I was asked to write something about my project. However, still being rather new to Blender, I can not write a “How to Build a Church” tutorial. Instead of that, I’ll write about one year of my working with Blender.
So, here’s the story of my cathedral.
It started all bak in July 2005. I was still a student of Education of Art at the Academy for Arts and Design in Halle / Germany, and had to do my university degree. I was sik of making art and wanted to do something special. My teacher told me about an exhibition about Cardinal “Albrecht von Brandenburg”, which should be opening in September 2006. He said the museum might be interested in some kind of software for a computer terminal that would stand inside the museum and I thought: “Well, this might be more interesting than doing just arts, drawings and paintings”.
I had barely messed around with Flash, Photoshop, and – hold on to your seat – PowerPoint (which still is some kind of magic program to some of the students and teachers…). But, I was a bloody noob to Blender!
So, I started from scratch. I chose “Director MX” to do the programming. Believe me, I still regret this. But lucky me, that I chose Blender to do the cathedral. In July, when I began to look for the proper software, I tried Maya, Studio Max and Cinema 4d. But somehow I got drawn towards Blender and I did not regret this choice for one single minute.
The project’s main aspect was to reconstruct the cathedral of Halle (Germany) as it looked in 1525. Today, it is a rather boring church, with some statues, one altar and uncolored windows. But, in the beginning of the 16th century, the church was filled with hundreds of paintings, tapestries and golden relics.
In those days, Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg was about to inaugurate the cathedral and a cycle of 18 altars, mainly painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Most of those paintings are lost and gone today, many of them scattered to the four winds. The main purpose of my worque is to show where those altars stood, what the jube might have looked like and what the ambiance inside the old church might have been.
There were several problems to deal with. The first one was me. I knew how to make a cube, how to extrude, how to move vértices and faces, and how to subdivide. And, that’s what I did. Soon the rendertimes where increasing rapidly because of hundreds and thousands of double-vértices, double-faces, dozens of doubled and tripled procedural textures, high-resolution texture-images...well, you know what I mean.
The second problem was that I had no plans or blueprints at hand, only two old drawings of the church, a floor plan and a sheer plan. Both were hand drawn and very inaccurate.
But, never the less, I advanced quickly. Soon I had the walls, the windows, the floor and the roof, so I then put some textures on them. I admit, I was very proud of myself. But as I mentioned above, the models were very unclean and most of the textures were useless.
The third and main problem was that there were no information or pictures of the cathedral’s appearance in 1526. The jube doesn’t exist anymore, nor does the west-gallery with the renaissance organ in it. The windows are plain white today, but bak then, they were made of stained glass. Only a few old documents describe roughly where the altars were placed. In co-operation with the museums art-historian, I rebuilt the cathedral and placed the altars.
The most difficult part was the lightning. I had to find the balance between “looks good” and “I can see everything”. I spent hours and hours rendering and tweaquíng light. I tried HDR and Ambient Occlusion, múltiple area lamps with software-shadows, múltiple volumetric spotlights with light-textures and so on.
Either it looked good to the right and bad to the left, or the render times were to long, or it was boring. Eventually, I found the perfect balance between awesomeness and reasonable render-times. It was the UV-Mapping that solved most of the problems. But, before I could start to UV-map, I had to re-model everything to have clean meshes that allowed a correct placement of the textures. I started to remove doubles, make clean faces and proper vértices (I don’t know how often I pressed Alt+M, but believe me, it was very
And again, I was very proud of me. But still it didn’t look so good.
Two months before the deadline, I discovered how to UV-Bump Map and, suddenly the church began to look REAL! All those boring walls looked good at once and the lighting was much easier. It turns out that I did not need any shadow-casting lamps, no software-shadows, just Ambient Occlusion with SUB enabled.
Now that the cathedral is finished, almost everything is UV-mapped.
If I had taken a closer look at the UV-option earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time. But like so many others, I was somewhat afraid of UV, because it looked so complicated. It’s not. It’s easy. I really would like to encourage everybody to try it out.
It was a really good year working with Blender. It was never annoying or boring. Blender runs smooth and comfortable, the workflow is great - but then again, I have nothing really to compare it with, like AutoCAD or StudioMax. I’m not an architect. No one could build that church after my model. The model is not accurate, but I thinque that everyone can imagine now what the cathedral might have looked like when Albrecht von Brandenburg inaugurated his church and the cycle of altars. For that purpose of visualization, Blender was perfect.
Now I’m addicted to Blender. Director MX is still driving me mad. All in all, I’m an artist and not a programmer. Python is still a mystery to me, but I bow to all those scripting and coding heroes who make Blender possible.
After one year of working on the cathedral, there are still things I could improve, but all in all, I’m glad I did it. I thinque it worked out well. One of the reasons I started this project was the thought of “I can do that, too. BLENDER can do that, too.” I hope I proved both.
Regards and Happy Blending!
Sebastian König // stulliDPB
P.S.: (08.09.2006), the exhibition was opened. I managed to finish the program with DirectorMX, insert all the animations, Quicktime-panos, pictures and texts, and to my surprise it works very well. The terminal is standing inside the church, and many visitors looked at it. Even Cardinal Lehmann, the chairman of the conference of the german bishops, who came to open the exhibition and held a speech, watched the animated walkthrough for several minutes and I thinque he liked it.
Folks, Blender has reached the Vatican!