Lost in the garden

Federico Ciavarella 2014-04-22 09:52 tutorial  > 3ds MAX  > modeling

Tutorial by Federico Ciavarella for 3ds Max / V-Ray users.

Hi everyone! My name is Federico Ciavarella, I’m an Italian Architect and a freelance 3D visualizer. Before beginning, I have to thank Evermotion for this great opportunity and I also have to credit Alex Roman and his book "From bits to the lens" that was essential for the vegetation that I created for this work.

Software used: 3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop, Marvelous Designer and Zbrush.

Final Images:

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Final image - garden



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Final image - dining room


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Final image - kitchen


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Final image - reading room


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Final image - bedroom


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Final image - bath


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Garden - wireframe




Basically, I started this work to test some of the vegetation tips I found in "From bits to Lens" book by Alex Roman, which is an excellent reading for 3d visualization artists. The house, instead, was inspired by a Villa found on "Elle Decor Magazine - Italia" that in some way reminds me the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe or the Glass House by Philip Johnson, but at the end I tried to create something personal and not just a copy. Let’s start!


Following the Alex Roman’s tips, I started with a plane, I applied the texture and then I added the subdivision to follow the shape of the leaf. This is useful, because opacity maps require lot of calculation time. If you leave only a few parts in ‘black’ the calculation time is acceptable and the leaf still maintains the fractal natural form.

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Modeling a leaf


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I made this procedure both for leaves and roses petals.


After testing some specific software to create trees, I realized that, for my needs, the best solution was the most simple one. Branches and trunk are mostly hidden, so I modeled them by hand.

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Making branches


I unwrapped them with Xray Unwrap plugin.This was very tedious but at the end I modelled only 2-3 branches and 1 trunk for the trees, and then I added symmetry modifier. Thanks to Multiscatter, I could get a lot of variations of bush structures that was made from just one model. All the leaves were scattered with this plugin and once I found a good setting it was very easy to change seeds and obtain different configuration of trees and bushes. Multiscatter was also used to place branches on the tree trunk, before scattering the leaves.

The other advantage of this method is that if the leaves and the branches have a noise rotation before scattering, it’s possible to achieve the ‘wind effect’ for animations.

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Multiscatter - branches and leaves


For the distribution I used Vertex Paint. In the future I’ll probably also use another good tip from Alex Roman - I will customize pre-made trees, available in collections such as those by Evermotion, to avoid the tedious process of creating the structure of the trees. In my opinion on what really worths to be customized: the leaves and the roughness of the bark (if visible).


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To optimize rendering time I increased cutoff of the tree leaf material to 0,1 for all trees that are far from the camera.

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Nothing special to say here, Just a couple of things that someone can possibly find useful.

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Wooden floor


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For exterior and Interior light I used HDR skies inside of a Vray Dome light. The skies are completely desaturated with color correction inside 3ds Max, this is a thing that I usually do for the 90% of the interior images and rarely for the exterior. The gamma was left mostly at 1, some images have it at 0,9, this is because the skies in this scene are overcasted. I usually decrease it at about 0,8 / 0,75 with other types of skies. Skies used: 1044, 0902, 1008 by Peter Guthrie.

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HDR skies


I added two Vray planes to give an extra touch to the homogeneity of the light. Similar settings were used for the other images, with or without extra Vray planes.

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HDR skies


The Vray sphere was put inside the filament to avoid the ‘too perfect’ effect.

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Render settings

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Render settings


Post production

The post production was very fast. As a lover of photorealistic rendering I tend to treat raw renderings as photographer treat raw photos. I start with Magic Bullet Photolooks to work at 32 bit and after I use common Photoshop tools included Photoshop Camera Raw (especially now that it has an easy access from the filter menu) mainly to check overexposed area, have an easy control of individual colors and to use the noise reduction tool.

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Raw render vs. post production


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White Balance doesn’t need to be perfect but I always prefer to check it in this kind of images.


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Post production in Magic Bullet Photo Looks


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Photoshop Camera Raw, check the overexposed areas.


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Photoshop Camera Raw, noise reduction is better to be only in specific areas, as we don't want to lose details.


That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you can find it useful. For any clarification you can write me here, or on my Facebook and Behance page. Cheers!

Federico Ciavarella

Author: Federico Ciavarella Editor: Michał Franczak
Tags: garden 3dsmax v-ray lostinthe Federico Ciavarella
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eiz11:46:05  |  22-04-2014
thank you man ! great job !
Dario Tonzuso15:06:34  |  22-04-2014
Amazing Job and so usefull tutorial...Greatings
LukaDrobnic16:41:56  |  22-04-2014
Thanks for the tutorial! Some tips are new to me.
Mohammed B01:00:51  |  23-04-2014
So nice good job man .. I see u use vray3.0 with multiscatter .can u say wt version of multiscatter u use ?? Cuz I have max 2014 with vray3 and multiscatter doesnt compatible why ?
fede438311:32:14  |  23-04-2014
Thanks for your comments! multiscatter 1.3
Marihhh19:07:00  |  23-04-2014
druwee15:57:42  |  24-04-2014
This project mustve taken AGES! otherwise very very good making of - incredibly informative as well as a casual reminder that no good thing comes eaay. Cheers and congrats & thanks!
fede438317:01:44  |  24-04-2014
Thanks guys! don't know exactly how much it took, I realized it in 2,5 months, but, I worked only in spare time between commercial works, some weeks I didn't even open it, probably 2/3 weeks in full time.
Abdullah Sarfaraz Yeaseen22:26:12  |  05-06-2014
HI! very nice work, could u please tell about the scene statistics eg. how many polygons and how much time it took to render? appreciate it.
fede438314:08:10  |  14-06-2014
Hi Abdullah, to not work with heavy scene I usually have each scene in a separate file, I create the building and the environment and then I add details only in the specific scene. An average for each scene is about 300.000 - 600.000 polygons (with vegetation and heavy objects used as proxies). Render time was very high in my poor i7 2600 4core, about 8-10 hours for a 2500px height, but they were rendered with vray 2.40, with Vray 3 my render time was cut at about 4-5 hours for the same resolution. *what really encrease the rendering time in my render is the color threshold, which I like to use at 0,005.
Aip Wong23:33:17  |  18-06-2014
woooww very good
iancamarillo06:53:36  |  26-06-2016
Great tutorial! Does the exposure and color look different when opening the 32-bit image in camera Raw?
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