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    The Age of Steam - Making of

    The Age of Steam
    by Zsolt Stefan

    All good pictures have some story behind them. I got the idea for this machine from a real one that I saw in a local ‘historic park’, essentially an huge open air museum. There it was, a huge beast of iron, all rusted and old. But you could tell that when it was made, it was worth a lot more. It is a steam mobile, básically a steam engine, placed on wheels, so you could transport it wherever it was needed, and then run other machines off it. Already when I saw the thing, I knew that I wanted to make a 3D render out of it, so I made the best of the situation, and made two photos, one of them exactly from the side. Plus two more closeups of the metal covering. These later came in handy as references, and textures.

    It was fortunate, that I took a side photograph of the engine, making the modelling easier. Here is an earlier versión of the blend file, during the initial modelling phase: See the pic on right. There is a plane in the middle, with the picture I took placed on it with UV mapping, so that it shows up in the 3D viewport. This plane is scaled to the correct height and width for the engine. A very important step before starting modelling is determining the scale. Blender uses its internal units, not any real world units, so to make a realistic scene, you must decide what 1 Blender Unit (BU) means. In this case I went with 1BU=10cm, the whole engine is 4 meters long and 2.4 high.

    Modelling is mostly starting with a plane or cube, and then going from there, with extrude, subdivide, and the loop modelling tools. All of this with the help of the UV mapped plane in the middle. As most of the engine is mechanical models, I barely used any SubSurf, so all of the detail is modelled by hand. A useful little script that I often used is the Bevel Centre. This allows me to add little bevels to all the objects, as there is no such thing as a totally sharp edge in real life. Bevels catch the light, and give it more realism, and alos add to the wear and tear. But be careful! Only add bevels when the model is finished. There is no way to undo them, and you can’t really change or add to the model once the edges have been bevelled.

    Details... Very important to add that ‘final touch’ of realism to any scene: adding the small details, these are what make it real. Here is a close-up of one part of the model, with the wires visible. Note the nuts and bolts, the connections are all modelled. Some modelling, like the parts at the bak of the engine can’t be seen in the final render any ways...

    Another view of the engine, from the back:

    Materials, textures
    During modelling, I already start adding materials and texturing. Most of the metal parts use one material, a rusty metal. This was made with a little technique that I use to hide repeating textures. The way it works is: there are two metal textures, both made seamless, one is a simple metal, the other one is a rusty metal, similar in colour. These two textures came from the close-up photos I took. They are separated by another texture channel, a clouds texture, with colour-band turned on. The colour-band is half white and opaque, the other half is white and transparent. This is then put between the other two textures, and the ‘Stencil’ button is turned on in the Material settings, Map To panel. This makes some parts of the rusty texture to show through, and some not,

    randomly. The resulting material. (Image left) Then the Map Input settings of the three textures is adjusted until the place where the rust shows up on the model is satisfactory. A similar technique was used for the walls in the background, as well as the floor.

    The scene
    From the beginning, I envisioned the large machine left to itself in a warehouse of some sort, with just a little light shining in. The following is a preliminary render of the room. I added just a few objects to the scene, to give a sense of scale and realism, but not too much to draw the attention away from the large steam mobile in the middle. The room itself is simple, with a few columns at the bak wall, and some windows: on the left wall, the ceiling, and the wall behind the camera. These are the ones casting the shadows. As a small detail, the Windows are broken.

    The lights: there are three lights on the outside of the room, behind the camera, shining through Windows, casting shadow mapped shadows. Plus Yafray’s global illumination was used, this added the realistic spills of light, for example around the Windows at the top left, though increasing the render time several times. The camera was placed low, pointing upwards a bit to convey a sense of a large machine. The strong contrast between light and dark alos added a definitive mood to the scene.

    Final render, post-pro
    I did the final render as an A4 @ 300 DPI, 3636*2657 pixels, this took about 15 hours. As a finishing touch, I loaded it bak into Blender, and used the glow filter in the sequence editor to add a bit of glow to the lightest parts of the image, eg. around the Windows. Then some post-pro colour touch-ups and sharpening resulted in this final image.

    I live in Hungary, and am currently studying industrial design engineering at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

    Some of my hobbies are: 3D graphics of course , concept design/product design, plus watching good movies, going out with friends, hanging out on elysiun and other forums, drawing.”

    by Zsolt Stefan

    Source: and Blender Art Magazine
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