Making of "Voyage of No Return" by Götz Scheuremann
Since I've started to work with Vue, one of my recurring image themes are scenes with ships - mainly sailing ships, because they are travelling over the oceans only using the wind power and water currents, but if a good idea would pass my mind, other ship types, too. But there is definitly one ship in history which is well known to most people through it's fate and the reports and stories about it - the Titanic! So - finally came the day, when I had to come up with my first Vue image with a Titanic ship scene.
The scene idea
Many ideas crossed my mind, how I could build a scene and what it's suppose to show. But i had to narrow my ideas to ones which didn't use a close-up of the ship, simply because the models I was looking for weren't usable in detail for a extreme close-up view. I didn't either wanted to have the Titanc sink in my first render- somehow I wanted to show it in it's glory of the first days of it's short life.
So a daylight image it had to be - and not docked in the harbor -I wanted to see it moving across the water, including water splashing effects. I decided against a perfect blue sunny sky - because nice powerful cloud structures always seem to add a more dramatic effect, if done the proper way. But still I wanted some sunshine, not a greyish bad weather.
Adding something in the front or background,I wanted to decide later on, when I've found a good enough scene and point of view for the Titanic model. The water surface and color was suppose to fit to the lighting of the atmosphere and to give the feeling of a day, where the weather could switch in either direction, pretty or stormy.
Object selection and preparation
I was searching for usable objects in the Google 3D Warehouse and stumbled over a few Titanic models. Comparing the different available models created by talented modelers using the 3D modeler Sketchup - available as a freeware and a pro version - I found the model I was able to use in a Vue render. The problem with Sketchup objects is that they're mainly for use in Google Earth for the 3D building/objects function to raise the three dimensional look and feel while exploring the earth. Therefore, many objects aren't really up to quality and detail needed for a good 3D render. The textures, for instance, many times are just basic or none existent. Sure, you could load them into Sketchup and try to add textures to the parts - but for large models with many, many parts, this is quite a job, especially if those parts aren't grouped in components already. Or that would have to be done by yourself, another time consuming work. But - if it would be necessary - oh well!
The Titanic model Ive chosen wasn't in one piece, there were a few other parts (like the lifeboats, for instance) which came as separate models and had to be added to the main model inside Sketchup, but not a big problem if you're getting used to work with the program a little. The detail and shape of this Titanic was the best from the ones i've found, even it didn't have no portholes on both sides of the ships hull - but something could have been done later, to add some portholes - so not to much of a concern. Too bad, there wasn't a nice Titanic model available for a reasonable price. But this had to do it for now .
The newest version, Sketchup 7, allows the direct conversion to a *.dae file, but if I import those *.dae objects into Vue 8, they're all messed up - many parts are missing ! So I keep working with version 6 for now ... even it's not always perfect either ... like with this Titanic conversion, because the bow and stern railings got lost after import and the latter like ropes on the fore and main mast were messed up, had to be repositioned and fixed in Vue. (More info on my Sketchup experience at the end of this tutorial!)
This first image shows the Titanic model already combined with the separate available lifeboats in SketchUp.
A little Hexagon modeling
Since the bow railing got lost during the conversion process, keeping in mind the basic idea of the scene look and feel and how I wanted to show the ship from the camera point of view (and the later higher resolution render in mind), I needed to show some railings, at least at the ship's bow position. Since I also needed some wavy flags, I modeled some basic elements for the railing in Hexagon, too. But to be honest, the railing could've been done directly in Vue as well.
Image 2 shows those parts in Hexagon.
The work in Vue 8 Infinite
The camera position I chose was supposed to give a full view of the Titanic, but not too close, because of missing details for a close-up. I didn't want to be too close to the water surface or too high, so I could still show some sense of size and height of the Titanic. Some small adjustments to certain colors or materials of the Sketchup model was done in the Vue material editor - like adding or lowering highlights effects.
This image shows the Titanic scene in Vue 8 Infinite, including a small preview render.
The Water Surface
Once I had the camera position fixed, I started to add a 'Water' infinite surface from the left border menu. When I've used Vue 6 before, since there was no infinite water surface available yet, I've tried to produce a good looking ocean surface with a procedural terrain and adding some special fractal or function node in the function editor, adjust the values to get something looking like a wavy surface and add a liquid material.
In Vue 7 or now Vue 8, I've started to use the newly added infinite water surface more often, because of it's detailed separate options which allow you to influence the outcome of the water surface by clicking on the 'Sea' object in the world browser list, opening the 'Water Surface Options'. There, you can adjust things like wave amount, size and height, foam display and appearance or an even more intense wavy look by activating the displaced water surface function. Sure, some of the settings might raise the render times, but it's mostly worth it. In combination with the meta water material and adjusting the water color fitting more to the atmosphere lighting, not being too blue or too green, the result of the ocean/water surface came out mostly as intended.
See image 4 for the water surface options and the 'displaced water surface' function editor settings by clicking the 'edit function' button.
The Cloud Settings
As I mentioned at the beginning, since I intended to use a mixed weather atmosphere, I had to use a type of clouds which looked thicker and dense, but still not grey and dark. As a base cloud layer I've chosen the spectral 2 dark cumulus material - adjusted some of the aspects in the atmosphere editor clouds tab settings, until I got the basic appearance, like thicker rolls of clouds. But because thinking of a changing weather situation and those clouds still looking a little too smooth, I've tried to set the cloud values in the advanced cloud material editor, mainly the factors 'Scaling' and 'Roughness', to display some fuzzy, rough cloud layers for an extra dramatic effect. There I've reshaped the custom cloud layer profile a little, too.
All the main cloud settings can be seen in image 5.
Additions to the Scene
1. In Pic 3 you already can see the full scene composition, meaning there are already the extra objects positioned, like the tug boat in front and two normal terrains in the background. Viewing the Titanic alone in the center of the image wasn't bad at all, but I still felt like I needed something in the scene to jump to and from the Titanic, but I wanted it to have some connection to the scene idea and not just throw something in to fill the space. Since my scene was showing the start of the voyage, near Great Britain, I wanted something in front which had a connection to the harbor where the Titanic set sail. A tug boat came to my mind, which are used in harbors to help navigating huge ships like the Titanic. So I needed a good and detailed looking tug boat, because of it's near position, and it had to be a version which looked like being those ones used between 1910 and 1920 ... I couldn't position a sci-fi speedboat there :) I would've tried to model one by myself, but that would have been very time consuming and I wouldn't have known the outcome, therefore I was looking through the internet first, but then got the simple idea to look in the Cornucopia3D store to see if there would be something available there. Luckily, I found there just what I was looking for - a tug boat which fit perfectly in the timeframe - it was detailed, a nice model, good texturing and available for a great price.
2. The hill terrains are just there to have something in the background, but I've set the atmosphere settings with haze and density so that they are barely visible and don't interfere with the attention to the Titanic.
3. For the seamist, foam and waves floating around the moving ships hulls I've used as the base 'Monsoon's Seascape and Seaview' (coming soon to Cornucopia3D!) objects and materials, and great collection to be used in waterscapes, beach scenes or similar. In Vue I've adjusted the color of the waves to fit to my ocean water color and a little seamist color and fuzz correction. The placement of those objects you can see in Pic 3 in the top view window. I've placed them along the Titanic hull from front to to the back, repeating a curvy foamline 3 times and placed a stretched wave object at the stern of the Titanic.
4. The smoke coming from the funnels (Titanic and tug boat) was done using meta-clouds, but to make them less thick, I've erased a lot of spheres inside the grouped meta-clouds, to produce more openings. After that I've tweaked the color, roughness and scaling. The smoke color coming from the tug boat funnel I've darkened more, being closer, the smoke from the Titanic some lighter color. But for the final render I switched off the meta-clouds smoke from the Titanic, only rendered the tug boat smoke into the scene. Why ? Because I wasn't satisfied with the overall shape of the Titanic smoke, so I decided, to use another render using the 'select render area' option, only rendering the area around the funnels of the Titanic, with the smoke turned on, for later postwork in PaintShopProX2.
5. The modeled flags I've placed to the fore mast and the main mast and added a mapped picture of those flags, American and White Star Line, in Vue's advanced material editor. Since they are just flat, the basic settings interpolation 'bilinear', mapping 'automatic' and 'object standard' orientation were used.
6. At last I added a few figures to the Titanic and the tug boat; they can't drive without them. Figures are basic Poser 4 and 5 figures and clothes, prepared and posed in Poser 8. Nothing special here, just basic use. Except - a little gag from my side - if you zoom into the image at the nose of the ships bow, you can see two special posed figures, in style of a certain famous movie scene!
Pic 6 shows the final render without the Titanic smoke and the basic fairway seamist, waves and foam.
1. I still wanted to have a smoother wavy look for the ships fairway, and to fix some errors. So after rendering the final image, I've started some postwork on the fairways waves and foam objects, mainly using push and smear brushes in PaintShopProX2.
2. After that I fixed the name 'Titanic' written on the hull, meaning erasing the rendered name, which was a little angled off and on the real ship positioned closer to the front - writing a new name and adjusting it's angle.
3. I've added the Titanic funnel smoke by using a clone brush and grabbing just certain parts of the smoke area render image and copying them over to the final image at repositioned spots above the three front funnels. The fourth funnel was just a dummy and build on the Titanic just to make it look more powerful. This fourth funnel got used as together with the ventilation system and extra storage area. The tug boat smoke needed a fix, too, since the smoke, as seen on Pic 6, isn't exactly leaving the funnel hole, so here, too, a little cloning brush action, to have it leaving the funnel top.
4. I had to fix the White Star Line flag - on the main mast near the ships stern - as I forgot to use the right alphaplane adjustments, so the triangle shaped flag side I filled in by cloning the nearby sky area ... quick and painless!
5. Finally, I had to add some portholes to the otherwise flat and empty black hull side, since the Titanic had plenty of them. Drawing a little porthole, copying it over and over again, I've added them to the side. First I wanted to construct them in Hexagon, by making duplicates of one porthole, lining them up on a vertice line and drop them on the ships hull - but then I dropped the idea and decided to do it the above described way.
6. Last work to do: adding the golden shiny bars and the text on top and bottom black bars, all done again in PaintShopProX2.
Pic 7 - the final image after postwork.
That's most of it, what I have to say about the developement stages - the thoughts and ideas and the work steps - that went into it. It definitely was a fun project - I'm glad I did it. Sure, afterwards I could have done it a little different or, who knows, better. But for a hobby result, I'm still satisfied with the outcome.
Notes using Sketchup:
One more problem I came across using a Sketchup model is the conversion process from the '*.skp' format to the Collada '*.dae' format. I use Vue 8 Infinite in 64bit mode and for some reason there seems to be no direct object import from *.skp files possible, even it's listed and described in the Vue 8 manual, pretty odd !? I've read a few times, that someone mentioned, that the 32bit version does allow a direct loading of *.skp files, but with 64bit it would be gone. (Cornucopia3D note: the 64-bit import mode is pending data from Google in SDK)
But at least Vue 8 in 64bit does allow the import of Collada *.dae files. So I had to convert the objects using Sketchup and save them in *.dae format. So there is another problem. At first using Sketchup 6 version, i wasn't able to export the objects directly as a *.dae file, no, the only option was to save as a *.kmz file, which can be read and used directly in Google Earth. Only the retail version of Sketchup gives you other options, even directly as *.obj or *.3ds for instance. Probably a lot of people don't know, that a *.kmz file is a hidden *.zip file. If you just rename the file extension from kmz to zip, then any compression software can unzip it and you will see files like *.kml , *.txt and even folders like 'models' with the 3D objects and 'images' with the textures, if any used. and the file in 'models' is a *.dae coverted Collada model, which can be used in Vue 7 or 8 in 64bit mode, together with the textures in the 'images' folder.