Hi! I’m Victor Duarte, a freelance 3D Artist and mechanical engineer based in Barcelona.
A while ago I did another Behind the Scenes article where you can read a bit more about how I fell in love with Blender.
I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share another Behind the Scenes with you.
I love reading and listening to stories of UFOs or strange paranormal situations where someone sees or hears something that maybe doesn’t belong to our planet.
I wanted to capture in one shot one of those stories:
It’s late at night, everyone is sleeping and you hear something downstairs, coming from the main door. “I’ve heard something… I’m going to take a look,” you say. So you turn on the light and go downstairs. Arriving in the hall, you see a strange bright light coming from outdoors. Your eyes are still adapting slowly to the light, so you can barely see any detail. And then you look to the door, ¿what the…? Finally you see it and suddenly you freeze! There’s definitely something out there that doesn’t seem of this world. Or maybe it’s just suggestion?
This is a crucial part of every project, small or big. I knew I wanted some stairs, a main door, etc…
Those are things that seem easy to replicate from imagination (no references), but if you try to do it this way it’s going to be a fail.
I spend probably one or two days looking for references, not only for the objects themselves, but also for a general mood or composition and I grab what I like the most.
I put all references on PureRef, the best way to see and organize your references.
Modeling general space
With a bunch of references and a little backstory, I can start modeling, keeping it simple and looking for main shapes (in terms of architecture, in this case).
It’s very important to model using real measurements as much as possible. This will be an advantage later in the lighting stage for setting the right intensity of lights, size, etc.
For this purpose I always use edge length overlays while modeling the “big shapes” at the beginning.
I use booleans to do the doors and windows openings. This method is useful and non-destructive; you can move or change the size without moving edge loops, just tweaking the geometry of the boolean operator.
**Tip: use BoolTool (enable it in User Preferences > Add-ons). Select the operator and then the object and press “Ctrl - “ (to subtract). Blender will do the job for you and will set the operator viewmode as wireframe and non-renderable.
Also it’s a good practice to put boolean operators into a collection.
For the stair railing I look at the references, trying to find something that fits well into my scene.
The railing itself is made using two curves; one for the profile and the other for the “path”.
I set the profile curve on the Bevel settings of the path curve.
Lighting set up and composition
Once I have general details, and before shading, I start playing with different lighting setups that help to tell the story.
I generally use an HDRI environment to “fill” the scene, but in this case as it’s a night interior scene. I used only a background color for the world to keep it nearly black.
Then I look for a proper composition and different light behaviors.
As we are in a scene or environment where the lights come from natural lighting sources, like sunlight (moonlight, in this case) or light bulbs, I use a blackbody converter for the light color to set the lighting Kelvin temperature.
If you want to understand this better, check out this video by Andrew Price.
I use a plane with a noise texture to block the light coming from the exterior and give more detail to shadows. Don’t forget to set the Cycles visibility only on shadows.
For the final composition I set the focal point on the main door and the stairs, guiding the viewer’s eye also to the door of the 1st floor.
It’s also important to set correctly the camera settings, for example, the focal length, giving it realistic values.
**Tip: If you set the rotation of the camera to X=90º, Y=0º; you can play with the shift of the camera to match the composition, and the “vertical lines of the scene” will remain vertical and not distorted due to the focal length.
Adding details and filling the scene
With the composition and main lighting configured I start adding details and furniture, some modeled and others premade.
Well, the visitor itself is just a guy made with Make Human. I exaggerated the proportions to give it a weird and creepy look. Making it really tall and with large hands.
It will be just a subtle silhouette so I don’t need any special shading work.
Texturing and shading
I start shading and texturing the large surfaces like walls, floor or stairs.
I usually tweak those textures and play with hue, saturation and values of the diffuse or albedo, and the roughness map with RGB curves or Color Ramp node.
For the wallpaper I use an image for the paper itself and drywall textures for the roughness and bump to give a realistic reflection and look to the walls.
I used the Chocofur glass basic shader mixed with some surface imperfections for the door glass glossiness, again playing a bit with the Color Ramp.
As you can see, I added some dirt and wear where it’s natural for it to happen, like at the bottom of the stairs and the main door, keeping it subtle.
The visitor is placed so that its human shape is “readable” but subtle, taking into account that it will be a dark shot.
For the final rendering I decide to add some volumetric lighting. This dramatically changes the mood of the entire scene.
In order to optimize render times and noisiness of the image, I added a cube just where I wanted this effect.
Once I have it positioned I add a Volume Scatter shader to the cube’s volume material and play with the settings of density and anisotropy, also giving it a slight bluish color.
Having this volume on the scene drastically changes the amount of samples you need to have a clean final image. The use of denoise is a must in this case unless you set the samples extremely high.
I do a preview window render (with Ctrl+B) to give me an idea of how many samples I will need in the final render.
In this case, something between 3000 / 4000 samples worked well. (Yes, that’s a lot!).
Post processing Raw render
For post processing the raw render I export some extra passes, like Shadow pass, Glossiness, Indirect, or Mist, to help on the final composition.
Then I play in Photoshop with different color balances and contrasts to start bringing out those tiny details.
I also manually add some extra details like a bit of dust in the air or edge imperfections.
I hope you enjoyed the read or at least learned something!
Thanks again to BlenderNation for giving me this opportunity.
Have a nice day and keep blending.
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