Friday, 25 December 2015


Up to this point all my 3D scenes have been mid-ground stuff, there's nothing that depicts massive scale. I wanted to try something HUGE, an environment that stretches to the horizon. My idea was to design and make a sci-fi city, inspired by the likes of Blade Runner and Star Wars. As always, it started out as a quick concept painting in Photoshop.

In the 3D world it started small, simply laying out a block grid with a repeating bump map texture to help break up the forms. This was in 3ds Max with mental ray (I later moved to Vray 3).

These were placed on a flat site just so I could figure out what I could get away with. All that's required is for this simple block to be rotated or mirrored and large areas of a sci-fi city can be quickly created without it looking too dull. Every so often the replicated surface does need to be broken up so this when a large chasm or building is modelled. At this stage I began to look at 'hero buildings' - key bits of architecture that would break up the standard grid.

Next, I started on the lighting and also tried to use the z-depth pass to generate some atmospheric perspective. Already the scene is taking shape but it seems very 'flat'. The lighting was helping to break things up but the architecture could be more adventurous. 

This is where I switched from mental ray to Vray - I seriously love Vray, this was the first time I had used it. Anyway, here I am adding architectural chasms and starting to fracture my initial grid.

The entire scene is lit with just one light - an HDRI sky from vizpark. The sky was also constructed from their hi-res sky images. It really surprised me that I could adequately light a scene using just one HDRI dome setup - no complaints though, keep it simple!

As far as UV mapping goes, all the simple replicating architecture bits were easily handled with a UVW box map. The 'hero buildings' all needed to be unwrapped and individually textured. Here's an example of a tileable texture (diffuse and bump channels) followed by a uv-unwrapped 'hero building'.

Some statistics: This was a pretty big project to undertake - it probably took 130 hours spread over 8 months - that's about 4 or 5 hours a week. The poly count is really low at just 1 million - although if I include the Vray proxies it goes up to 5.5 million. My PC really struggled so the scene had to be split into 3 parts, foreground, background and the tower - the background and tower were XREF'd into the scene to help viewport performance The final render is 10k high which looks pretty cool when printed at A1.

Update: Babel got into the Asian CG magazine INCG which is pretty cool! I was interviewed about the making of progress over 6 pages.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Drone design

Drone concepts for a videogame kickstarter project. To quickly explore forms I 3D modelled a load of designs before moving into Photoshop to produce the finished digital paintings.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Taiidan Destroyer

My version of the Taiidan Skaal Tel Destroyer from the 1999 video game Homeworld. 
3ds Max and Vray 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Architectural visualisations

Some visualisation work done for an architectural practise. Studio Max and mental ray used.

Graphic design - UI layouts

A load of graphic design stuff. Automotive HUD design, iPhone UI layout, that kind of thing.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Guardians Of The Galaxy portraits

Portraits from the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' Marvel movie.

The process went something like this... I took screenshots from the film to use as reference. Each image starts as a quick sketch in Photoshop. It's not necessary for this to be perfect as I can usually recover the image at the painting stage. Next stage is to create 4 layers (in this case - background, body, face and hair) and lock the pixels. I can then begin painting with a soft brush to establish the main colours before using a hard brush to paint more detail. Colour picking is not allowed! Each portrait takes about 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reel 2015

Just in case images aren't enough, here's my demo reel. I tried to show how some of the images were constructed with animated clay renders and the layering on of various Photoshop passes.

Soundtrack has been licensed from Premium Beats - 'A Thin Line' by Lost Harmonies.


3ds Max, Mudbox and Photoshop for the above image. Photoshop digital paintings/drawings below:

Instrumental music

I love composing instrumental music in my spare time. Here are three tracks that have been completed in the last year.

Equipment: Fender Telecaster Richie Kotzen Signature guitar into some pedals (Xotic RC Booster) (Xotic SP Compressor). Also used the guitar amp simulation software 'Scuffham Guitar Amps' which is ace. Recorded into Cubase Elements.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tower haze

Tower Haze is a 3D environment created with 3ds Max, Mudbox and Photoshop. Whilst the majority of modelling is not particularly complex the texturing and lighting proved to be difficult to manage. As this scene was rendered with mental ray I felt comfortable using the Arch & Design materials. Whilst it is essential to have a bump map for the stone textures it's often not necessary to have a reflection map for stone as the reflection is so diffused. I also used a mental ray Mist material to create atmospheric perspective.

Lighting - I always start with complete darkness and very slowly add in lights. This scene has about 110 lights, you can't get away with just plonking in a sun light and pressing render. It's very important to use light/darkness to draw the eye around the image and whilst this is a slow process the result is usually better. I always render low resolution images to see the progression.

Atmospheric lights were used to create the 'godrays'. This was added into the image in Photoshop, blending mode set to 'screen'.

Texturing - Each object was carefully UV unwrapped for texturing in Photoshop. Couple of 'diffuse' examples below. Whilst I used displacement map for the mountains and some foreground objects I had to use bump maps to obtain extra detail on the background pieces.

Final render resolution was 6k wide. I split the model up into 2 passes, foreground and background and saved the outputs as 16-bit PNG files with alpha enabled so I could add in a sky image in Photoshop. 

And finally, here's a clay render (showing displacement) and the 3ds Max viewport image.