The 3D Application of choice for this task was 3Ds Max. The first step is to establish a layout as to where each component goes. The scene was divided into – BG Matte Painting (sky and mountains), The river / stream, 3D Vegetation & the Stone river Bank. Simple geometry and a rough outline concept were used to build the layout scene. The camera (position and lens) were tweaked to the desired angle.
Plants used were taken from XfrogPlants Europe 3, the dominant species being Cappadocian Maple (EU41) and Grey Alder (EU42). The plants required to be collapsed into a single geometry / mesh per plant. I used multiple instances of iToo Forest Pack Pro to distribute the vegetation across the desired area. The placement, density and randomization settings with Forest Pack gives a huge amount of power to the user.
The Lighting rig consisted of an IBL (HDRi) & VRay Sun. The first task here was to match to my reference pictures. So I shot an HDRi in a similar environment and using a color checker balanced it in Nuke. I wanted to control the direct illumination separately so I removed the sun off from the HDRi. Instead I used a VRay Sun. A few look dev passes. The intensity of the lights were adjusted to match the look.
Along with the standard Vray passes (Diffuse, lighting, reflections, specular, normals), I generated a set of grime, UV, AO, TopDown and multi matte passes. The The multi matte elements let me select different plant types individually and selectively color correct their appearance. Grime (noise) passes didn’t end up getting used in the end since the lighting was very close to the desired output. These were then taken into Nuke where I assembled them and composited over the background matte painting elements (BG Sky & Mountains). I wanted to have the image a bit more cyan compared to the reference images which had a lot of blue dominance. Once the image was working well, I exported every element out as layers into Photoshop to build the foreground river and rocks bank.
Since the perspective had been established during the layout phase, river was composited with over 5-7 different elements with quite a bit of painting to get them working together. For this particular image, since it was supposed to be a still, I didn’t want to spend time developing a water sim – hence I went with standard digital matte painting techniques to work them in together. The rocks bank was similarly constructed using elements shot and combined with painting. All of this was balanced as per the Vegetation & Sky to get the final image.
Render, write-up and video by Ashish Dani.