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Making of The Chamber of Oceans

The scene from my imagination is based on objects that i own or could have owned. While the project was in my subconsciousness all of the time, your eyes wonder around and are looking for objects that would work in the scene.

Walking around with the idea of the chamber of oceans for months. The small part of graphical visualization that the mind can produce saw a room, filled with objects that were somehow connected to something emotionally of the sea. The idea of a TV or painting from which water filled the room was also in the original concept. The main character of the scene had to react to what was happening. The scene from my imagination is based on objects that i own or could have owned. While the project was in my subconsciousness all of the time, your eyes wonder around and are looking for objects that would work in the scene. I was unaware that a lot the objects were in my own home. About 60 % of the objects are in or around my own home.

The main character of the scene is Lucas. Lucas father was a fisherman. From the money that his father made they could pay the bills. This was their main income. Usually it was one week on shore and one week on the sea. Lucas was not supposed to go with his father that week, because it was too dangerous.

The Sea was rough and more dangerous than normal. Lucas was begging on his knees while his father thought it over one more time. The Next morning his father approved that Lucas could come. There was one rule though. He should stay inside the safest room of the ship. The Chamber Of Oceans, thats what they called it, because it saved a lot of crewmen from death in the earlier years. They were on the water for a few hours and suddenly an awful, almost screaming sound moan into their ears. The waves crushed down on the boat, 9 members of the crew drowned and Lucas would soon find out, that his father was the only one that was still alive, at that moment.Lucas came out of the chamber of oceans and run with his face filled with tears to his father and asked him not to leave him.Lucas Father had one wish, that Lucas would wear the old leather coat that his father owned for almost 30 years. Lucas needed this coat, or else he would die sooner than help could arrive. His father died soon after that. Lucas was in the Chamber Of Oceans for a long time. 3 Years to be precise. He only got out of this room to look for food, fish and find usable stuff for inside the room. Lucas began hallucinating a lot of the nights, and one day, when he was so wishing to get home, he looked at the painting above of the wooden cabinet. The painting of his old harbor, the harbor near his home. He was so willing, so dreaming to get home, that the painting ripped open, and water flood the room and Lucas. Lucas knew, that this was perhaps the only way to come back home.

There are many objects in the chamber of oceans that took a lot of time to create. For example, the main character Lucas cost me a few weeks to make. This was because i had troubles with modeling human characters and im usually working with non organic forms. My believe is more to model architecture and objects. Even organic modeling is something that interests me, but creating humans is something you have to have in you blood. That is how i feel.

If you have trouble drawing the human body, than you will have trouble sculpting in zbrush or mudbox as well. You have to know the human anatomy very well to model from the mind. Often we use reference from humans for our work. For the creation of Lucas i used myself as a reference and used a mirror too look at resemblances. I Want too talk about the process of every object piece by piece.

So i will follow the same list as i have in the video making of which ill talk about later in this article.

My grandfather was a navy-man and therefore was a lot of his time on the ocean. My own father always went with my grandfather and became also became a captain. In this story i believe they set sail from this harbor in Italy.

In my younger days i also went with my father but the difference between my grandfather and my father is, that i love the modern industry. Loving every aspect of it. Electronics and art creation through a medium that has so many variety and that is just what i loved. I still love the sea, but i choose somewhere in my life to spend my life on land instead of the sea. And by having this background i still feel one with water and everything around it.

The sound of water alone makes me dream and see so many other great projects. So for the chamber of oceans i researched a lot in different harbors, and i could do a lot of this research just in my head, because i already got to a lot of harbors in my past and this is how i got to a very great place. The Harbor of Stellendam, this is a harbor where a lot of sea ships are docked. I packed my video camera and texture camera to shoot there. My wife was also with me to shoot some great photography and film me while working. When we got to the harbor of Stellendam there was a large boat that was totally burned. The engine, everything was gone. I knew i had to get this on tape.

At first, i wanted to use the inside texture from the ship, to use as a reference for the inside of the chamber of oceans, but after some test renders, i tried the outside of the ship for the inside of the room and this worked out great. While i was shooting the textures for the room i was also looking for some sort of floor texture. I felt that it was supposed to be wood. Wooden planks wood be best. So when i walked around between all the great fishing boats, i found a ship with a wooden deck. I shot about 50 to 60 photographs of this and made one giant texture from this in photoshop. Of course i could not use a texture this big and resized it to 5000×5000.

This is still very big and when the project filled up with more objects i made the size 2500×2500. This is more workable in a 3D project. While i had a great texture of wood i wanted to put in a different element, and that different element came from another ship. This ship was next to the other ship and had a big black iron plate in the middle. I was just focused on this plate, because when i shot the texture photography for the main floor, there was one problem. In the middle of the ships deck was a large cargo hold and i couldn’t not shoot this, because it was a big whole. So i used this black plate from this other ship and blended both textures together to get the final image. This would be the base for the project and a good beginning to a very long way that i had to go. Another thing that i found interesting, and i feel the same with drawing art. You begin to love the piece or artwork at the moment that you see you ideas visualized. So when you feel that this is going the right way, it can only became better and better. Next i want to talk about the Wooden Table.

The Iron pot is an object that was something old and recognizable. People would have to feel familiar with the colors and forms. While shopping at our nearest boulevard i found a alternate version of the iron pot that i was looking for, this object can also be seen in the video making of. I loved the whole look and feel to this object. I Used the base of the model and the textures for this, but i didn’t copy everything. I changed things that i didn’t liked or thought would be better for the the project and this is how it became the iron pot that is on the wooden table in the scene. I am always trying to create a very high resolution texture from the objects, so if i am making a very small object i could use it in its full resolution in another project. By Doing this you can create a library of 3D objects with very high resolution pictures that are very good to use in many different situations. The Next object i want to talk about it the wooden table.

The wooden table was an object that was already made in my imagination. It had to be a pretty easy looking model and pretty easy to produce. The base model would exist of a few copied meshes with just a few polygons and some differences between one another. It had to look good just by using good texture reference. This took me quiet a while to find. On vacation in America ( Netherlands ), you have an entertainment PARC called center parcs. this is an entertainment park, with a jungle dome and market dome. These are places where they simulate the ambiance of the tropical. This is where a lot of people have there vacations and actually feel home in the whole environment.

The market dome is just a normal market, with restaurants and bakery’s, clothing store’s and everything. But still people think they are in the tropics. And because we don’t have this tropical ambiance anywhere in the Netherlands, i thought this would be a good place to look for some research material. The viewer has to think that it is tropical, but its not important if you shoot it in a theme park or in the actual foreign land. As long as you get the right emotion in the right shot. In the market dome i found many interesting objects, from cobbled stones, to totally corroded stones, planks that had a lot of moss and erosion on the surfaces.

There was a small place in the center of this dome that was representing a waterfall. There were all sorts of small girders that the water let to a central point to flow further into the larger stream. Because the water was flowing all of the time, there was nothing left from the original wooden planks. And that nature of reality, is something that you cannot paint in photoshop. You can get perhaps 80 to 90 % close,if your research is right but you are not nature itself, you are a part of nature. So if you can use the emotion of everything that is around you, you can reflect that back onto your 3d meshes and focus on smaller progressions in the projects such as displacement mapping and lighting.

For the displacement mapping of the objects i used the diffuse map from the texture. Sometimes you don’t have to paint everything ultra detailed in zbrush or mudbox, you can just use the texture itself and apply that to the mesh as a displacement mapping. This is only possible for objects that can have displacement mapping all around. Otherwise your object would be totally different from the original idea. The lighting on the object is based on the total lighting progress which ill talk about later. The next object would be the vase.

The Bonsai tree is a reflection of what nature is. A Small tree creating oxygen and creating a green color scheme in a somewhat brown,dark blue, sand brown color scheme that is based on the sea. On the sea is a lot of brown from rust and the blue reflections on the surface from the sea.The first thing we as humand think about when we think of land is of course dirt. The second thing after that would be trees, or vegetation.

Without trees we would die, because of the oxygen they produce, its so important and we love to live around grass and trees. People that live in the city often go on vacation to have some rest and feel one with nature again. When you walk in a forest with a lot coniferous trees you feel so much fress air coming into your longs. I wanted the character from the scene to feel somehow connected to his home or to the land itself. When you are on sea for a long time you can feel pretty lonely. I bought a bonsai tree for this project in our city and its standing in my living room at the moment.

This was one of the first objects to contain elements from zbrush to put in a lot of the detail. The sculpting really helped me for the dirt and the strong structure of the tree. I used the displacement mapping from zbrush to make the simpel mesh pretty impressive. Its comfortable to have a small tree around you. The bonsai tree served as a reference and i shot a lot of textures from it. It almost died after I made all the photographs. The leafs began to grow again after a month and than i started shooting the video reference from it to use in the video making of.

The Stone vase is one of my favorite objects and has an emotional value to me because this vase was originally owned by a great friend of the family. After his death the vase was given to his mother in law who died short after that. His wife got the vase back and asked me if i wanted it. Of course i said yes. I did have some other stuff that was from our friend and that was actually given to my father before i was born and this was the Coat of Lucas. This coat is more than 30 years old and my father always kept this in a closet on the attic, more about this later.

The Vase is something special, because in the past its often used to contain water. So perhaps Lucas can use this to put in rainwater and use this to drink. Other than being a water container, it is also a support for the wooden table. It is a great object, but also a good graphical indication to make the wooden table more interesting. So these things work best when they are together. I used the base model of the vase to model this in 3D. This was pretty easy, because the main forms of a vase are just easy to model. You can model a vase in about 30 minutes.

More difficult was to unwrap the mesh and get the seamlessness of the grip of the vase and the body. By using a basic seamless texture and use my photo reference i could build the texture for the vase. By using its real reference it looked pretty good. The vase model and texture applied to it, did however not have the appearance that was in my mind. So searching at the harbor’s beach of Dinteloord i found a lot of shells with great structures and i tried to use this texture and roughness on the vase. I copied a lot of the texture and put it on to the diffuse texture. This created a great rough out version of the vase and this fits more in the whole chamber of oceans
feeling.

The cabinet is one of those things where I was looking for and that was in front of me the whole time. I was looking for a somewhat strange cabinet, with some corroded spots because of the aging of the wood. When I was looking for the cabinet, I tried to find the object as if it was done in 3D already. With the corroded texture already applied to it, but what I forgot was that a very clean version of the cabinet was standing inside of the living room of my parents. I had to remove the drawers in the 3D design part and find some textures for the corroded parts.

I used some of the texture parts from the girders, or planks that I used for the wooden table. And the great thing about everything was that by using this cabinet another object from the personal library was added. It became a more personal project day by day. Unwrapping the cabinet was a pretty easy part because I just to make the t-form unwrapping that is often used when making a cube from a piece of paper. By having this t-form it was pretty easy to put the texture on and than I placed the corroded texture parts on the corners of the depth level from the 3d mesh. This is how I got the wooden cabinet to a good finished model.

The moving cloth is something that came along the way. First I wanted to make a large open window with some broken glass and than on the outside of the room some lifeboats, but when I tried this i figured out that i wanted the focus on the inside of the room. So i removed the lifeboats from my idea and replaced it with something you see a lot of the times in movies that are based on the non-industrial times. Where we still used maps and did not have navigational instruments. And I loved this big maps where captains watch how to sail and look for the right directions. The map that is on the moving cloth is a big part of sea next to Italy. Somewhere on this part of the sea Lucas has stranded.

The map itself is not very visible on the smaller resolution renders from the chamber of oceans, but its definitely there. The reason why i used this map as a curtain is that Lucas was somehow protected for dangerous storms and he could try to find out a way to come home by using the coordinations on this map. I used the cloth simulation from 3dsmax and this was just an easy thing today when i combined it with a wind modifier. I liked the fact that the cloth is somewhat burned up, so that light rays can still find there way to the inside of the chamber of oceans.

A fun thing with the wooden crate was that I found this object when i was on a vacation again with my wife. We were in a supermarket and in the middle of this small store was a wine section. Right in front of the large store shelfs and wine cabinets were 2 or 3 wooden crates filled with wine bottles. When i saw these crates in my mind i was seeing the crate filled with ice and fish, not wine. I thought that they could use this in older times to store and stack there fish to keep them cold, because of the long way home, because of the situations that were different back than.

That is why I used this object in the scene and put it under the bonsai tree. Lucas was just on his own on the ship at that time and he was not in need of such large amount of fish, even if he could actually catch so many fish on his own. Lucas just caught 1 or 2 fish and that was enough, hoping one day somebody should rescue him from this horrible pain. The texture on the wooden crate was somewhat hard to shoot textures from because there were iron rings around the planks to keep the crate from falling apart. All of the details, the worn out spots were behind the rings. So i had to work it out in photoshop and it worked out pretty good for me. The crate was not one of the main-objects. In movies you have the main actors that are the most important and need to be in best shape 24-7. The crate is more of a  supporting actor standing in the back, doing what its supposed to be doing and just leave it at that. And it did that good. So it worked.

The water simulation was a pain in the bud. I was researching all over the internet how to get the result that i wanted. I already worked a lot with some parts of realflow in a studio in belgium, but I did not know how to put everything in place to get this animation. I mean, you can be familiar with your pencils when drawing a picture, but if your used to draw a circle, a square can give some problems. Thats why we have to keep learning to expand our skills and try for the best.

I went to many different places with my wife to research water. There are different elements about water that make it interesting and hard to reproduce. What is water doing and why do we relate to is so much. Is it the sound that makes us feel peacefull, or perhaps the motion and fluidness from the whole experience watching water flow down every angle of the stones or mountains. To capture the way water is the nicest is pretty hard. I talked to many different realflow masters like Shaun Micheal and asked them for help and guidance with this part of the project. They helped me out a lot, but in the end I did not get what I wanted completely. So I started to make different animations and tried to mix them together. I made a simulation in where the water was falling harder and another simulation with a lot more particles where the water was just peacefully falling down and let gravity do what its supposed to do.

Well i mixed all these animations up in photoshop and still was missing something. Of course i had to adjust a lot of the lighting to get it more in touch with the feeling of the scenery. Another thing that is even harder to recreate is, oxygen. These oxygen bubbles inside water in motion is what we often call foam. Foam is just a substantial part of water that is like bubbles of air that are sticking together finding there way out. Crawling all over each other.

My wife actually helped me with this. She has a great camera and she is a great photographer as well. Her work shows me the other way of seeing things. That is what a photographer makes a photographer. It is when you can capture the essence of imagery and not when you make money of a photo shoot of someone’s party. The beauty of nature is the behind the scene’s look. The views that are different than that part of society that are walking by and just sit down at the same restaurant in the same country every vacation of the year. When I was shooting footage for my video making of, she was working right along side of me to look for good “ textures “ for the foam of water. She was almost drifting on the water with her camera in her hand to get the essence of water. From these photo’s I used some crucial parts to put in the 3 to 4 water simulation I made for the water flooding. That is how the water became as it is in the final picture.

All throughout the project i was calling this object the mussel. In fact this is more a shell than a mussel, but i would call this in dutch “ een mossel “ which also is not a mussel but it just felt to me like it was. While this is not very important i felt like i wanted to share why i choose this name, mussel for a shell. This small object is all most invisible in the scene, but it was supposed to have a greater role in the whole chamber of oceans setting. When working on such an advanced scene not really keeping on to a concept sketch, you often see things that were in your head at first but they are not working out that well and you try to change it. I actually made a very high resolution shell in zbrush and used it in my scene. There are sitting on top of the middle plank of the wooden table. In the final picture you can see them on the left side of the picture. I Don’t need to tell too much about this, other than that i found this shell together with the shell i used for structuring the vase on the same beach, but not on the same day of the year.

So in modeling terms the painting perhaps is a joke. Its just a simple plane with a alpha map attach to it. But I made a lot of paintings before i choose the final one. I used different cloth animations, rips, cuts, you name it. I tried everything out, but it was just getting away the attention from the scene, and even worse, it was not showing the actual content of the painting. The painting itself is in this way the important piece. The Harbor that you see on the painting is in this story, the actual home of Lucas. They live just a few miles away from the harbor and they were there almost every day. Lucas was so longing to get home so fast to be in that harbor. There were many of his fathers ships docked in this harbor. There was so many history in here, and thats why i wanted to keep the essence of the painting up and just leave it like it. Sometimes less is more if its needed in the storyline.

I have heard on forums that people were saying. The walls are too thin, the door is ripped out somebody’s living room. I had written an article about how all most everything came from real ship reference. The door in this story is just plain fun. I got this reference from a ship that was totally made out of metal, but the captains hut had this wooden door. That is the door i used for the scene.

The wooden supports on the ceiling and above the painting of the cabinet, came from a living room, but that is just an artistic vision. If i had my own ship, i would do with it whatever i wanted to do with it, and in theory everything is possible on a ship. If you see footage from the titanic without seeing the movie, you would not now that all this materials could be on a ship. Anything is possible when it comes to making stuff that is different from the usual.

In my original idea was a character that was somehow shocked by what was happening in the scene. But not that he is running away or perhaps screaming. He is in that point of time where the awareness of a man is coming up. Something unusual is happening and you have about 2,3 seconds that nothing is happening, the first reaction is somewhat a slow reaction, its more of a reflex. I positioned Lucas at that stage of time.

There were people that found the stance of Lucas weird, even when it was right. But I tried it out for myself, I own the coat Lucas is wearing. I put on the “ Lucas “ costume and performed the act as it was happening to me. I took several photographs from this action and tried to keep that essence. I felt that it was supposed to be like this.

People are 90 % of the time focused on the “ human “ form, and often think its the most important in a whole picture. If you have a movie scene that is without a character, you are watching everything in the scene. The whole environment. Looking for something that grabs you attention. When you have the same shot with a character and he is very present, you miss out 70% of the environment, being to focused on the character. Great illusionists use this behavior in there favor to perform moves no one thought to be possible.

Lucas had to be a guy that is more an object of the scene than a human overtaking the scenery. The title of this image is also called, the chamber of oceans. Therefor its about the chamber and not about Lucas being in the chamber.

I had never really modeled a human character before. I tried out some head modeling, but that was it. I found it to hard to recreate a real human being. We are to familiar with the forms of humans. I am also not the best drawer or anatomy or human faces. I wanted this to work, so i let my wife shoot about 100 photographs of me, I bought a small mirror to put in front of me while modeling and started doing the job. Zbrush also got its part in this process, its a small one, but a good one. I also used zbrush to fix the seams for the texture of Lucas.

What about the bandage Lucas has over his eyes in a lot of work in progress shots. Well, in the original story Lucas lost his sight, and needed to wear bandage for safety, i actually made some real bandage and made some stains with dirt and, used jelly to make some blood stains on it and used this as a reference. Nobody liked the whole idea around the bandage, so somewhere in the project i just stopped to further work this out. I never made the eyes of Lucas, because this was not necessary for the shot.

It took me a long time to finish Lucas. Personally I’m thinking it was worth it.
In the sunflower fountain I had a small easter egg. The dvd collection on the shelf, which contained a lot of my inspiration sources for being creative. The chamber of oceans also has an easter egg. The Easter egg of the chamber of oceans is the sign on the back of Lucas. This is the same emblem of the jacket of Ryo Hazuki from on of the most expensive games of all times.Shenmue. Shenmue is still an inspiration to me and i think to a lot of people.Its about a young chinese guy who lost his father but wants revenge.

In this world he is seeking for the murderer of his father and he can do all most everything. Knock on every door in the village, talk to everybody. This game lost a lot of money because Sega had troubles with the marketing of the dreamcast, so this is why Shenmue didn’t get the attention that it deserved. I think that Yu Suzuki is one of the greatest game designer of all time and sega is one of my favorite game makers (currently publisher). This is why i wanted to put in that emblem.

This is a very small element in the scene. You can compare it with the tree leafs in The Anchor and with the Sunflower leafs in The Sunflower Fountain. It is just a small element that makes the picture. It tells just a little bit more about the scene. I called this the horseflower, because this is the exact translation of how we call this plant. Horses seem to eat this plant or flower a lot. What i like about the horseflower or dandelion is that the seeds can fly anywhere. If you roughly shake the plant, all the seeds will lift of in the sky and wonder around until they find a good place to land. One of the few places to have wind all the time ( all most ) is the sea. Even if it’s a little bit, there should be enough, perhaps a small breeze to push these seeds from land to anywhere, and perhaps this small seeds, flew all the way across the sea to meet Lucas, and tell him that his home, is closer than he thinks….

So the video making of is something important in this whole project. It shows a lot of the places where i have been to shoot my reference and it tells about the progression and why i made some decisions. I think its worth watching if you liked the written making of and of course the project itself. The Video Making of consist of 5 Parts, divided into 2 sections. In Section 1 you can see the 5 parts with the ambient music only and in the 2nd section you can see the same parts with the directors commentary.

The Making of has many renders, screen captures from while I’m working on the chamber of oceans and also visions about how nature gives you the greatest library of textures available. The making of is all most 40 minutes long and i hope you all have fun watching it.

It can be seen on my website at:

http://www.tjerkotten.com/3dartwork/makingthechamberofoceans.html

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