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The Making of Louie's Bar & Grill

Louie’s Bar & Grill is based on an actual building in the Universal Studios, FL theme park. Although it took about two months or so to complete, majority of the work was done in three weeks.

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Louie’s Bar & Grill is based on an actual building in the Universal Studios, FL theme park. Although it took about two months or so to complete, majority of the work was done in three weeks. I worked on it five hours a day for five days each week. I think that it’s safe to say that to get to the final render was less than 100 hours of work. Honestly, after three weeks I was not happy with the final look. William Vaughan from the DAVE School had mentioned that it would be great to put it into the "Art of LightWave" book. So the final touches were worked on here and there as I was modeling my Terminator 1 HK tank. Basically, the process of making Louie’s is broken down into four stages: modeling, texturing, lighting, and post-processing.

 

Modeling was pretty interesting. It was completed through a mixture of real life measurements, blueprints and photographs. Basically, the lower portions of the building were real life measurements and the upper portions were mostly modeled using the blueprints. I used the photographs for visual reference since blueprints tend to not be 100% accurate. I would have climbed up on the roof to get the actual measurements, but, I don’t think that would have gone over too well with the Universal security folks. If you are new to modeling things that are realistic, I would start with something small so that you can get used to measuring things and keeping your notes organized. It can get very messy and you will find yourself going back to whatever you were measuring because you missed the length of something simple.

       
 

Texturing is usually an exciting portion of trying to recreate photo-realism in 3D. Especially when there’s a big pole in the way of being able to get a straight shot at a sign of the building. In a nutshell, some of the sign’s texture’s were snapshots taken at a 45 degree angle. They were pretty easily fixed using the skew and perspective tools to get a perfectly rectangular image. It was also very important to take them at a very high resolution. I used my digital camera to get all of my textures and made sure that I shot them at 3.2 mega-pixels. The text on the windows was probably the most tedious part of texturing Louie’s. At first, I tried to find a font that matched the ones on the windows, but, in the end I used the lasso tool to get the shape of the text as a selection and filling it with the appropriate colors.

 

I also made a black and white version that I could use as an alpha channel. The dirt is mostly procedural with a gradient that fades as it gets higher up the wall as an alpha channel. I did the same thing for the sign and light poles. I prefer to use image map dirt, but, for time’s sake I did it this way. Finally, something that I try and stress to people to do all the time is micro-bump. Although often times slight, it can work wonders when it comes to the final render. For those who don’t know, micro-bump is typically a turbulence type procedural that has a small scale of about 10 um to 10 mm. Then I typically set the layer/node opacity from 5% to 15%. I think micro-bump in texturing is just as critical as micro-bevels are to modeling. It may not be necessary to have micro-bump on every surface, but, I do it just in case. Plus, it takes about 5 seconds to set up per surface, so, I figured, why not?

 
         
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Come here!
       

Lighting is extremely critical in the look you’re trying to get when it comes to art of any kind. CG is probably the epitome of this. Depending on the look you’re going for I still like to at least start with a three point lighting rig. However, since I was going for a match to my photo reference I used a one light rig and turned on my favorite lighting tool in CG, radiosity. The light was an area light placed at approximately where the sun was shining from in my reference images. I could tell this based on where the shadow fell. It’s still not 100% perfect, but, it was close enough for what I was looking for. The light was slightly yellow because it was taken in the later portion of the afternoon.

 

Typically yellow is good for indoor lighting, but, it worked well here, so, I used it. One thing I want to point out is that it is not a good thing to use white light. Maybe if you’re trying to show off a wireframe view of your model it’s okay, but, for any other time white light is completely unrealistic. There is nowhere in the real world where you will get pure white light. I used a typical city backdrop for image based lighting so that I could get realistic color variation into the render. As I said before, I used radiosity which uses the backdrop as light and bounces my sunlight around to get a more realistic look. Unfortunately, it also makes render times go through the roof, however, that can be counteracted with plenty of sleep. The render times for this image are not too bad as they are only 40 minutes to an hour on a modern machine. The final render was 800×600 with 5 passes of anti-aliasing.

       
 

Post-processing is becoming more and more widely used today whether it be color correction for film or CG. For still images, programs such as CorelDRAW, Photoshop, or GIMP are used to do various touch-ups. This could include compositing or just simple, one layer tasks. Two things were done for Louie’s in post.

 

First, I added a simple gradient that went from blue to white for the sky. Secondly, I adjusted levels to get the look that I wanted. Some people want to do everything all in camera these days, and while that’s fine, doing post work can save many hours. What I got for a few minutes of playing around with levels and using various colors for my gradient I could have spent hours re-rendering out of LightWave. If your argument for not doing that is "I’m cheating", then, all I have to say to you is, "CG is cheating, so you should learn the best way to cheat".

 
       

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In conclusion I would like to say that making Louie’s Bar & Grill was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. There was a lot of work involved and while no art is truly done, I’m happy with the outcome. I’ve been working on various other CG projects and would like to tackle another like this in the near future. The big challenge will be finding the right building to make. If you would like to buy the rights to use my building commercially, please contact me. The price is $99 and available directly through me. If you would like freelance work done, feel free to contact me. I hope that this making of has taught you either new techniques or has refreshed old ones. If you have any questions at all please feel free to email me: Nathan@NathanWarden.com

 

Special thanks to my lord and saviour Jesus Christ who has made my life worth living, my friend TJ who encouraged me to pursue my 3D career, my family for their ongoing support, Sergey (aka Stryker) for such an awesome website and the privilege of writing this "making of" for it, and, of course, US tax payers for making my GI Bill possible.

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