you to render out masks for every single object in your scene. That helps if you need to rerender elements and replace things when in already in post-work. Multipass also allows you to render out pictures/passes with certain effects like specular highlights or shadows. It’s something that can be very helpful pushing and suggesting detail that isn’t actually there.
In Photoshop it’s time to take all the rendered passes and combine them. There then goes a lot of time into fixing, overpainting and extending elements of the scene. Especially the atmosphere and lighting can be pushed quite a bit and make the depth work even better than in the actual render. Adding phototextures to the city helped to push and suggest more detail. Adding lights made the city come to life. Last but not least I played around with the colours a lot and added some fancy scifi lensflares to push the overall scifi feel of it.
The overall response to the ‘Endeavours’ series and especially ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel’ was quite positive. The picture managed to gain some exposure in some fantastic art books and magazines, next to work by folks that define the look of modern blockbusters and games. That’s a fantastic thing and motivation. And even 5 years after its original creation it manages to make some impact.
Every project is a chance to learn something. Even if it’s just finding ways to be more efficient. This project helped me to dig deeper into 3D tools and refine my post work techniques when combining all the different rendered elements.
My ‘Endeavours’ series is about getting away from something that you feel is drowning you. It will eventually lead you somewhere that feels new and fresh and allows you to restart. Where it leads will be shown in part 2 that is almost done now and hopefully released soon.
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