“City on Tatooine” - Creating Environments with 3ds Max and V-Ray
Marc Reuter, a student of the Animationsinstitut at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, created this Star Wars inspired shot during his semester break in summer to explore new workflows for full CG environments in 3ds Max and V-Ray.
During a summer semester break at Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie, Baden-Württemberg, Marc Reuter crafted a Full CG Tatooine Environment. The objective was to enhance proficiency in 3ds Max and V-Ray while refining the overall workflow. Drawing inspiration from Star Wars Episode IV, The Book of Boba Fett, and Dune, Marc managed all aspects of the shot, excluding the Razorcrest model and textures. Read on for more inspiration!
As they shot many Tatooine sequences at the valley of death in California I looked up a lot of references from this place. Nailing the shape of the mountains and colours was crucial to sell the Star Wars feeling. For the terrain I used Gaea by Quadspinner. It is a node based tool in which you can procedurally generate terrains of all kinds.
I exported the geometry as fbx. For the textures I exported a colour map as well as different erosion, slope and flow maps which I would later use for building my shaders in V-Ray. These maps were also used to scatter rocks onto some of the foreground mountains to give them more detail. I used V-Ray’s built-in Chaos Scatter tool for that.
For the city I modeled a small kitbash set with a variety of houses of different sizes and shapes in 3ds Max. There is also a spaceport that serves as kind of a hero prop in the city. Additionally I created some moisture vaporators, antennas, wall/ fence structures and crates that I could scatter in front of the city. I used the kitbash to create 4 different city blocks that I used to layout my city.
You probably won't notice it but there is a small crowd sim going on. I used the populate tool in 3ds Max to make paths in the streets in front of the city where people walk. They are quite small but you can notice them in the open area in front of the spaceport.
As there is very bright and even lighting in the desert I only used a V-Ray skylight to light this shot. It worked really well but the problem occurred that everything was lit too evenly and the city became a mush of sand tones. So I brought some VDB clouds I made a while ago in Houdini into 3ds Max and placed them where needed. They work great for creating cloud shadows. This breaks up the lighting and gives the shot more contrast.
I used V-Ray for building my shaders. The buildings are all driven by one single shader. I used a V-RayMultiSubTex node to randomly assign different colours to each building. I used the same technique for the tents. To brighten up the ground underneath and around the city area I used a mask from a VRayDistance node. It is driven by a sphere roughly the size of my city. I broke it up with some noise to give it a more organic feel and blend better with the darker ground. For the terrain I used the colourmap from Gaea and mixed it with some rock and sand textures by megascans. I did this by using the different erosion and slope maps from gaea as masks.
For the compositing I used Nuke. I rendered the foreground mountains and the background separately as it was faster than rendering one big scene and gave me more flexibility in compositing. The Razor Crest was also rendered separately and comped in as I wanted to have more control over it.
The hardest part was creating the atmosphere of the environment. I rendered a Shadow AOV which I used to give the shadows a slightly bluish tint. That helped a lot in selling the atmosphere. Another thing I did to sell the desert feeling was adding heat distortion. It is quite subtle but it actually helps a lot. Using ZDefocus I also added some depth of field to the mountains in the background. On top of that I used some layers of AP Glow with different settings on low opacity. The last thing I did was blurring my shot like crazy and blending it on top again using “screen” at a very low opacity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to The Rookies for giving me a platform to share my project.