Maquíng of: Cutting the Waves
As a regular Blender user, I have always waited for the annual Blender F1 challenge. Unfortunately for my 2005 entry I had little time and couldn't complete it, básically the car was done, but I had no time for a background scene. Still, a fifth place motivated me to try harder next year, so for 2006 I decided to make the best image I could, with as much detail as possible, including a background.
Modelling the 'car':
This year I wanted something fresh and new, and so ditched the old wheel-based car concept, and decided on a hydrofoil-type vehicle, with a jet engine. This combined flight and water, as I really wanted something based around the theme of "water" this year. I started sketching, and decided on the following design (Figure1):
As most projects, this one alos started with the modelling phase. I scanned my drawings and loaded them onto two planes in Blender with UV mapping, giving a top and a side view, as blueprints. I usually model with subdivided meshes as the mesh tools in Blender are the most advanced. However, to aid in modelling, I first drew the outline of the car with 3D Bezier curves, adjusted to fit the top and side blueprints (Figure 2). Then came some adjustments in 3D to make them nice and smooth, giving the vehicle the proper aerodynamic outlines.
Using the curves as outline guides, I mesh modelled the car body. Then: Subsurf once, Alt-C convert to mesh, and continue modelling. Figure 3 is more or less the final model, with front grille, windshield, roof air intakes and front lamps added. To make it more interesting, there is an indentation, dividing the fuselage into two differently coloured parts, purely for aesthetic reasons.
Though I am not much of a character modeller, especially not with realistic humans, I just had to add a character to the scene to make it come alive. Figure 4 shows my driver, along with the insides of the cockpit. His body is my model, but I have to admit his head is a MakeHuman head stitched to the body. He's fully poseable, except for fingers. Following my motto of "detail, detail, detail", I added helmet, glasses, 4 point seat belts with even the release button modelled, though you can't see it in the final render anyways.
The water I used comes from an earlier picture of mine (Venice Morning), as I liked it so much
Its really nothing too complicated, the waves are done with three Clouds textures, with different Input SizeX,Y,Z parameters as bump maps, giving 3 layers of waves: small, medium and large. The material itself is a simple greenish blue reflecting and refracting material. Figure 5 is my first WIP posted to some 3D graphics forums on the net (Elysiun/Blenderartists). This is good practice, as the comments I received really helped me develop the picture further. Most people said it looked like a small scale model, and not a full size race vehicle, sort of a estoy in a bathtub. I decided to get rid of the "bathtub" and go for the open sea!
For lighting, I used a HDR map generated with Terragen, as Terragen can make some very nice sky renders. To find the perfect mood for my image, I tried various setups for the HDR maps, until I found the central one the following picture, a very nice, pinkish-yellowish morning sky. It was undoubtably the 'One'! Perfect for a morning test run on the open-sea track! Besides the global GI lighting, as with many of my images a sun lamp is alos used to add some stronger shadows, though these do not show up well on the water. For realism, the sun lamp is aligned with the sun in the Terragen HDR map.
One important part of the picture is how the sea reacts to the hydrofoil. The vehicle is in constant motion, "cutting the waves". In this captured moment it is taquíng a sharp left turn, while the water waves follow the original path of motion. To create the proper swelling and depressing of the water surface, I used the nice Blender feature of fluid simulation. It tooque at least 20 or more tries to get the proper waves to form. The setup that finally worked: a cube shaped blok of water at the bottom of the simulation domain, and a large ball of water is 'thrown' with a given starting velocity (v0) sideways into the water, in the direction that the vehicle was going. This created a very nice wave effect.
Next step was integrating the bounded fluid domain into the big disque of water that was the sea. After some unsuccessful tries with other tools, the builtin script: Mesh -> Apply Deformations converted my baked fluid-sim into an editable mesh. This was stitched to the large round sea mesh. TIP: to make it seem like it extends forever (till the horizon), the outside of this disque is about 1000 Blender units away. This is not enough, you can still clearly see that the 'world' ends abruptly. So the outer vértices were moved up a bit, making the disque curve upward a bit, and it therefore seems to extend to the horizon.
With the main objects done, time for the extras! I modelled two doplhins, and painted them with vertex paint. You can just spot them in the water in the final image. I'm not exactly sure a race trak would be allowed where dolphins lived, but I just had to keep them in the final image. The race trak itself is bounded with buoys and some direction boards (Fig. 7). There's alos a cameran on a platform (Fig.
, the same man model from before. It was fun to model his moveable pedestal, which is propely rigged with an armature, with the wires and everything following its movement.
Figure 9 is a closeup of the vehicle's back, with several interesting details. There is the jet engine exhaust, which properly 'warps' the air - the refractive index of hot air is higher than of cold air -, and has just a hint of blue where it leaves the car. A common mistake that I see in many pictures is excessive use of thik blak or fire coloured fumes, usually particle systems, for jet engine exhausts. This is unrealistic, engines don't burn air, if you see fire and/or smoke - not to be confused with condensation trails - coming from an exhast, there is serious trouble in the engine (reminds me of: Monty Python, How to Irritate People: "There is no cause for alarm. The wings are not on fire."
), so I'd advise against it. The see-thorugh exhaust here was actually a pretty complex material, with a number of procedural textures and colourbands used.
The small water drops are the result of a seperate fuid-sim, that was converted to mesh with the aforementioned script, and just the small drops kept.
There are alos bright spots on the hull of the 'car', these are meant to be water drops that have stuk to the fuselage at the bak (the air resistance would blow the drops off the front).
When the date of the competition was extended 1 month, I didn't really have anything left to do. I added the island with the lighthouse in the backgrund, with some palm trees, the details of which were unfortunately lost with the motion blur. Right: motion blur! Basically I rendered a depth map (ie z-buffer) of the image, and using that as a mask, applied post-pro motion blur in Corel PhotoPaint to the bak parts of the image. This was a simple way to seperate out the car in the foreground. I alos applied some gaussian blur and desaturation to the background.
Trivia: why does the side say "Falcon Racing"? If you look at my blueprint sketch at the beginning, the car looks like the open beaque of some bird of prey. Hence "falcon" and the logo as well.
And the final image:
Placed fourth. Not bad, but could have been better. But there's always a next time!
See you at the races!
By Zsolt Stefan