Working on Materials and Assets for a Car Workshop Scene

Narcis Calin, a 17-year-old artist, talked about his latest scene The Workshop made in 3ds Max, V-Ray, and Substance Designer.

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Hello, my name is Narcis Calin, I am 17 years old and I was born in Romania but currently live in Spain.

I'm self-taught. I've been doing CGI for 6 years now and I haven't worked much yet but I've had a few clients.

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The Workshop: Start of the Project

The original idea of this project was just to make a car render, but I wanted to create something bigger. A friend sent me this cinematic trailer of "The Crew" and I decided to make that environment.

So that is pretty much my inspiration. For references, I used Conceptboard where you can even add notes easily. I wrote notes and self-feedback there as well as just used a text block to put down what I would have to do next in the project. 

I also used PureRef at the beginning of the project.

First of all, I gathered references and dimensions of this kind of building to get a general idea about its size. I started with the base and when it was ready, I began shading it. Then I moved on to smaller props and details.

Modeling Assets

I made all assets in the scene except the car that was downloaded from Szymon Kubicki but shaded by me.

Some of the most important assets are the tires and rims, which were a challenge to make. I used splines to model the rims, the tires were just manual subd modeling starting from planes.

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Almost all the props were made with subd modeling. I tried to make the scene very detailed so the viewer could spend a few moments watching the scene and appreciate all the small features.

The metal beams were made using splines and the chamfer modifier to round the edges a little. Everything was done inside 3ds Max.

I had to make geometrical damage so that the scene assets would feel more realistic. An example of this is the weldings of some models, which were modeled using splines. Another example of geometrical damage is the barrels, which have visible dents modeled.

To optimize the workflow, I used Megascans for some wood planks on the floor and debris, plus some pipes on the wall, but everything else was modeled by me.

Texturing Stage

Texturing was pretty fun in this project. Almost all the scene was textured procedurally inside 3ds Max. In Substance Designer, I made some masks for adding damage on my assets like chipping paint, some scratches, rust, dust, etc. All the materials interact with the environment, for example, the dust appears on top of the object even when rotated because it appears on the z-axis, or the rust appears in the occluded parts of the objects.

The walls are a brick texture from Megascans and as I said before, the materials interact with the environment, so there is dripping rust and leaks when in contact with the beams on the walls, for example. I also added some dirt at the bottom of the walls.

The beams were a complicated material, I had to modify and redo it a bunch of times until it looked good. The ceiling beams and the big pillars share the same material, but to get the red paint on the bottom of the columns I used UVW Map modifier and changed the channel to "2" both on the UVW and the material. By doing this, I could get the paint to only appear if the object had a UVW map, which the ceiling beams didn't have. The pillars also have some damage at the bottom, where they can be damaged more easily.

The floor is another material that I struggled with. I tried different methods but eventually decided to use Quixel Mixer. I made the damage details with Mixer and then I tiled the texture on the floor mesh using stochastic tiling so that the damage wouldn't be repetitive. For renders, I planned a shot at eye-level, so the tiling would be even less visible. I added Vray Displacement Modifier to make the damage feel even better. A little help of debris and there you have the tiling hidden. In the case of those big long spaces between concrete slabs, the detail is displacement and the mask was made in Substance Designer.

One more important material is the tires. It is complicated as well, I had to modify it a lot. I had to find a balance between rubber and dust to make it feel realistic. I used VrayDirt to add dust inside the tread gaps.

Another interesting material is the tarpaulin. The wrinkles and the plastic fabric pattern were made in Substance Designer separately and then I merged them in 3ds Max.

I tried to approach texturing with care and think "what would happen here in real life".

Composition, Lighting, Post-Process

Composition was inspired by the cinematic trailer "The Crew". The main shot was inspired by the beginning of the trailer while the others were a personal choice. I wanted to make the left side especially detailed because it would be the most visible part. To fill the scene, I just thought about what could fit in it and used references.

The general lighting was made using only Vray Sun and Sky. I also made use of artificial "fake lights" to boost highlights on the car and the tires for different shots. There is geometrical damage on the ceiling and the light passes through it, giving an interesting result by adding some random sunlight splotches on the ground, fence, or pillars.

In post-production, I added some depth and a bluish tone to the image by creating fake fog using the ZDepth pass. The atmosphere and sun rays were tweaked with a clouds procedural map from Substance Designer to add some irregularities.
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There are physical dust particles in the scene, but I wanted more, so I added them in post with a dust mask from Megascans. I had some issues with the windows since they were using VrayDirt and it would bug the atmosphere, so I had to render the windows separately and add them in post.


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Then I made the image slightly darker and a little more bluish using curves, plus increased sharpness to emphasize the details more, especially on the floor. As a final touch, I added a vignette effect.

Narcis Calin, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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