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Making of 'Once Upon a Time...'

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(Score 4.65 out of 5 after 46 Votes)
Date Added: 27th June 2011
Software used:


Hi folks! My name is Gustavo Groppo and I'm a 3D artist currently working in São Paulo, Brazil. My skills are mostly texturing, shading, lighting and rendering.

Here I'll guide you through my working process for the image "Once Upon a Time..." My inspiration for this work came when I first saw No Country for Old Men. I've always loved those Western American landscapes and although the film was recorded in Texas, I used photographs from it as a reference so I could create a police scene in a vast desert.


The process of searching for references was important because it helped to give me information that was essential for truthfully recreating the environment I was imagining.

As I planned my work place in the desert region of Arizona, in the 1970s, I searched for references of road signs of that time, police cars, vegetation and elements that would bring detail to the image, showing what really existed there (Fig.01).

Fig. 01


The modeling of the elements in the scene was extremely simple. The models are derived from primitive cylinders and planes, which I modified using the Edit Poly tools (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

The car model was started by my friend Fernando Ometto for a job that would have small toy vehicles. So, for my work, I needed to renovate it to match a Ford Galaxie 500, year 66 or 67. The general shape of the car was kept, but I changed some items such as the wheel, siren, break bush, tires and other details pertinent to the actual model (Fig.03).

Fig. 03

Vegetation and Stones

After gathering some references of Arizona desert vegetation, it was time to plan how to achieve a convincing result. I tested some plugins for modeling plants. Some of these were completed models that I later modified, which gave me a lot of control and the ability to edit the shapes of plants. I achieved the best visual results using the Hair & Fur system  in 3ds Max.

On average, each plant had 700 "wires", which required too much processing power and memory to render, so I decided to separate the plants into two areas: foreground and background. Plants that are closer to the camera are Hair & Fur and for the backgound, I pre-rendered a wide variety of models and applied them as textures on simple planes, with the opacity channel (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

For the modeling of the stones, I used a plugin called Rock Generator, developed by Alessandro Ardolino. On it I was able to create a wide variety of rocks at different scales, and their forms were easily edited using the FreeForm Deformation tool. With the models of the stones ready, I used V-Ray Scatter to distribute them randomly on the landscape (Fig.05).

Fig. 05

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Yuval on Tue, 19 March 2013 9:37am
great piece of art! how did you achive this dirty chrome shader on the front car panel?
Riaz on Thu, 11 October 2012 12:21pm
Wow Awesome work ...
Richard Clark on Sat, 16 June 2012 5:55am
This is outstanding work! Really intriguing composition too.
Push on Sun, 19 February 2012 5:33am
Excellent work. I like it.
Sherman Cammack on Sun, 14 August 2011 4:41am
Awesome work! It reminded me of driving through Utah heading towards the salt flats on Interstate 80 in my 98 Mustang GT. Hope to see more of your work, thanks for sharing.
Mirko on Tue, 02 August 2011 7:31am
Thanx for sharing this great work!
Stanbg65t on Mon, 25 July 2011 10:38am
nice - very nice. love your work
Bram Deprins on Thu, 07 July 2011 7:12pm
Thank you for sharing! You did a great job of recreating the mood for that particular scene in No country for old men, which is a great movie!
Uriel Silva on Mon, 04 July 2011 10:17pm
It remembered me The Walking Dead. :) Very nice work, btw!
David on Thu, 30 June 2011 10:56pm
Anyone else reminded of No Country for Old Men? Excellent behind the scenes.
Mohsen on Mon, 27 June 2011 7:33pm
so happy for this section
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