Max Bedulenko talked about the Montreal project, how and why it was created, and how to make a 3D image look 2D.
Hello! My name is Max Bedulenko and I love to create weird architectural things, mixing styles, eras, and meanings. I majored in Design at the university in my hometown in Belarus, but it did not help me to find a job. No, in fact, it showed me exactly what I don’t want to do in my life.
Speaking of the projects that I like myself and can tell about – I’ve been working on Path of Exile for more than a year now and I’m really happy with it.
The Montreal Project
When I started out researching the NFT market, studying the whole process, I was approached by a collector who wanted me to make a beautiful city of Montreal in my own style. So, I decided to give it a try.
During creating my personal series I never actually have a clear concept – a long time ago I realized that such a complex and detailed artwork takes a lot of time and everything changes during that process. So, I usually start by collecting references, main landmarks of the city, some interesting objects, including technical ones. Then a long process of mixing all this stuff together begins.
Composition is one of the biggest headaches for me. How can you create a heavily detailed scene and not let it drown in these details? How to create a clear shape of a street or even a neighborhood? How do you make it all work together? The answer is both simple and complicated – I spend a lot of time selecting photos and real angles, trying different ones, different types of cameras and lenses. However most of the time I keep to simple versions because my main task is to show as many details as possible, to make a unique spirit. And I believe simple angles work fine for that task. So, once all the angle problems are solved and I have a rendered picture here comes the time for a Mist Pass in Blender, a classic thing that helps to create an airy perspective. Simple things work best I believe.
Modeling and Texturing
Actually, my approach to texturing is pretty simple and basic – I like simple things like I said before. So, typically I start by gathering some minimal amount of assets – downloaded or made by me. Then I come with some simple maps in Photoshop – just mixing different jpegs. Simple photo-textures of metal, clay, plastic, wood, etc. All these textures have to be predetermined in color – different kinds of parts from different materials of course have to look different.
I usually define about 3-4 colors for the whole scene in general – I dislike evocative and bright things. Also sometimes I use Texture Paint mode, for something more organic this mode works just fine – you can paint whatever you want on a model.
I would say that after it's all done and the picture is rendered, one of my favorite parts begins - I paint over the render – refine all the bumps, tiny details, and angles, sometimes shade some things and lighten another thing up. As a result, I get a full-fledged 2D effect, even though the whole scene was made in 3D.
Putting the whole scene together is always a difficult process. There's always something I don't like, something I want to change. And this process can go on forever until I force myself to stop. About the lighting – again, I try to simplify the main shapes so it means that I don't want to highlight too many details and shade everything that is not important. So, the standard lighting sources in Blender fit perfectly. I just make the light a little softer by digging into the settings.
As for my post-production stage – as I’ve already described the process above, it all comes down to painting over render. As for the people – I usually sketch their simple silhouettes and then do some matte paint on top of that sketch.
At the end of the work, I often merge the layers, make it a little bit more contrastive, add some nice oil-painted photo textures and noise with overlay, then sharpen it up with a smart sharpen.
The main thing is that this process takes time and love to make it all work together. Never make anything in a hurry, or you'll end up with a boring and dull result.
The biggest challenge in every project is to do something fresh. I see tons of projects that impress me with technical quality. However, I can't feel a soul, an idea, or a clear concept behind them. I'm often guilty of this kind of thing too, yeah, we can't endlessly search and redo our work, we just can't afford it nowadays. Anyway, I am in favor of a conscious approach here – you should clearly understand what exactly you want to do, how to make your concept fresh and interesting. In this case, one way or another, you will have to put a lot of time and effort into your projects.
One of the main lessons for me is to never stop looking for ideas and references. Something interesting can come to you all of a sudden, you need to give the idea the time to find you. That's a very important thing for a concept, I guess.
That's why I spend a gigantic amount of my time on my personal stuff. Simply because I want it to be more than just a concept that everyone will forget after 5 minutes on ArtStation.
Bottom line – there are no secrets beyond your passion and time that you're willing to spend on what you love. That's the most important thing.