Behind the scenes: Stranded

April 02, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

StrandedStranded. Model: Flora

Stranded - This project was inspired by the sight of empty streets in our cities during the Covid-19 pandemic, broken by a few food delivery scooters racing up and down the streets. At the same time, we heard the sounds of birds everywhere. Is nature growing back on us?

In my mind this extrapolated to some dystopian future in 20 years time.. People living self-contained, no contact, nobody outside, and nature taking its course again. Welcome to the future!

Not completely unlike the computer game Death Stranding from 2019, so we couldn't resist adding that playstation controller and way too many packages ;)

Here's my behind the scenes crafting notes.

Crafting Notes

  • This project started out to be a desert with a city in an oasis. And I might (or prbly will) still make that version. However, during my self-learning I started to experiment with using particle systems to add vegetation and grass... wow! That *completely* changed the scene and atmosphere of this photo!
  • As a consequence - the photo I wanted to use of Flora was originally lit with desert in mind, not with this eery foggy morning glow, and I had some difficulty in getting the light matching again. I think I could have worked that more, but at some point a project is "done". I've taught myself all I could with this image, and now I need to start working on something new.
  • As a second consequence -- mind your poly count. I started to add way to many high poly trees and grass, and ultimately ended up with a 1.5GB blend file that was almost impossible to render. I had to cut back and replace all far away trees and vegetation with super simple models. Only the ones close by are higher detail. Result? File is now ~200MB again, and renders in about 50 minutes on my laptop.
  • Grass, trees and vegetation are ideal for "hiding" bad design. Don't like that ugly bend in that hill? Put some grass on it!
  • Volumetric fog! Ork loves fog.
  • Don't forget to bevel edges. A curb with a hard edge looks fake.
  • Personal note - I am getting better at this! Working in 3D is starting to flow more naturally.. this all is not unlike my first years of trying to teach myself photoshop. View tutorials, try, experiment, fail. Fail more. View more tutorials. Try more. At some point things start to 'click' and you start to mentally correct the tutorials you're seeing ("Nah there is a better solution for that") and you start to see the bigger picture! Wow, that feels like a world opening (again!). So, if nothing else, here are two takeaway messages:

 

  1. If you want to learn to do something, don't expect to be good at it at day one. Make the time, take the time. Try, fail, fail more, learn. Put in the hours.
     
  2. Now is just a good a time as any to start learning new things. Start now.

 

Iterations

Step 1: I created the "floor". This was a single (subdivided) plane with a complicated shader that yielded colors and displacements. Later on I had to bake the displacement though, as you cannot easily have particles generating from the displaced points (they start on the plane without displacement)

 

Step 2: I created the city. For this I used the Utopia package of kitbash3d - which is (or was) free for a time for people to create art with during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thank you for providing this to us!

 

Step 3: Let's add some trees!

 

Step 4: Let's add more trees! Oops.. that broke my Blender. Quickly replaced all the high poly trees with low poly versions. Much more ugly though.. added some fog to hide that.

 

Step 5: And then I discovered grass! Grass! This was added using the Scatter addon, which made things a lot easier to set up. Nice! It is a paid addon, but worth the investment if you need something like this. And while I do know how to do this manually with particle systems, I want to spend my time creating art.

Oh yes, consequence -- there's no desert anymore.. what to do?

Step 6: Change the mood entirely! Out with the high noon sun, in with the morning! That action changed the entire mood and atmosphere of this scene, but that is maybe one of the coolest things you can do with 3D editing.. everything is yours to control! I am soo not done with this!

 

Finally, here's a step-by-step video I made of the process:

Stranded - step by step behind the scenes


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Over Ork

Ork de RooijOrk de Rooij

Ork is een fotograaf uit Utrecht. Hij vond zijn passie in fotografie van mensen, zowel tijdens evenementen of juist in de studio. Ork staat bekend om zijn gedreven aanpak, waarbij hij open staat voor innovatieve ideeën die zowel het model als de fotograaf verder brengen in het maken van de perfecte foto.

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