Complex Vehicle Production in 3D

Marvin Washington talked about his work on the latest vehicle design project.

3d artist Marvin Washington talked about his work on the latest vehicle design project.


I’m a 3D Artist working in the games industry, my most notable work is on Forza titles where I help get vehicles into a shippable state. Previously I’ve created content for medical simulations, mobile apps, and automotive accessories visualization.

About the Project

The design brief for the concept is a present day armored personnel carrier which has been converted into a research vehicle. C.A.M. – L stands for Collection and Analysis Mobile Laboratory. The vehicle was modeled inside 3ds Max, garment maker was used for the cloth. The rocks were modeled in ZBrush and placed in 3ds Max. Texturing for the scene was handled using tileable textures aside from stripes and decals. The vehicle textures were created using Quixel Suite and Megascans was used as a base for the environment textures. Rich dirt was used to create dirt mask for the scene which the used in the post processing stage. The scene was rendered using Mental Ray and post processing was done in Photoshop.

Vehicle Design

  • To start designing the vehicle I decided to gather blueprints of various armored personnel carriers, then I collaged pieces from different vehicles to establish proportions and silhouette.

  • I then used the collaged blueprint to block out the major forms in 3d once the major forms were blocked out I projected the blueprint onto the block out model to evaluate the design in the 3d.

  • Once I had the block out for the base vehicle I began refining the design based on functionality and design elements from various real world vehicles.

Blueprint on block out model

Equipment Design

  • I selected equipment which would help the crew perform maintenance on the vehicle or perform tasks in the field.

  • Equipment was based off reference or was functionally modified to better serve the vehicles design.

  • The design and color of the equipment was used to add nonmilitary qualities and communicate utilitarian purpose of the vehicle.

  • Referencing construction methods and materials added believability to items not directly referenced form real world objects.

Vehicle Modeling

Once I had the vehicle’s shape blocked out I used various techniques to model individual components. A few are listed.

  • Splines were used to create shapes for the plate armor which were then extruded or beveled to add thickness.

  • Splines were used to create loft objects like the gas caps.

  • Objects like the tires and propellers were modeled as segments then arrayed around a central axis to create a complete object.

  • 3ds max’s cloth simulation tool was used to create the duffel bags.

Vehicle Texturing/Look Development

  • For this project I choose to use tillable textures with decals and labels.

  • All of the vehicle textures were created using Quixel Suite and Photoshop.

  • Once modeling was completed I began the texturing process by creating 4 different tillable painted metal materials.

  • Sheet metal

  • Rolled metal

  • Rough rolled metal

  • Cast metal

  • I then began creating templates for the various other materials needed.

  • Rubber

  • Smooth plastic

  • Grainy plastic

  • Vinyl cloth

    • Color variations were created as needed for the different material types.

    • Once everything had base materials I created a decal texture set for the generator, gas pump and jack.

    • I also created a texture set containing labels and stripe patterns for use on various parts of the vehicle.

    Designing the environment

  • After finishing the vehicle I decided to pursue a stretch goal of creating an outdoor environment.

  • I choose a tide pool set between some cliffs because this allowed me to create an interesting composition with different natural elements without the overhead of creating a large scale environment.

  • Once the environment was selected I used Megascans assets to quickly block in a scene. There weren’t any suitable cliff assets so I modified a lava cliff model.

  • Using the block out assets I found a compositional direction and began creating final models.

  • Modeling the environment

  • To begin final modeling I modeled boxes matching the volume of block out assets.

  • The boxes were taken into Zbrush for sculpting and brought back into 3ds Max for scene placement.

  • To reduce modeling time assets were modeled with reusability in mind. The final environment uses a total of four unique assets.

  • Two rocks

  • One tire track

  • One ground plane

  • One water plane.

  • With the final models in place a few models were slightly modified to create visual variation.

  • Environment Texturing/Look Development

  • For the environment I used Megascans textures.

  • I used a combination of textures in Megascans Studio to create a sand materials for the ground and tire tracks. I also used a gradient map to create the effect of wet sand around the water’s edge.

  • For the rock texture I used a library texture which I altered to fit the environment.

  • For the water I used a water material with adjusted settings.

  • Lighting

    • This project used three lighting scenarios.

    • During the early vehicle design phase a sky light and an overhead light was used with viewport rendering to quickly view the impact of form changes to lighting.

    • Near the end of the modeling stage I switched to offline rendering for more accurate results.

    • The environment renders where lit with a day light system.

    • For the final environment renders light blockers were used to shade the foreground and part of the cliff face.

    Rendering & Compositing

  • For this project I used Mental Ray for rendering.

  • With final renders completed I used Rich Dirt to create dirt passes for each render that would be comped into the final images using Photoshop.

  • Compositing for the vehicle only images consisted of a black background layer, the render, a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to brighten the image, a hue saturation brightness adjustment layer to punch up the color a little and dirt layers set to multiple with varying degrees of opacity.

  • Then a slight blur and noise are added to the image to give it a less CG feel.

  • Compositing for the environment images contained the render, a levels adjustment to brighten the image, vignette layers to help frame and add depth, color lookups for color adjustment, dirt layers, lighting effects layers, and lens dirt layers.

  • Marvin Washington, Environment Artist

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