Introduction and Career
My name is Gurmukh Bhasin and I am a 3D Concept Designer from Los Angeles working in the entertainment and industrial/product design industries. I currently work freelance and do concept design work for many companies such as Falken and Dunlop Tires, Swift Engineering, and more. I have done concept work on a handful of VR projects and have worked with many creative agencies to help create illustrations for pitch decks, etc. I am a Co-founder and Art Director of a VR tech startup, and I currently teach Advanced Hard Surface Modeling at Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. In the past, my work is best known for my 3D concept designs on Star Citizen, where I spent 2.5 years on the project mostly designing spaceships for the game.
The Idea Behind HEMTT-2182 Project
My HEMTT-2182 started as an in-class demo during my Advanced Hard Surface Design class at Brainstorm School in Burbank CA in the spring term of 2019. Back in 2013, I had built a model of an Oshkosh HEMTT-M1075, and during my class I wanted to use that 3D model as a way to show my students, how they can take an existing real-world design and adapt it to make a newer version of an old design for a more updated vehicle concept.
I was hoping to be able to use my old model as a way to cut downtime on having to fully create a new vehicle concept. I started out by doing a demo of how to create your own 3D concept design of tires and rims, and using MOI3D (Moment of Inspiration) as a 3D design tool to create your own original ideas.
Eventually, it grew into a more complex demo, wherein the following week I started to design a new 3D concept of the front cab of the truck and it just took off from there. At the start, I wasn't planning on taking the concept very far and was originally going to reuse most of the original 3D parts from the HEMTT M1075, but after it got started, I couldn't stop myself from continuing to take it further, and I ended up redesigning 90% of the vehicle and barely used any of the existing design. The project just became too much fun, and my creative mind kept coming up with new ideas.
I always use 3D modeling as a concept design tool, in order to create my own original ideas. I work between Maya and Moment of Inspiration (MOI3D) to create my concept designs. I like to use Maya for certain things like my block-in phase, bringing the entire project together piece by piece and to design more smooth parts of my project by using subdivided polygon modeling techniques. Maya has more technical limitations in modeling, and creating highly detailed 3D designs can take quite a bit of time. Because of that, I like to use MOI3D for most of my 3D design work. In MOI3D, it is very fast and easy to create highly-detailed 3D models and designs because it is a CAD modeling software that uses NURBS modeling techniques. In MOI3D, you don't have to worry so much about the technical side of 3D modeling, and, instead, you are freer to play and to design anything you like. Maya and MOI3D both have their pro's and con's when using them, but I have found that when used together, they complement each other and fill in the gaps when one tool is missing something.
To begin with, I pretty much always start by blocking in my project in Maya by using simple geometry to build the large shapes of my design. This is where I make sure my "stance", proportions, and scale feels right for my entire vehicle. If the large silhouette isn't intriguing, then designing out and detailing within that large shape isn't going to make it look any better. So it is always really important to spend as much time needed on the block-in phase because this is where you will be setting up for success or failures in your project. In this case, I already had a complete built 3D model of the HEMTT M1075, so I used that as my block-in for this project.
I use my block-in of my overall design as my project outline. As a whole it is a complicated project with a lot of different functional parts, but inside there are a bunch of "mini design projects" that I can now work on one at a time and figure out piece by piece. Since the block-in tells me the size and placement of each part of the vehicle, I know that I can work on individual parts separately, completely design it in 3D and put the fully-detailed design back, where it sits in the block-in project as a whole in order to knock out the project in piece at a time until it is finished. I like to work this way because designing a very large truck, mech or spaceship can be a very long and scary project. But if you break it up into smaller chunks, it becomes an easier thing to work through, and before you know it, you have created your entire project.
For example, to start this project, I started by exporting the front cab of the HEMTT M1075 from Maya as an obj and imported it into MOI3D as a template to start designing my own version over.
As you can see, I have my scale figure for the seated driver, and I use curves in MOI3D to get a feeling of how I want the new shape for the front cab to look.
I can test out different design options until I find the shape I like.
After I get the overall shape that I like, I can now use different curves and shapes in MOI3D to start slicing up and cutting away from the large shape and designing the cab according to the functions I want it to include.
For the front cab, I think about things like the range of view in the front windows, escape hatches at the top, side doors, structural reinforcements, headlights, vents, how to get in the vehicle, and more. As you can see, I create stories in my head of how all these things will work and I add them to my design in 3D as a move along to create the final shapes and details.
After all of that, I am now ready to export my 3D design from MOI3D back into Maya and replace that old block in mesh with the new 3D design and that part of the project is completely finished and I can move on to the next.
I do this step for each part of the project. After the front cab, I can move on to the rechargeable batteries, engine parts, spare tire lift, cargo lift, front cab interior, and more.
I treat each part of the project as a "mini design project" and knock out each one at a time in MOI3D and then bring them back into Maya to replace the temporary geometry until the entire project design is complete. If any part of the project is better designed and built in Maya, such as the wires between the rechargeable batteries and the engine parts, I create those in Maya with subdivided polygon modeling techniques.
But for the most part, the project is designed and built in MOI3D.
Creating the Cabin
For the cabin, I wanted to imagine what driving will be like when vehicles become more automated and self-driving. Self-driving vehicles are already here and will be taking over the roads soon. This can drastically change the way vehicles are designed and ended up looking. For my cab, I wanted to design a larger windshield with more visibility in front of the truck. But that meant that there wasn't any room for a steering wheel and dashboard because the glass goes all the way down to the feet.
Since I imagined this truck would be 99% self-driving, and may only need the driver to take over to pull into abnormal parking spots, drive slowly on tricky dirt roads or when off-roading in hard-to-detect conditions. I went with a joystick and 360 mouse ball tracking system for the steering and imagined that it would only be used at slow speeds when the truck was in situations where it wouldn't drive itself.
For the dash, I designed a see-through touchscreen that goes across the entire front of the cab. For that, I imagined there would be sensors that would make the screen more transparent when you were farther away from it, but if you reached out your hand to touch it, it would become more opaque for you to interact with it.
There are cameras and sensors all around the vehicle, so the driver can access any of them and have what they are seeing show up on the screen in order to see around this large vehicle in any tricky situations the driver may end up in.
I do all my texturing in Photoshop on top of the final render to help bring the final images to life and tell the story of what this vehicle is. I do this because I am only using the 3D as means to create my concept design and the renders to show off my final design. In my opinion, it is a much easier technique to make wear and weathering look more natural without having to spend so much time texturing this in 3D. I literally cut out a week's worth of time because I don't have to UV or take the 3D parts into something like Substance, but the only drawback is that I only have it textured for the final 2D views. The way I do the texturing in Photoshop is I render out a few different passes and then comp them together using layer masks. In this case, I render out an all green or camo color pass, a rust pass, and a steel pass.
I then use Photoshop masks on each layer and use different Photoshop brushes to scratch into render passes, showing, where the paint would chip away revealing the rust and steel below. I also use two brightness/contrast layer adjusts with masks in a similar manner to show how light dirt and dark dirt would build up with water streaks on this vehicle as it is being used.
After all that, I use different layer adjustments like brightness/contrast, a cooling photo filter, vignetting, unsharpen, lens flares, and more to make the final image more moody.
Working on the Background
The forest background for this final is actually just a 16K HDRI from poliigon with a little photoshop work done over it to push the depth and make the background moodier.
I used a couple layers of exposure over the forest background to lighten up the image and then used a leaf brush to paint into the layer mask on each layer to reveal the different levels of haze in order to naturally add depth into the forest scene without having to manually cut out trees and parts of the background with a lasso tool.
This easily made the background feel hazy and kind of spooky while allowing the truck to fit nicely into the forest and tell a story.
I use Keyshot for all of my rendering, and I just love how easy and fun it is to use. Keyshot renders so fast and can handle very large and heavy scenes in nearly real-time, which allows me to keep designing all the way into my render phase. My process for rendering is a discovery process and a really fun way to come across the final story I want to represent. At the beginning of rendering, I wasn't sure what background I wanted to show off, so in Keyshot I just started dragging and dropping different HDRI environments until I came across the forest one and loved how my vehicle fit into the scene. I rotated the HDRI in the scene to get the forest path to line up well with my vehicle and then I render out a bunch of passes similar to the steps I mentioned above.
I then use Photoshop the same way as guided above to add dirt, scratches, and more in a way to tell the story of this big vehicle driving through the forest. I imagine where the branches would scratch the paint of the vehicle, how the dirt would build upon the truck, etc. I use different scratch and dirt brushes that can be found online to paint into each mask to reveal where all this weathering and wear would happen.