Fantasy Castle in Maya

Fantasy Castle in Maya

Farid Ghanbari talked about the way he produced his amazing fantasy environment. He showed his modeling pipeline, texturing setup and discussed his lighting.


My name is Farid Ghanbari and I’m turning 30. I was born and raised in Iran, a beautiful country in the middle east where I have got a lot of good memories, but just last year I moved to Richmond, Virginia, in the United States. I am the founder of and have worked as a 3D Generalist Artist for about 10 years.

I studied architecture and got my B.S! I had to work while studying to earn some money and I tried many careers like carpentry, furniture painting, masonry, creating architectural physical models for students and so on! I was earning decent amount of money but none of them satisfied me! So I just decided to try what was always attracting to me! I mean architectural 3D visualization! I think this was the time I came into contact with CGI and this industry at the same time!

After I finished my architectural studies which I never continued and of course I’m happy for the shift toward CGI, I dedicated most of my time on the net in YouTube, Vimeo, famous websites, magazines and all great CG artist interviews!

So, yes! I’m self-taught!

Castle in the Snow

The main idea of this artwork came across my mind right after watching the Alice in the wonderland movie! With it’s all amazing magical environment designs!

After seeing that castle with my enthusiasm in lighting I tried to illustrate the contrast of warm and cold ambient in a magical word like this!


As I mentioned I had some idea in my mind after that movie!

So I just started some handy sketch to form the first concept! After that, I jumped to Maya to block out the train and castle towers and main walls!

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For this project I had many options and many pre-provided objects to use! Which you can find tones of them on the internet! But this is not what I call “Art”! I always prefer to fill up my scene with Farid’s 3D objects rather than have collection of others!

For the environment I modeled a boat, all my unique trees, low level walls covered by snow, Catapult and so on! Then duplicated some of them where I needed! You can always benefit from symmetry, duplication, scale and rotation to have various objects from one base model!

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E.g. I just model one tower then tweaked that a bit for each new tower!


One of the most exciting parts in this project was trees for me! Except a few, I created all trees in the scene with the help of Maya Paint effect! It’s really powerful and I think you can create a whole jungle through that!

You just need to play with the parameters! Believe me! It’s fun!

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I used 2 methods for the snow! V-ray 2D displacement for the ground snow! Maya nParticle for the castle and trees snow! Definitely the ground did not take much time! You can create your snow by a proper map easily! But you may need more time to spend on second type snow! First you need to manage the emitter sources and decide how much snow you need! It’s completely up to you and your artistic look!

Since simulating in a large scale scene like this takes many time for each frame it’s not reasonable to define all objects as one emitter! Also, this is not a good idea to have hundreds of emitter for each object! So I defined several groups of all objects to have couple of emitter for the whole scene, to save time in an optimized way!

You may need to know the process for the simulated snow in Maya!

First of all, check the camera base selection in the Select tool!

Then select the top faces of your object in top view! Duplicate selected faces and assign them an emitter! We just need 0 speed with enough amount of emit rate! Do not forget to set the gravity at 0! Now just play the frames and stop where you reached your desired look! The last step is the converting particles to geometry!

There you go!


To be honest I did not spend too much time on the textures in this project! Instead, I chose the fastest way! I mean procedural material! Here you can see the final setup for the wall material. Base stone texture covered by white cement with fractal node to looks random and imperfect!


Lighting is one of the most interesting part of my job! So I usually spend enough time on it and am passionate about that! Do not underestimate that! Without a perfect lighting your artwork will not last!

I usually start by simple gray mat and key light! Then you need to highlight each hero of the project by adding some small light, right to the point! Don’t be afraid of adding many lights to your scene! Try various type of lights and all warm and cold colors! This is important to make a nice balanced contrast with warm and cold tones!

Lights can tell your audiences which part should be watch more or first! Determines the mood and vibes of your artwork! Lighting can tell the story behind your work!

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Farid Ghanbari, the founder of RenderBurger

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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