Gurmukh Bhasin takes us through the process of modeling and rendering his real world military vehicle using Maya, mental ray and Photoshop.
In this making of I will describe the steps I took to accurately model and detail, at real world scale, a HEMTT-M1075 military cargo truck. I will also take you through my process of photorealistic rendering with mental ray using the Physical Sun and Sky lighting and compositing the render passes in Photoshop.
To start a project like this, or any project for that matter, it is always a good idea to collect lots of image references. You can never have enough of these! The most important things to look for can be broken down into three different categories: Orthographic views, three-quarter overall views, and detail views. I like to use the-blueprints and blueprintbox to find drawings. For the three-quarter overall views and detail views, the best website I found for amazing photo references of military vehicles is primeportal. They have high-resolution walk-arounds of virtually any military vehicle available.
Step 1: Blocking in the base model
As you would with a quick sketch, I blocked in the vehicle with as little detail as possible. At this stage it was very important that I put everything in the right place and got the right proportions of the vehicle before spending too much time creating details.
To start the vehicle, this shows the base block in model form
Step 2: Start modeling the detail
I like to model as if I were building this vehicle in the real world. It might have something to do with my background as an architect, but I always start by modeling the frame and undercarriage first.
This part was the most complex part to construct as it was the hardest part to find reference photos for. Most of it was modeled as accurately as I could figure out on my own from the photos I could find. It is important to consider that most of these details are hidden, and primarily serve to fill the gaps in the truck model. I find it important to have as many of these hidden details as possible as it really fills the gaps and gives off the feeling of this being a real vehicle and not a hollow 3D model.
Model all your parts as simply as possible. Start with primitive shapes and build up from there. Insert edge loops where you want your model to have sharp edges and toggle between the smooth mesh preview by hitting 1 and 3 on your keyboard to check and see how your model is coming along.
This image shows the frame and undercarriage of the vehicle
Step 3: Continuing to model the detail
I then continued modeling the more complex parts (the back and wheels). I typically save the front of the model for last as I know it is the part I will need the least amount of time figuring out how to model.
For personal projects I like to post my progress on various social media outlets to get feedback from peers and even mentors. It gets you pumped to keep going when your friends compliment your work and someone can point out mistakes or things that don't look right which you may have missed.
Check your model by applying a Blinn material to the entire thing from time to time. This allows you to check for wobbles in the surface and see if you have a vertex pulled in the wrong direction. Also create occlusion renders throughout your progress, to make sure things are looking good and to check to see if your parts are all relating on the same scale and look right together.
Here you can see a screen shot and occlusion render of the back and tire details