visualization

Emulating the landscape of Joshua Tree by James Whitaker

Over the last few months, I have been designing a house for a private client in Joshua Tree, California. As the design developed I thought that it was something that would catch a little bit of attention in the press if I showed it in its best possible light (I never imagined it would go viral). I was already using the computer to make simple 3D maquettes and with the design locked off, it was fairly straightforward to build a detailed model of the house on the computer. The context was the real challenge. The client had provided me with a topographical site plan as a PDF, which I had been sketching over. He had also provided me with photographs of the site, but the photographs weren't quite sufficient for me to use to make some nice images of the scheme - I wanted to be able to surround the building with context, in 360 degrees, so that we could get the shadows and reflections across the building. To solve the context problem I devised this rather satisfying workflow which I thought warranted sharing.

First of all I opened the pdf in Adobe Illustrator and exported it as a DWG. I then opened the drawing in Autocad and scaled it to the right size, cleaned it up, and joined fragmented contours into continuous polylines (I later realised that this could have been done automatically in 3DS Max with SiNi plugins). This drawing was then imported into 3DS Max and each contour was raised to its correct height (this was tedious and I'm unaware of any shortcuts).

With the contours set out in 3D space I then used the Terrain Compound Object to create a surface from the contours. This generates a surface that is detailed but an ugly mesh to work with - it's all triangulated.

Joshua Tree Residence Terrain Mesh

At this point, I identified some areas around the building that where cliffs and rocks, rather than sand surfaces. I duplicated the terrain surface, drew a 2D polyline around the area that I wanted to be more detailed and cropped the landscape surface down.

Joshua Tree Residence Landscape Crop

I then took the cropped down landscape surface and retopologised it using SiNi Software's Sculpt plugin. This gave me a localised area of the landscape that was turned into a neat quad poly surface.

Next, I centred the surface's pivot point to the centre of the surface and then added a point helper to the scene and aligned it to the pivot point. This is to help align the detailed surface in the right place, later in the process.

Joshua Tree Residence Anchor Point

Now I did a quick UVW Unwrap on the surface.

Joshua Tree Residence unwrap UVW

I moved the surface to 0,0,0 in model space and exported it to Mudbox. (I found that if I didn't move it to 0,0,0 first I had difficulty viewing the mesh in Mudbox.) With the UVW mapped, nicely regular mesh in Mudbox I could work detail into it easily, before taking it back into 3DS Max and using the helper to locate it in the right place.

Joshua Tree Residence Mudbox

The final step was just to adjust the original, main landscape surface so that the detailed surfaces sat over it well. I made a bunch of rocks in Mudbox and then used Forest Pack Pro to scatter these and vegetation over the landscape.

SiNi's plugin was really the kingpin in this process. If you do visualisation work and aren't familiar with SiNi I recommend that you check them out.

Inner Working by James Whitaker

This visualisation is of a proposed 8 storey office building, with retail and coffee shop at ground floor. You can compare the final image with the computer model below to see what we did in 3D. I prefer to create as much of the image as possible in the 3D model and keep photoshop work to a minimum. Partly that's just how I like to work, but it has the giant benefit that it increases our ability to adopt client changes as late into the process as possible, and minimise the impact of that one final tweak to the design.

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/

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.

Ron Arad's Cancer Treatment Centre by James Whitaker

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Over the last several months Ron Arad Architects have been designing a cancer treatment centre in north east Israel that will serve Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze communities in both Israel and Palestine.

Whitaker Studio crafted these four images for Ron in preparation of the project’s public launch this week.

You can read more about the project on Dezeen.

Green Screen Trickery by James Whitaker

At the start of September I spent some time in Cloud & Horse’s photo studios shooting with actress Jennifer Dawn-Williams. The shoot had been meticulously planned to allow the resulting photographs of Jennifer to be blended seamlessly with computer generated images of a penthouse apartment in Tokyo.

With the photographs taken they were then composited in Photoshop to achieve the stills that I wanted and this video shows a quick breakdown of that process.

The complete set of images can be seen on my website.

Architectural Rendering meets Photography Shoot by James Whitaker

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Here are 3 brand new images of the Tokyo penthouse that I was working on earlier in the summer. You can see the complete set of images on my website here.

At the start of September I spent some time in Cloud & Horse’s studios shooting with actress Jennifer Dawn-Williams. The shoot had been meticulously planned to allow the resulting photographs of Jennifer to be blended seamlessly with computer generated images of the apartment.

I will try to post soon a short animation of the post production layering of the images.

Penthouse by James Whitaker

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The High Life

A new series of images of a Tokyo penthouse.

The model has been built in 3DS Max with the towers in the foreground being created using Itoo Software’s railclone and forest pack. You can see a tutorial for populating the floors of the towers here.

Furniture and props have come from a variety of sources. The books are nearly all from model+model and distributed using their excellent Bookmanager plugin. The rug in the living space is Paul Smith Carnival created with Vray Hair.

The Tokyo skyline is from photographs taken from CGTextures and applied as a VRay Light material with the sky masked out. The scene is then illuminated with Peter Guthrie’s 0707 sky.

Evening at Home by James Whitaker

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This visualisation is of a new development in Elephant and Castle by A Zero Architects. There will be a nursery at ground floor with three town houses above. Construction work is due to start in Autumn 2015.

by James Whitaker

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This was my first ever design project at university 15 years ago. The idea for the climbers hut was based on a piece of climbing equipment that can be lodged into cracks in the rock face to arrest a climber’s fall.

The hut consists of a Cor-ten steel cage with oak cladding infill and a smooth, curved plywood interior. Once the hut has been lowered into the cliff face and has wedged itself into place the floor joists can be inserted to ensure a level surface. The lower area is for storage of equipment while the upper area is for sleeping and cooking.

I revisited the project as an excuse to experiment with particle systems in 3DS Max. The snow capping on the foreground was produced by raining over half a million particles down on the model and then turning them into a mesh. The images where rendered with Vray and a small amount of photoshop. HDRI skies are from Peter Guthrie’s shop and the rock face textures were made from images sourced from CG Textures.com