The purpose of this project was to show how we would approach the interior visualization of an apartment. To make the whole thing more challenging and interesting, we tried to show different periods of the day so that we could experiment with the reaction of the materials to the different lighting situations. The most time-consuming part was the post-production, because it was primarily in that time when we decided on the final style for the visualization. In the end we settled on yellow/orange colors for the lights and the ground as it contrasted well with the blue wall and green vegetation.
Right from the beginning it was important to get a real sense of the layout and dimensions; therefore we remained in constant contact with a friendly architect, Bernhard Ortlieb, for the whole duration of the project.
This overview covers every stage in the process, including modeling, lighting setup, materials, rendering and post-production.
Modeling – Apartment
The modeling of the room was very fast, because it is just made of the following:
• Two glass facades
• A glossy stone wall with two insets, one for a picture and one for the bottles
• A wooden ground floor
• A ceiling with an inset in the center area in which borders are places for some indirect lights, that are covered by shades of frosted glass
• A balcony floor with colored stone tiles and a balustrade made from glass and metal
• Ground outside that consists of stones and a balustrade with glass
All this elements were built by box modeling. We added some details like an edge of stucco, drapes, door handles, and some modeled lights for the balcony, above the picture and also in the inset for the bottles.
Parts of the furniture are from our archives, where we store finished stuff for use in later projects. The couch and the armchair are examples for that. Some other furniture parts like the coffee table and the side tables were made especially for this scene.
We started to build them with the box modeling techniques and some modifiers like shell, push, etc., to add more volume and details. To have a nice reflection, especially in animation, we added beveled edges.
Some of the accessories are also from our library. We have become accustomed to storing every piece we use in any project that might be reusable. By doing that, we've developed a nice archive of small and large pieces for every possible occasion. Filling up a room with small details has become pretty easy over time. This has helped to greatly reduce the production times.
Other details like the wine glasses were made for this project utilizing spline modeling techniques. The carpet is just a plane with Hair & Fur and the vegetation is also made from modified models from our library.
Usually we just take simple planes for the window glasses, but in this project there was often the need to hide them in some passes. Because of that we connected the points of the plane to make it easier to see and select them. You could then immediately tell whether they were hidden or not without having to look into some object properties or menus (Fig.01).
We used two different systems of illumination for the lighting setup. The first approach was the use of natural lights, which consisted of a HDRI dome light and the V-Ray sun. The HDRI can be changed from day to night or a blend between these two states. The sun also has two different positions for noon and evening.
While the sun creates a warm and pleasant yellow color on the geometry, the HDRI contributes a cool light blue color to the scenery. At midday the sun has the most effect on the scene, but in the evening the sun intensity is much lower. Then the environment and the artificial lights of the flat have the greatest influence on the final look of the illumination.
To direct the rays of the sun and the HDRI into the flat, two portal lights were used – one for every glass facade. The convenience of this is that the settings of the light cache and the irradiance map can be much lower than without portal lights, while maintaining the same image quality.
The second approach was the use of artificial lights, which make up the lighting in and around the apartment. Examples for that approach are the spotlights on the balcony or above the picture and also the area lights that are inset into the ceiling. They all have a warm color to give the pictures a comfy feeling.
The VRay-Lights above the picture in the wall have IES-profiles to create a more interesting light effect. It also makes the beam of the lights more realistic. The emitters on the balcony and for the bottles are just spotlights, because a profile on the ground is not necessary and it renders much faster.
The greatest contribution to the room's illumination in the evening scene comes from the ceiling lights. We created a cylinder for each of the four sides and defined them as a V-Ray light to achieve a nice and soft falloff. This cost us a lot of render time, but we think it was worth it.
Hint: For the illumination and the reflection of the background we created two separate light sources. Both of them had the same HDRI, but by separating them, it was possible to have more control about these two types of rays. This was our attempt to emulate the possibilities that the use of a Raytypeswitcher in the background offers you in mental ray (Fig.02).
We knew right from the beginning that we had to create a lot of materials for the scene. That's why we split it up into separate geometry layers:
• Environment (e.g. background and HDRI for the dome lights)
• Room (e.g., floor, ceiling and wall)
• Furniture (e.g., tables, couch and carpet)
• Items (e.g., the bottles, clock and glasses)
• Vegetation (all plants)
• Specials (e.g., the chrome and glass parts of the lamps)
For every geometry layer we also created a tab in the Material Editor. This is very helpful if you have to take a look back at your scene a few months later. You always know where you have to search. It also makes interchanging the scene between different artists much more convenient. It is generally a good idea to clean up your scenes after each production step to get rid of unnecessary stuff that clutters up your RAM and makes working on the scene slower and slower.
The materials in the scene are not very complicated, but there are a lot of them. Nearly every material consists of a diffuse, a bump and a reflection map. Most of the time there is a falloff map in the reflection slot, which creates less reflection on the sides than on the front.
To increase the level of realism (and also the render time) the materials often have glossy reflections. That also created a nice effect at animation when the camera moved closer and closer to a reflecting object or along its surface.
Toggle Switch for Day and Night
For the background we developed a slider in Zookeeper (great plugin for 3ds Max), where we could easily switch between day and night. For the blend materials of the dome light and the background we connected the Bezier float value, which turned from zero to one (night and day). We also connected the slider to the lights, so they turned on and off depending on the value of the slider. Changing the time of day was by then just the mere flick of one switch (Fig.03).
For materials we often set a lower amount of reflection than they would have in reality, because we render out a raw reflection render element (Fig.04) and screen that in during post-production for important objects. There are two reasons for doing it that way:
• We can animate the reflection, if there is a camera rotation around the object (e.g., the ground). That makes a really nice blend effect from perpendicular to horizontal.
• We can set the intensity and the blurriness of the reflection mostly in the post. This greatly reduces render time because it minimizes the need for test renderings.