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Making of Mexico City

Olivier Vernay-Kim (bakho) 2010-12-06 12:10 tutorial  > 3ds MAX  > modeling

I originally made this environment for a Ghost Recon 3 (Advanced Warfighter) trailer in 2005. It's an imaginary street supposed to be in a poor suburban area of a Mexico City ravaged by war.

I was so excited about the project that I continued it at home, adding more details and atmosphere. So it's quite an old project, and some techniques and software used here are a bit outdated, but as you know, it's artistic feeling and inspiration that matters the most :)
    Software used :
  • Max 7
  • Scanline (with "light tracer")
  • Dreamscape (sky)
  • Photoshop
  • After Effects



I spent a long time looking for reference, as I always do, but in this particular case, while analysing the specific Mexico architecture, it was very interesting to "discover" a country I know almost nothing about.



The buildings were very simple to model, they are basically boxes with holes for windows, and little or no ornaments.
I made some buildings from the reference pictures I had, also from the many derelict old shops of my neighborhood.

Then I added details like cracks, damaged walls, for which I used mostly standard booleans ("subtraction" mode). It can be painful since Max's booleans are very unstable (at least it was when I did the project, it's getting better), but it's worth the effort because it takes little memory and is very fast to do despite being buggy.
Then I made lots of set dressing objects (mostly secondary, background ones) like lamp posts, fences, planks, posters... I was helped in that task by fellow 3D artist Olivier Fleurette while working on the trailer at MAgiclab. I also reused a couple of objects from older projects and some free meshes too.



The longest part of the process. For the main buildings I made customized maps in Photoshop (one unique map per building), then some more generic ones for the background buildings, with some black and white masks and a bit of vertex color for dirt (used as a mask in the materials)



The scene is lit only by sunlight, which is a standard directional light with area shadows, and a Skylight. It was rendrered in Scanline using Light Tracer. It's not a physically correct radiosity engine so the results are not very accurate. It's quite fast when using only Skylight, but if you want light bounces, anything takes forever to render (That's when "light bleed" becomes useful). That was the last time I used it, and I'll never come back ! But anyway, it was a practical choice in a time when default Scanline was already outdated, Mental Ray was crappy (compatibility issues with lots of plugins) and new renderers like Vray were not very wide-spread in studios. After rendering a good near-final version of the whole scene in 4k (including the sky and fog rendered with Dreamscape), I kept adding details by merging small region renders into the main image in Photoshop, while I started to do some paint-overs to correct a couple things I didn't like but were too long to do in 3D. Then I contrasted, color corrected and added a slight glow in After Effects. That's it, because fx-wise I'm an activist of the "less is more" movement :) (MOVE THE MOUSE OVER THE PICTURE BELOW TO SEE THE RENDERING SETTINGS)

Stages of progress

Thanks for having read this little making-of, and thanks to Evermotion for publishing it !
Olivier Vernay-Kim (bakho)
Author: Olivier Vernay-Kim (bakho)
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Inxa2 08:22:22  |  02-03-2011
Your works rocks big time. I saw this some days on your website was astonished at the final look. The look of it made me play Recon 2 (which I have yet to) Stunning work there. You work on the environments is brilliant. One small request, can you show a way to model the cracks on the buildings specially left, entrance edges etc. Thanks in advance.
bakho 06:09:31  |  26-03-2011
Thanks Inxa2 ! To model the cracks I used the technique described above : Booleans, mostly. For the edges on the left it's a local subdivision then "paint deform" in edit poly.
Ethen 18:43:28  |  07-05-2011
It will better that provide the model (sorry for my poor English......)