5054 by James Whitaker

5054 Magazine

I've recently discovered 5054 magazine and it's well worth a look. I recommend it. Patrick Myles is in charge of art direction (previously at Blueprint and RIBA Journal) and he's done an excellent job of it. This is not your average motoring magazine.

You can see more on 5054's website and read about it in an interview with Patrick on Creative Review's website.

Amongst the Fields by James Whitaker

Yesterday I finished a set of 4 new images exploring an air museum lying amongst fields of wheat. They were a fun set to work on, especially as they provided a good vehicle for experimenting with materials. It was quite satisfying dialling in the patinated steel for the column cladding and nice seeing it against the whitewashed brickwork. 

Such an expansive wheat field caused a few problems as the amount of geometry in the scene can quickly reach some pretty crazy levels. With geometry quantity under control though I invested a bit of time refining the wheat materials and I think the end result is really rich. 

You can see the images in our portfolio pages here

How does CGI work? by James Whitaker

People often ask me how does CGI work, or how do I create my images and I've always felt like I wasn't giving a particularly good answer so I've made this short video as an introduction for the uninitiated.

If you like the video be sure to follow us on Facebook - facebook.com/WhitakerStudio/
and Instagram - instagram.com/whitaker_studio/

And signup for our newsletter to receive a 3D model of the cup - whitakerstudio.co.uk/how-does-cgi-work-newsletter-signup

A free piece of 3D software for you to play with is Sketchup - sketchup.com/

Space Baby by James Whitaker

So, last week I finally finished my series of images Space Baby, and they are now selling through Getty Images. I've been chipping away at them between commissions and they've been great fun to create, so I thought you might enjoy a little break down of what went into making them.

Each shot was sketched out before hand. Sometimes this was a quick pencil sketch and sometimes a very dodgy bit of photoshop, as below. As these were never intended for public consumption I didn't worry about spending too much time on them, they were really just for blocking out the principals of the shot - the camera angle, lighting etc.

We did all of the photography work at the brilliant Cloud & Horse studios in north London, and with a rough idea of the shot that we were after we could set up the studio to give us the right lighting conditions. However, unlike when I was shooting Jennifer for the Tokyo penthouse we couldn't be that precise - a toddler just doesn't stand still that long. We had to be far more fluid and adaptable.

Back at the computer I was able to make my selects from the shoot and begin the hard work.

The first step was to place the photograph of Jack behind the model in 3DS Max. I could then move the virtual camera into the right position so that model and photo would align. With the camera setup and locked in position I could then work on the 3D model, adding detail where it would be seen without wasting time on stuff that would be out of shot.

With all the shot modelled up I then went back to Photoshop to mask out the background in the photograph of Jack. In the instance of this photo I had to use 2 or 3 photographs and composite them together to remove any trace of gravity and me holding Jack.

There was then a little back and forth to double check the camera angle and lighting in the model before rendering out the final image of the spaceship. This was then taken into Photoshop where it could be combined with the photograph of Jack.

I render out my computer images as 32-bit images in multiple passes so that I can adjust each element (reflections, refractions, lighting, etc.) in Photoshop. This is particularly important on images like this to bed Jack into the image and adjust the little details that make him look like he's actually there rather than just pasted on top. 

Every detail was carefully embellished to give the series a comfortable real world feel. For instance the magnetic letters were modelled from scratch and then textured with a Vray SSS2 material. This material allowed me to give the plastic that slightly translucent feel that you get on some children's toys, which then glows a little when it's back lit.

Jack's spacesuit brought some unique challenges, particularly for someone who specialises in architectural imagery (which is normally hard and rectilinear). In the end I took a model of a small boy and tweaked it to give him the proportions of a toddler. I then rigged the model with a skeleton in 3DS Max and exported that to Marvellous Designer. In Marvellous Designer I could then use the toddler model like a mannequin and slowly craft the spacesuit over him. With the fabric parts of the spacesuit finished in Marvellous Designer I then animated the mannequin back in 3DS Max to move from standing to the pose for each shot. I then took that animated mannequin back to Marvellous Designer and animated it while it wore the spacesuit. The spacesuit was then finally taken back to 3DS Max for texturing, to add the hard elements, and then finally adding it to the rest of the scene.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them below and I'll do my best to answer them for you.

Brass Reading Light by James Whitaker

I made this model just before Christmas for an image I was working on and then revisited it last week to get it ready for selling online. While getting it ready for sale I made this little film of it which I find oddly enjoyable and hypnotic if watched on repeat. So here it is for your enjoyment too!

Brass Reading Light 3D model

Brass Reading Light 3D model

You can purchase the model on turbosquid

Jack the Astronaut by James Whitaker

For a while now I've had this daft idea of sending Jack into space. I thought it would be fun to imagine what life is like for a toddler travelling through the cosmos, maybe on route to populate Mars? And Jack would look pretty dinky as an astronaut. So a couple of weeks ago we spent a day in a studio with Jack, executing a carefully planned shoot. The CGI component of the images is nearly finished now and ahead of the final images being released I thought you might enjoy this behind the scenes shot.

Utopia doesn't exist by James Whitaker

I have had a bit of an obsession with Thomas More's Utopia for years now. The text is wonderful, and parts of it have a real poignancy in the modern world. More wrote the book back in 1516 and, for anyone who hasn't read it, it largely comprises of a conversation between More and a traveller, Raphael Hythloday, who has just returned from the island of Utopia.

Almost every made up name in the book is a pun or reference, so Hythloday is a Greek compound meaning expert in nonsense and Utopia is derived from the Greek prefix ou-, meaning not, and topos, meaning place. No-place or nowhere. Utopia doesn't exist. And so computer generated imagery feels like the perfect vehicle to explore Utopia, and 2016 felt like an apt time to start this series as a means of reflecting on the political atmosphere in the UK and Europe.

The image above is the first from the series and is based on the portion of text copied below: 

...entry into the bay, occasioned by rocks on the one hand and shallows on the other, is very dangerous. In the middle of it there is one single rock which appears above water, and may, therefore, easily be avoided; and on the top of it there is a tower, in which a garrison is kept; the other rocks lie under water, and are very dangerous. The channel is known only to the natives; so that if any stranger should enter into the bay without one of their pilots he would run great danger of shipwreck.

It is my intention to finally exhibit the series, although it will take a little while to reach that point.