BUILD PRO­CE­DURAL TOW­ERS

Paul Roberts teaches us how to utilise the Rail­clone Tower macro for our city scenes

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Tow­ers are the bread and but­ter of city ren­ders. From loom­ing sky­scrapers to small res­i­den­tial blocks of flats, they’re ev­ery­where. Thank­fully for us, many of them fol­low a sim­i­lar de­sign prin­ci­ple.

The tri­par­tite pat­tern – based on the clas­si­cal col­umn – di­vides the build­ing’s height into one or more bot­tom floors (the base), re­peated mid­dle floors (the shaft), and one or more top floors (the cap­i­tal). Within these di­vi­sions, the build­ing can be fur­ther sub­di­vided into ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal mul­lions, cor­ners and an in­fill that’s solid, glazed or a com­bi­na­tion of both.

Mod­el­ling these types of build­ings isn’t dif­fi­cult, but it can be time-con­sum­ing. Tra­di­tional mod­el­ling tech­niques make it tricky to go back and make ad­just­ments when needed.

In this step-by-step tu­to­rial, we demon­strate an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach that uses a new Tower macro in Rail­clone to gen­er­ate en­tire build­ings by au­to­mat­i­cally dis­tribut­ing just a few easy-to-model com­po­nents. This way if you want to make changes, all you need to do is amend the parts and the whole build­ing will be up­dated.

The macro is ef­fi­cient too. A Seg­ment is in­stanced each time it’s re­peated, so you can add as much de­tail as you want to your build­ings with­out hav­ing to worry about me­mory over­heads.

In ad­di­tion to the fa­cade, the tech­nique al­lows you to add a roof, scat­ter clut­ter on top of it, cre­ate a sim­ple in­te­rior, and dis­trib­ute fur­ni­ture in­side. It can be used for de­tailed fore­ground build­ings, but it’s ideal if you need to quickly fill in the back­ground of a scene.

01 where to Find the Macro

We’ll start by tak­ing a look at the macro’s in­ter­face. Open the scene files that ac­com­pany this tu­to­rial, se­lect the ex­ist­ing Rail­clone ob­ject and then open the Style Edi­tor. This ver­sion has some ad­di­tional note groups added to make it eas­ier to iden­tify the in­puts. If you’d pre­fer to start from a blank file, cre­ate a new Rail­clone ob­ject and open the Style Edi­tor. From the Macros panel, go to Build­ings and drag the Tower macro to the con­struc­tion view.

02 the Macro in­ter­face

The macro looks like a nor­mal Rail­clone gen­er­a­tor, but with many more in­puts. If you right-click on the macro and se­lect Macro>edit you’ll see that it was cre­ated by com­bin­ing sev­eral L1S and A2S gen­er­a­tors into a sim­pli­fied sin­glen­ode in­ter­face specif­i­cally de­signed to cre­ate build­ings. This is the ben­e­fit of macros – hav­ing to cre­ate and un­der­stand this graph would be a real headache! Go back to the main view and se­lect the macro, and in the Prop­er­ties panel you will find pa­ram­e­ters to edit the height of the tower, the spac­ing be­tween mul­lions and much more.

03 De­fine a Build­ing’s Foot­print

Cre­ate a spline to de­fine the build­ing’s foot­print. The ver­tex type is im­por­tant – a cor­ner or bezier-cor­ner ver­tex will cre­ate a hard bend; any other ver­tex type will en­able you to cre­ate a curved fa­cade with­out adding cor­ner Seg­ments. If you close the spline, the macro will cre­ate a com­plete build­ing with a roof. If the spline is open, it will only cre­ate a fa­cade (like a Hol­ly­wood film set). This can be use­ful to fill in the back­ground of a scene or to place build­ings be­hind the cam­era where they’re needed to ap­pear in re­flec­tions.

04 the Main in­puts

As men­tioned in the in­tro­duc­tion, this macro as­sumes the build­ing is di­vided into three parts: Ground, De­fault, and Top. The Ground and Top in­puts are only one Seg­ment high each. The De­fault in­put re­peats Seg­ments ver­ti­cally de­pend­ing on the num­ber of sto­ries spec­i­fied in the prop­er­ties. Each sec­tion has five pos­si­ble in­puts: a Cor­ner which places a Seg­ment on each ver­tex, a reg­u­larly spaced Evenly in­put for mul­lions, a De­fault in­put for the win­dow or wall, plus Start and End in­puts that are used to place a Seg­ment on the first and last ver­tex when us­ing open splines.

05 Model the Parts

For a build­ing di­vided into three dif­fer­ent parts, the min­i­mum you’ll need to model is a cor­ner, mul­lion, and win­dow ob­ject for each sec­tion (nine Seg­ments in to­tal). There are just a few rules that need to be re­mem­bered when mod­el­ling ge­om­e­try for this macro. Firstly, the ge­om­e­try should be mod­elled and aligned to lay flat on the world’s XY axes; se­condly the Y size should be iden­ti­cal for all Seg­ments within

the same sec­tion; thirdly the pivot should be aligned to the bot­tom­left cor­ner on the XY plane; and fi­nally on the Z-axis the pivot de­fines how the wall is aligned in re­la­tion to the spline.

06 im­port the ge­om­e­try

When cre­at­ing styles that re­quire a lot of Seg­ments, im­port­ing them one at a time can be a te­dious process. For­tu­nately, ge­om­e­try can be batch-im­ported. To do this, cre­ate a sin­gle Seg­ment node, go to Prop­er­ties and set Align­ment>y and Align­ment>z to Pivot to force Rail­clone to use the piv­ots set in the pre­vi­ous step. Right-click on the Seg­ment node and se­lect Clone Mul­ti­ple. An ob­ject se­lec­tor win­dow will open. Pick all of the build­ing’s ge­om­e­try items and click Clone. Each se­lected item will be im­ported to a new Seg­ment with a cor­re­spond­ing name.

07 cre­ate the ground Floor

With the ge­om­e­try im­ported, it’s a sim­ple case of con­nect­ing the Seg­ments to the Gen­er­a­tor. Let’s start at the bot­tom. Wire the ground-cor­ner-1, ground-evenly-1 and ground-de­fault-1 Seg­ments to the in­puts of the same name. You’ll now see the ground floor cre­ated on the spline. Edit the spac­ing be­tween the mul­lions us­ing the Evenly Dis­tance prop­erty. By de­fault, the macro uses Adap­tive mode to add an ad­di­tional wall el­e­ment only when there is space to do so. You can also change this to Count mode and spec­ify ex­actly how many times a wall Seg­ment is re­peated be­tween mul­lions.

08 re­peat the Mid­dle Floors

Wire de­fault-cor­ner-1, de­fault­evenly-1, and de­fault-fa­cade-1 to the in­puts with the same name. The re­peat­ing mid-sec­tion of the build­ing will now be au­to­mat­i­cally cre­ated, start­ing above the ex­ist­ing ground floor. To in­crease or de­crease the num­ber of floors, edit the Sto­ries prop­erty. Note too, that there are sep­a­rate Evenly dis­tances for the three sec­tions of the build­ing. If you want all the ver­ti­cal el­e­ments to align, you’ll need to en­sure that they use the same val­ues. The sep­a­rate pa­ram­e­ters al­low you to dial in dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions for the top and bot­tom floor if re­quired.

09 Fin­ish with top Floor

To com­plete the fa­cade, add the top floor by wiring top-cor­ner-1, top-evenly-1 and top-fa­cade-1

to the in­puts of the same name. With this sim­ple step, the fa­cade is com­plete, and for many pur­poses that may be enough. You can eas­ily edit the num­ber of floors, change the spac­ing be­tween mul­lions, and change the ar­chi­tec­ture it­self sim­ply by edit­ing the source ge­om­e­try. You can also use path shapes of any size or shape, even curved splines, to quickly ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent build­ing de­signs. Let’s not stop there though, this macro can do a lot more!

10 Keep the rain out

To add a roof you’ll need to model a flat sec­tion of ge­om­e­try. This can be as sim­ple as a plane, or as com­plex as you need for your ren­der. The macro will au­to­mat­i­cally tile this ob­ject to form a rec­tan­gle large enough to cover the en­tire build­ing. The tiled ge­om­e­try is then sliced by the spline to re­move any ex­cess out­side the build­ing area. Be­cause the Seg­ments will be sliced at the perime­ter, I wouldn’t rec­om­mend try­ing to in­clude air con­di­tion­ing, el­e­va­tor heads or other roof clut­ter in this ge­om­e­try. We’ll add that in a later step.

11 wire up the roof

Cre­ate a new Seg­ment for the roof and use the de­fault set­tings. Pick the roof ge­om­e­try cre­ated in the pre­vi­ous step and wire the node to the macro’s Roof Sur­face in­put. The roof is now fin­ished and can be tog­gled on and off as re­quired from the macro’s set­tings. There’s also a pa­ram­e­ter that en­ables you to off­set the roof on the Z-axis that can be use­ful to help it meet the ad­ja­cent fa­cade ge­om­e­try cor­rectly. If nec­es­sary, you can also change the align­ment of the roof by ro­tat­ing the whole Rail­clone ob­ject and then re-se­lect­ing the spline.

12 ADD a cor­nice or rail­ing

The macro also al­lows you to add a cor­nice or other dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments to the top of the build­ing. To add a cor­nice, cre­ate a re­peat­able length of ge­om­e­try, re­mem­ber­ing to set the Z-axis po­si­tion, and use it in a new Seg­ment node wired to the Cor­nice De­fault in­put. If, how­ever, you would like to cre­ate some­thing more so­phis­ti­cated (like a rail­ing), you can use the Cor­nice Evenly, Cor­nice Start and Cor­nice End in­puts. In the Prop­er­ties panel you’ll find sep­a­rate Evenly Dis­tance and Z Po­si­tion Ad­just­ment prop­er­ties for the Cor­nice.

13 ADD roof clut­ter

On the roofs of tall build­ings you’ll of­ten find air con­di­tion­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions tow­ers, satel­lite dishes and all man­ner of other clut­ter. To add this to our build­ing, im­port each model as a new Seg­ment, mak­ing sure that you dis­able the De­form>slice op­tion. Wire these to a new Ran­domise op­er­a­tor and wire the op­er­a­tor to the Roof Fur­ni­ture in­put. Your roof will now con­tain a lot of clut­ter, too much in fact. To re­duce the amount, wire an empty Seg­ment with a Fixed Size to the Ran­domise op­er­a­tor to add gaps, and then ad­just the Prob­a­bil­ity val­ues un­til you get a more bal­anced mix of items.

14 Model in­te­ri­ors

To model ge­om­e­try to cre­ate the in­te­rior, you should cre­ate a U-shaped mesh that is ex­actly the same height as the fa­cade sec­tion it is in­tended to sit be­hind. For our tri­par­tite tower you will need at least three – one for the ground floor, one for the mid floors, and one for the top. You can even cre­ate ad­di­tional vari­a­tions with ex­tra de­tails like doors, pic­ture frames, fire ex­tin­guish­ers or more on the back wall. Make sure that the Pivot is aligned cor­rectly on the Z-axis so that the fa­cade and the in­te­rior jig­saw neatly to­gether.

15 wire and ran­domise in­te­ri­ors

Cre­ate a new Seg­ment for each in­te­rior and set their Align­ment>y and Align­ment>z prop­er­ties to pivot, to en­sure that they align with the fa­cade cor­rectly. Wire the Seg­ments to the rel­e­vant in­puts in the macro. If you have cre­ated mul­ti­ple in­te­rior models you can cre­ate some va­ri­ety by wiring them to the macro via a Ran­domise node. Don’t for­get to ad­just the prob­a­bil­i­ties to get a con­vinc­ing dis­tri­bu­tion. For ex­am­ple, you might want more blank sec­tions of wall than doors.

16 Fur­nish the tower

We now have an in­te­rior, but it doesn’t look like any­one has moved in yet. To help these rooms look pop­u­lated you can add fur­ni­ture to the in­te­rior. You can use any fur­ni­ture models but try to keep the poly­gon count min­i­mal and don’t for­get to ad­just the piv­ots. Cre­ate a new Seg­ment for each model, set the Y and Z align­ment to Pivot and wire them to the macro’s fur­ni­ture in­puts. There’s a sep­a­rate in­put for each sec­tion of the build­ing, so you can use dif­fer­ent fur­ni­ture at the street level, in the main tower, and in the pent­house!

17 cre­ate Fa­cade Vari­a­tions

In­stead of us­ing the same ge­om­e­try for ev­ery piece of the fa­cade, you can add vis­ual in­ter­est by ran­domis­ing the Seg­ments. Just cre­ate sev­eral dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions that are the same size and wire them to the Fa­cade in­puts via a Ran­domise node. You could, for ex­am­ple, add dif­fer­ent win­dow con­fig­u­ra­tions, and a Juliet or in­set bal­cony. Do the same for the ground floor, adding fa­cade el­e­ments like shop signs and other de­tails in ad­di­tion to dif­fer­ent win­dow lay­outs.

18 Model Props to ADD More ran­dom­ness

On top of the ex­ist­ing fa­cade vari­a­tions, you can make the build­ing look even more lived-in by adding and ran­domis­ing props. In this ex­am­ple, we’ll cre­ate cur­tains and blinds for the win­dows. These should be cre­ated in sev­eral vari­a­tions rang­ing from fully open to fully closed. When mod­el­ling these, make sure that you align the pivot with the ex­ist­ing fa­cade com­po­nents so that all the ob­jects will be lo­cated cor­rectly. You can do the same thing for the ground floor and top floor if nec­es­sary.

19 com­bine, com­pose and ran­domise op­er­a­tors

To add the blinds and cur­tains to the build­ing we use the Com­pose op­er­a­tor. Wire this be­tween the ex­ist­ing fa­cade el­e­ments and the macro. Set the Com­pose op­er­a­tor’s mode to Grouped. In this mode, the pivot of the first Seg­ment at­tached is used for align­ment, and then all sub­se­quent Seg­ment piv­ots are aligned to the same po­si­tion. Add all the blinds as Seg­ments, wire them to a Ran­dom op­er­a­tor, and then wire the Ran­dom op­er­a­tor to the Com­pose op­er­a­tor’s sec­ond in­put. You can at­tach as many Seg­ments to the Com­pose op­er­a­tor as you need.

20 cre­ate Pat­terns on the X-axis

So far so good, but not many ar­chi­tects would de­sign such a chaotic fa­cade! You’re more likely to see the dif­fer­ent win­dow con­fig­u­ra­tions or­gan­ised into a pat­tern. Use Se­quence op­er­a­tors to cre­ate this ef­fect. Just re­place the ex­ist­ing ran­dom node wired to the macro’s De­fault in­put with a Se­quence op­er­a­tor and wire the Seg­ments in the or­der you’d like them to ap­pear along the spline. If you want a Seg­ment to ap­pear more than once, just in­crease the Counter value found in the Se­quence op­er­a­tor’s prop­er­ties. Once the pat­tern is fin­ished, it loops back to the be­gin­ning and starts again.

21 Make Pat­terns on the y-axis

By de­fault, the Se­quence op­er­a­tor cre­ates a pat­tern along the ar­ray’s X-axis, but it’s also pos­si­ble to cre­ate a pat­tern on the Y-axis. To do this, change the Se­quence op­er­a­tor’s In­cre­ment At prop­erty to Y. By us­ing mul­ti­ple Se­quence op­er­a­tors wired in se­ries, it is pos­si­ble to cre­ate pat­terns on both axes at the same time. In the ren­der, we used this tech­nique to cre­ate two floors of of­fices be­fore the fa­cade switches to res­i­den­tial floors with a pat­tern re­peat­ing on both axes, but you should ex­per­i­ment to see how many in­ter­est­ing de­signs you can gen­er­ate.

22 limit By Ma­te­rial id

When you cre­ate a large area con­tain­ing mul­ti­ple build­ings, you might draw the city grid in a sin­gle spline or more likely, im­port the paths from an­other source. The macro al­lows you to choose which sub-splines should gen­er­ate a build­ing us­ing Ma­te­rial IDS. To try it, en­able the Limit by ID op­tion and spec­ify the IDS. There are op­tions to cre­ate the build­ing if the ma­te­rial ID is equal to, less than, greater than, and not equal to this value.

23 tog­gle el­e­ments on or OFF

The macro en­ables you to use the same de­sign for the fore­ground and back­ground of the scene by in­clud­ing the op­tion to se­lec­tively re­move el­e­ments of the build­ing. For ex­am­ple, in the fore­ground you might want to use the full ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the macro, but in the back­ground the fur­ni­ture and in­te­ri­ors can be dis­abled. Con­versely, you can use the same con­trols to tem­po­rar­ily dis­play only the in­te­rior, which can be re­ally use­ful if you want to use For­est Pack to scat­ter items in­side the build­ing or you want an un­clut­tered view for plac­ing lights and other ob­jects.

24 cre­ate Vari­a­tions

That wraps up the fea­tures of this macro. It’s an ad­vanced node, but by the end of this tu­to­rial, you should have a suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing to be able to cre­ate sev­eral com­mon tower styles sim­ply by adding your own ge­om­e­try. You will also be able to ran­domise and se­quence ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments, add props and even fur­ni­ture us­ing Rail­clone’s built-in op­er­a­tors. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing ren­der shows three types of build­ing cre­ated us­ing this tech­nique, but many, many more are pos­si­ble. Ex­per­i­ment, and have fun! •

au­thor Paul roberts Paul is an en­vi­ron­ment artist, with over 15 years’ 3D teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. He’s cur­rently shar­ing his love of para­met­ric work­flows as train­ing man­ager for itoo Soft­ware. www.itoosoft.com

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