How can we pro­duce a large fu­tur­is­tic scene with amaz­ing de­tail? Os­car Juárez demon­strates

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Many years ago cre­at­ing larger im­ages was a dif­fi­cult task, mostly be­cause we did not have the equip­ment and as­sets we have ac­cess to these days. Now it’s sim­pler to cre­ate our im­ages, but it’s al­ways im­por­tant to keep in mind that it’s all a process. In this tu­to­rial I will show you the process I fol­low – it’s not too com­pli­cated, but most of the time I like to have a clean work­flow and a good file op­ti­mi­sa­tion. Why? Hav­ing a clean work­flow en­ables us to make changes quickly and ef­fi­ciently. For ex­am­ple, let’s say we need to change an as­set in the main model – if we have it prop­erly named and grouped, then if we need to change any­thing it can be done in no time. This is the same for scat­ter­ing our models, which we will do a lot in this tu­to­rial – hav­ing each scat­ter named and placed with its scat­ter­ing el­e­ments helps us a lot when we need to add veg­e­ta­tion, peo­ple or any­thing else we need to scat­ter. I will show you the process I fol­low to achieve the fi­nal im­age, from cre­at­ing a con­cept, gath­er­ing info, us­ing pre-made 3D as­sets to speed up the process, adding our light­ing, com­po­si­tion and post­pro­duc­tion. Hope you all en­joy this tu­to­rial, let’s be­gin.

01 Ba­sic idea

First we need an idea of what we want to do. From here we can start to fo­cus on cre­at­ing or get­ting the rel­e­vant as­sets. In this case we will do a big for­est in a fu­tur­is­tic zone. What comes to mind? We need trees, wa­ter, birds, moun­tains, robots and fly­ing ships.

02 Gather ref­er­ences

Now we have lots of ideas in mind but we need to see how they look in real life, so the next step is gath­er­ing ref­er­ences. Find­ing a real ref­er­ence im­age will help us to see tones, pat­terns and many other im­por­tant de­tails. This will also en­able us to get new ideas; we might see wa­ter­falls, lakes and other el­e­ments that we can con­sider in­clud­ing in our im­age.

03 cre­ate Moun­tains

The first thing we are go­ing to do is cre­ate the moun­tains. Here I will use Soft Se­lec­tion and the Noise mod­i­fier. In this case I set up a ran­dom size as we still don't know how much will be vis­i­ble in our im­age, be­cause we still have no cam­eras. We can also start to add fea­tures we have seen from the ref­er­ence im­ages, like hills, moun­tains and lakes.

04 ADD non-for­est De­tails

We have a huge set of moun­tains with a lake in the cen­tre. Now let’s keep in mind where we could set a nice spot to add an el­e­ment of story to the scene. The cen­tre of the lake will be the right spot for that, so we will set some

work with lots of ref­er­ence ma­te­rial Gath­er­ing ref­er­ences is a key step for mak­ing sure we can ac­cu­rately cre­ate as­sets with enough de­tail. TARGA for­mat Sav­ing in TARGA en­ables us to have the al­pha chan­nel in the same im­age with­out need­ing to add the el­e­ment in Pho­to­shop.

bases. In my mind it will be a hu­man base ready for com­bat, so I have to keep enough space to add hu­mans, ships, mechas, ware­houses and places where peo­ple can live. It’s a lot of as­sets to do, but in the next step we will solve that mat­ter.

05 use ready As­sets

Adding a lot of life to our im­age could mean adding a lot of models and a large amount of time spent mod­el­ling, so in this case I de­cided to use some pre-made as­sets. I used the Kit­bash3d Space Colony, and a pre-made space­ship down­loaded from Tur­bosquid made by Costi­nus. I also used a mech I made a long time ago and for the main tow­ers I did a model we will see in fur­ther steps. I added the build­ing ac­cord­ing to the idea I had in mind, set­ting a place for re­sources, a ship dock and so on.

06 cre­ate Our For­est

It’s now time to cre­ate the for­est for the scene. In this case I used Ever­mo­tion Arch­mod­els for Corona vol. 1, and here we have a choice to make. 1. If we have a high-per­for­mance ma­chine we can leave the models as they are, not con­vert­ing to prox­ies. 2. If we don’t have that much power we can make it proxy.

Once we have our trees we will use the pow­er­ful Corona Scat­ter in the ar­eas we want to be filled with trees. Scat­ter­ing over ir­reg­u­lar sur­faces will make the trees look weird, so we have to set the Align to Nor­mal.

07 set up Our cam­era

Now it’s time to add our cam­era. We can see fi­nally if the idea we had in mind goes well and if not, we can al­ways change our po­si­tion and get bet­ter re­sults. Most of the time the ideas we have in mind will change once we have the cam­era in our scene. In this phase we can set many dif­fer­ent cam­eras; I al­ways say, never set­tle with the first good cam­era. Here I set the fo­cal length to 34mm and the out­put size as 1,300 x 2,000px.

08 corona sun

One of the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions is the light. In this scene we are go­ing to use Corona Sun, but first we need to cre­ate an over­ride ma­te­rial so we can ren­der tests in no time and check if we like the Corona Sun po­si­tion. Once it is set in the Mtl over­ride we need to set the noise level to 10. Now we pro­ceed to add our Corona Sun; in this case I set it on the up­per-left side to or­der to achieve shad­ows in the cen­tre of the scene.

09 corona FRAME Buf­fer

Now let’s make an ini­tial ren­der of our scene. For sure you will no­tice that the im­age will be so burned out we won’t be able to see a thing. Was this sup­posed to hap­pen? Yes, us­ing Corona of­ten gives us this re­sult, but we are go­ing to use the amaz­ing Corona Frame Buf­fer. First we have to go to Ex­po­sure and change the value to -3.1, and also change the set­tings in White Bal­ance. See any dif­fer­ence? Yes, we fi­nally have a bet­ter-look­ing im­age. Re­mem­ber to ac­ti­vate the Over­ride op­tion so we can have faster ren­der times.

10 ADD ran­dom­ness to Our trees

We have a nice for­est, but we still need to add non-reg­u­lar tones to our trees. Se­lect the rel­e­vant model, view its ma­te­ri­als in the Slate panel, find the leaves tex­ture and here we will use the Corona Multi Texmap. This will al­low us to add sev­eral tones us­ing only one tex­ture. Add the Corona Multi Texmap, set Item Count to 3, set the map to in­stance and place the tex­tures. The first one goes as it is. The sec­ond and third are con­nected to a Color Cor­rec­tion. Next add a mod­i­fier called Ma­te­ri­alby-el­e­ment to the tree model; set ID Count to 3 and set its fre­quency to 33 for each. Now ren­der and see how we have a non­reg­u­lar set of tones in our for­est.

11 cre­ate the tow­ers

Let's add some tow­ers. In this case I wanted to add some­thing we would likely see in a high-rise city. I used sev­eral prim­i­tive shapes such as discs, cylin­ders, torus and many sim­ple Tur­bosmooth mod­i­fiers. In the in­cluded video you can see how a tower is dis­man­tled and all the shapes I used.

12 trees in the tow­ers

For this next step, I used the same trees I used for the for­est (yes, the ones with mod­ded ma­te­ri­als we did be­fore). I added a Corona Scat­ter and se­lected the green part of the tower, so it could be all covered up with trees. I tweaked some set­tings (shown in the video) and I re­ally loved the re­sult.

13 Place ex­tra De­tails

We now have our for­est, a hu­man base and the main tow­ers, but we still need to add more de­tails. Af­ter see­ing the com­po­si­tion of the im­age I de­cided to add a lake in the cen­tre of the scene and later a fallen tower. I re­fined the set­tle of the hu­man base by adding more build­ings, in­clud­ing some build­ings in the moun­tain and some within the for­est. I did this with two pur­poses. The first one was to help with depth when it comes to the post-pro­duc­tion, and the other one was to bal­ance the im­age with some el­e­ments. I used sim­ple ma­te­ri­als be­cause the fi­nal im­age would be so far way, adding dis­place­ment or more com­plex ma­te­ri­als would have been a

change the mood of your scene Post-pro­duc­tion can change the en­tire mood of our scene, so re­mem­ber to test out some dif­fer­ent op­tions once the fi­nal panorama is ready.

waste of RAM. Still, I show you the ma­te­rial set­tings in the video.

14 Fi­nal ren­der set­tings

The last part of this process is to set the fi­nal ren­der set­tings. One of the big­gest ad­van­tages of Corona is its sim­plic­ity. The only set­tings I changed in or­der to get the fi­nal im­age were Out­put Size: 2,900 x 4,000px and Noise Level Limit: 7. I set the Full Denois­ing and in En­vi­ron­ment Over­rides I checked Di­rect Vis­i­bil­ity Over­ride (in or­der to get the black back­ground in­stead of the Corona Sky one). In Ren­der El­e­ments I only used Z-depth, Wire Color, Re­flect and Re­fract.

15 re­move BACK­GROUND

Now we have to open our im­age in Pho­to­shop to add a sky and a nice en­vi­ron­ment, but first of all we need to erase the back­ground. As I al­ways do, save in TARGA. Sav­ing in TARGA gives us an al­pha chan­nel right into our Chan­nels tab with no need to load an al­pha el­e­ment into our file. Let’s go to the Chan­nels tab and se­lect the al­pha: press Ctrl+a to se­lect it all and then click Load Chan­nel as Se­lec­tion. Se­lect our El­e­ments folder and press Add Vec­tor Mask. This way we will erase the whole back­ground. Re­mem­ber I told you to ac­ti­vate the Di­rect Vis­i­bil­ity Over­ride? This is help­ful in this step be­cause once we have re­moved the back­ground we won’t have any white pix­els in the places where the back­ground has been re­moved.

16 use Blend MODES

Now we will use the el­e­ments we ren­dered. The first one we will add is the re­flect – I set this one as Soft Light and with a value of 23. With this our re­flec­tions will look stronger, but as I set them at 23 we will only get more con­trast and a soft re­flec­tion, which I found to be the best set­ting. Next I added the re­frac­tion el­e­ment and set it at 21.

17 ADD Moun­tains

Now it’s time to add the back­ground moun­tains. Search­ing for ideal im­ages I found one with a nice moun­tain for the first plane and an­other im­age for the tall back moun­tains: I got both from pexels. com,

a pretty nice place to get free stock im­ages. The first thing I did was add the clos­est moun­tain. I added a mask and started to fade away what I did not need, and later I set the big back moun­tains and did the same process. Al­ways look for sim­i­lar-toned im­ages – sure we can ma­nip­u­late them in Pho­to­shop, but the less we have to change the bet­ter. Once both were set I then started to fade the tran­si­tion be­tween them.

18 ADD sky

Now it’s time to add a nice sky. I have se­lected one with some dra­matic colours. I usu­ally add sev­eral lay­ers of clouds, and in some other cases I just add an im­age I think does the job of fill­ing the back­ground. Why? Be­cause we need a nice back­ground with­out it be­com­ing the main star of the im­age. As usual I added my first sky im­age; as you can see I turned off the big back moun­tains and de­fined the first plane moun­tain a lit­tle more. I did this be­cause I wanted to make the tran­si­tion the best pos­si­ble with my lay­ers. Once I did that I turned on the big back moun­tains and with a soft brush I faded the layer so the tran­si­tion be­tween moun­tains and sky could be much bet­ter.

19 sense OF Depth

So we’ve set all of our fore­ground, mid-ground and back­ground el­e­ments, but it all seems so flat, why? Be­cause we need to add more depth to it. Now it’s time to add the Z-depth el­e­ment we ren­dered in Corona. Once it’s in our im­age we need to Ras­ter­ize and then in­vert it (Ctrl+i). We need to add a greater sense of depth – in

the wa­ter­falls When adding the wa­ter­falls keep it in two lay­ers – where the wa­ter touches the sur­face and an­other with the fall­ing wa­ter. This will make it eas­ier to edit if needed.

this case, a fake one be­cause the far­ther away the things are, they get whiter. You can see that in ref­er­ence im­ages of aerial per­spec­tive. So we have to draw a whiter layer in front of each layer of the moun­tains so that the aerial per­spec­tive ef­fect can be vis­i­ble.

20 cre­ate Pre­set Bird Brush

It’s time to add more el­e­ments to our scene. Birds in this case, but I will do it a lit­tle dif­fer­ent this time. I will cre­ate a cus­tom brush so we can have it for fur­ther im­ages. We have to open the birds in a new Pho­to­shop file, next with Ctrl pressed we need to click in our layer, so we can make a se­lec­tion. Keep in mind that the im­age should be clear so the se­lec­tion can be done eas­ily.

We now need to go to Edit and pick De­fine Brush Pre­set, set the name ‘birds’ and then close the file. I went back to the im­age and started adding the birds. I cre­ated two birds lay­ers; in the green ar­eas the clear colours look bet­ter and in the white area I added ones with darker colours.

21 Draw A wa­ter­fall

I also had the idea to add a wa­ter­fall and I re­ally liked the way it looked in the fi­nal re­sult. I used a set of wa­ter brushes; first I added the base where the wa­ter touches the lake, and then I tried dif­fer­ent fall­ing wa­ter brushes un­til I found the right one. Al­ways re­mem­ber to have sev­eral ref­er­ences – in this case I tried sev­eral wa­ter pat­terns be­cause in my ref­er­ences I saw many dif­fer­ent types of wa­ter­falls.


What kind of fu­tur­is­tic im­age would it be with­out a cou­ple of moons? The process for adding these moons is quite sim­ple and easy. I se­lected a PNG moon im­age and added it to the im­age, then with the blend mode set to Screen I achieved the fade ef­fect and also with some opac­ity and curves I was able to find the right look. Once a moon was ready I added an­other one, al­most with the same set­tings, and only mi­nor tweak­ing was done.

23 side trees

We are al­most at the end! Fi­nally I de­cided to add some trees to give more depth to the com­po­si­tion. The first thing to have in mind is to make sure that they match the light­ing we are us­ing. The bet­ter the match, the less work we will have to do ad­just­ing the tones and so on. Both of the side trees I used have al­most the same set­tings, but the dif­fer­ence with the clos­est one is that we need to add its re­flex on the wa­ter. For this I copied the im­age and flipped ver­ti­cally. Later with a mask I deleted what I did not need and fi­nally in­creased the opac­ity so we could have a nice tree re­flex.

24 Fi­nal touches

The fi­nal step is to slightly change the over­all mood and look of the im­age, and for this we will use ad­just­ment lay­ers. First we will use Color Bal­ance and in­crease the reds and the blues a lit­tle to give our scene a red­dish tone. Later we will use a Black & White ad­just­ment layer so that we can have more con­trast in our im­age, and also to give it a slightly more real­is­tic look. I set the blend mode to Soft Light and set its value to 23. And our im­age is ready!

colour ef­fects Even when the im­age is ready, if we use some fil­ters, like colour ef­fects for ex­am­ple, we can change a lot of dif­fer­ent el­e­ments. We can cre­ate a dif­fer­ent mood, make cer­tain things more vis­i­ble and so on.

Os­car Juárez Os­car Juárez is an ar­chi­tect who loves cre­at­ing CG stuff – he has had his own stu­dio based in Mex­ico City called Fi­brha Stu­dio since 2010.­























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