How was this picture made? (concept art analysis)
 
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    How was this picture made? (concept art analysis)

    So Bungie realeased some concept art for their upcoming game "Destiny". One image in particular blew me away, and here is a crop:

    Name:  destiny.jpg
Views: 1906
Size:  168.4 KB

    What I want to know is how the structure was created. Looking closely it does not have clearly repeated sections you would expect.

    Was this all modelled in max or something like zbrush? Was there some kind of procedural script used to generate/arange bits and pieces?
    I really want to know!

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    Don't know for sure...but the base structural element (which I think has been flipped, rotated and repeated round and about as necessary) could easily have been modeled in 3ds Max with a plugin called "Greeble" which is written and updated by the guy who originally wrote Max, Tom Hudson (so search under Tom Hudson Greeble if you want to find it). Might also be Groboto but I don't think so. Another possibility is a fractal program called "Mandelbrot" (edit: derp...I meant "Mandelbulb). My money would be on Greeble though just because it is much more widely used and easier to control.

    Post again if you find out for sure.

    Last edited by JeffX99; March 25th, 2013 at 09:27 PM.
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    Yup. It's collage.

    You can get a similar effect with paint; look up James Berkey. It's just that a lot of concept artists these days prefer to cut and paste from photos rather than create textures by hand.

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    I never even considered a fractal generating program but I think you're on the the right track. Bravo!

    After doing some research there is a program called Mandelbulber which is probably the one you're thinking of, based on the name Mandlebrot, the mathematician who discovers fractals.
    http://code.google.com/p/mandelbulber/


    Here's some examples: http://krzysztofmarczak.deviantart.com/gallery/

    Another program called Incendia: http://www.incendia.net/download/index.html

    OOOHH!
    http://www.mandelbulber.com/gallery/...hi-d3g36fr.jpg

    another cool pic
    http://www.fractal-recursions.com/files/02070502.jpg


    I have not yet tried either of the aforementioned programs but I will let you know what I find.

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    Yeah - oops, my bad - I meant Mandelbulb. I've played with it and it is very, very funky to me. Incendia seems like it can put out some sweet stuff if you know what you're up to with it. But I still think it likely it was done in Max with the Greeble plugin. Either way it's a cool image.

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    So I've been experimenting with mandlebulb, it really is an amazing thing but the process is essentially trial and error rather than true creativity. If only one could have more control it could be a part of a production pipeline.
    Antialiasing would be nice too, as would the ability to export depth maps.

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    Looking at the geometry in the concept art piece, I dont think it was made this way. Its too had to contain a form to make a useful model. The distribution is also different. Still mathematical, but not fractal. There are some maya scripts than can arrange geometry according to an algorithm, and there's the max greeble, but I haven't tried it yet. My understanding is than it adds geo on top of a model like the surface of the death star for example.

    https://www.google.ca/search?q=max+g...M8bJyAHa5IHACg

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    Couldn't it just be...well... painted? I must admit I don't get this "what was used to make it?" mindset. Or even worse version of it: "What software was used?"

    Here's how the structure in the image was created: It was created using artist's ability. The structure is not as complex as you may seem to think. Look at it closely. The artist managed to fool you into thinking it was infinitely complex, hence needed a "magical" tool to produce it. A competent illustrator could do this using only a pencil.

    If I give you the exact toolset that was used, accompanied by written instruction on how precisely the tools were utilized, chances are you wouldn't be able to replicate the quality if you lack the artistic facility. On the other hand, if your ability is strong, you'll tend to combine whatever tools you have at your disposal to reach the goal; painting, photo manipulation, 2d or 3d plugins. Why does it matter?

    On the tech side, it's very unlikely you can get a structure like this straight out of a fractal generator. Fractals are hard to control. But you can surely collage pieces of it into a final structure. Which again boils down to pure artist's ability, regardless of the toolset.

    Last edited by LaCan; March 28th, 2013 at 11:55 AM.
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    If you see something cool, I feel like it's natural to want to know more about how it was created. If it was made with a pencil, and you didn't expect that, you learn that you should broaden your expectations about what to expect from pencil. If it was made through some crazy alternative process, you get to learn about that. There's nothing wrong with asking questions, and then knowing as a result of them. If you're not sure what the answer is to something, I think inquiring is better than making assumptions.

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    There is zero correlation between tools used and quality. Hence, if you're fascinated by quality ("something cool" as you put it) and wish to replicate it, you're asking wrong questions inquiring about tools.

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    >There is zero correlation between tools used and quality.
    I think this is only applicable to the end result of the piece. A complex structure drawn by pencil rendering can look as good as one created through 3D rendering, but one method of drawing might be vastly more efficient than the other.

    >Hence, if you're fascinated by quality ("something cool" as you put it) and wish to replicate it, you're asking wrong questions inquiring about tools.
    You're fascinated by the quality, but the end quality of the piece is not the topic of inquiry here, the method is. If your objective is to find out how something is made, then researching how it was made is undeniably the preferable course of action. I don't *think any rational people expect to gain artistic superpowers just by knowing how something was made.

    Last edited by snacks ex machina; March 28th, 2013 at 01:41 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaCan View Post
    Couldn't it just be...well... painted? I must admit I don't get this "what was used to make it?" mindset. Or even worse version of it: "What software was used?"

    Here's how the structure in the image was created: It was created using artist's ability. The structure is not as complex as you may seem to think. Look at it closely. The artist managed to fool you into thinking it was infinitely complex, hence needed a "magical" tool to produce it. A competent illustrator could do this using only a pencil.

    If I give you the exact toolset that was used, accompanied by written instruction on how precisely the tools were utilized, chances are you wouldn't be able to replicate the quality if you lack the artistic facility. On the other hand, if your ability is strong, you'll tend to combine whatever tools you have at your disposal to reach the goal; painting, photo manipulation, 2d or 3d plugins. Why does it matter?
    Sorry dude but you are so, so wrong. First of all it was not just painted. Why don't you try to reproduce this image using only digital paint or a pencil and see how it goes for you. Tools do matter because they affect the aesthetic and unburden the artist with having to spend twice as much time on a piece, which in a production environment like a game studio is very important. I've looked at A LOT of concept art and painted my fair share, this was not done 2d. If you looked closely you would notice the lighting on the forms has sub-pixel detail.
    Furthermore, I cant think of a single concept artist in the industry who just uses basic brushes and no other tools.

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    By the way, just to be clear, this thread was not created to look at one particular piece but to start a dialogue about 3d techniques that can be incorporated into 2d painting. Hopefully it will inspire other artists to try new things and post the results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wilkerson View Post
    Sorry dude but you are so, so wrong. First of all it was not just painted. Why don't you try to reproduce this image using only digital paint or a pencil and see how it goes for you. Tools do matter because they affect the aesthetic and unburden the artist with having to spend twice as much time on a piece, which in a production environment like a game studio is very important. I've looked at A LOT of concept art and painted my fair share, this was not done 2d. If you looked closely you would notice the lighting on the forms has sub-pixel detail.
    Furthermore, I cant think of a single concept artist in the industry who just uses basic brushes and no other tools.
    I'm not "wrong" because I don't seek to be "right".

    I'm not claiming it was "just painted". It might have been. For a digital painting, that would include manipulation of photographic details. Which is not unlikely scenario here.

    How much a particular tool speeds up the process depends greatly on artist's preferences. For a skilled painter it may be much more efficient to just paint it than to model, light and render it in a 3d program. That said, I don't care about the doctrine faster=better. It's reasoning of a pixel pusher. You want to optimize your production pipeline, of course, but I didn't notice the original question was about production optimization. If your goal is time optimization, you'd want to pick tools that will speed up specific aspects the most. I don't see any mystery here. If you need to paint a complex 3d structure quickly, you'll naturally get some help from 3d tools. It's kind of self evident. Having a 3d tool handy wouldn't magically make you successful at creating 3d structures though. Which was basically my point.

    Relying too much on the power of a tool may diminish your ability to control it. If your automation largely affects your aesthetics, you'll end up with generic "computer-generated" results, more often than not.

    If you wish, I can give you several scenarios of how this image might have been crafted, each involving completely different set of specific tools/methods. Each scenario equally viable from the efficiency standpoint. What difference would it make to you? The exact toolset would greatly depend on specific production context anyway. If you need to know exactly how this image was made, email the creator and ask.


    Quote Originally Posted by wilkerson View Post
    If you looked closely you would notice the lighting on the forms has sub-pixel detail.
    You are talking nonsense here. By the definition of pixel, you can't see anything that is sub-pixel. If you're dazzled by tiny details, just remember that there is such thing as image scaling. If you wish to discuss intricacies of sub pixel sampling algorithms I'm open to discussion.


    Quote Originally Posted by wilkerson View Post
    Furthermore, I cant think of a single concept artist in the industry who just uses basic brushes and no other tools.
    Of course, that would be stupid.

    Last edited by LaCan; March 28th, 2013 at 03:05 PM.
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    You guys are both right - no real need to argue. That is a high-end piece of concept work put together using a variety of tools and techniques - and most importantly, artistic/creative knowledge and experience. The architectural structure though was clearly created originally using some tool/process...then manipulated as necessary by the artist. It does heavily influence the aesthetic, and is meant to, so I think it's valid to investigate how that structure was initiated. Anyway...

    Interesting Mandelbulb renders wilkerson - see, I've never got anything out of it remotely along those lines...mine are always big, solid blocky things or weird organics. Takes a certain learning curve fooling with those things enough to get predictable results.

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    Right! I looked at the hi res version. It's definitely a 3d rendering. I'd vote for following process: manual modeling of large blocks, then something like a greeble plugin or a similar script to complexify the geometry which is then rendered with a displacement shader (or a simple bump map) to add smallest detail. Probably done in several separate chunks that are composed together in 2d with some additional play. It does look a bit collage-y. Plus some hand painted and photo atmospherics.

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    So yeah, here's a quick proof of concept of the approach I mentioned in previous post. There are other effective ways to do it, painting from the scratch included.

    I didn't even used any procedural geometry generation scripts. Just a two dozen boxes and a couple of rings put in place manually. All the hard work is done by a displacement shader driven by a noise texture. Each small box corresponds to a pixel in the texture. This is pretty much the raw render. Some additional detailing would be in order, obviously:

    Name:  citadel2.jpg
Views: 896
Size:  316.0 KB

    Geometry used:
    Name:  citadel_vp.jpg
Views: 874
Size:  177.7 KB

    Displacement texture:
    Name:  noise.png
Views: 842
Size:  7.3 KB

    All this is rather basic stuff, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm not too enthusiastic about this whole uber-detailing thing. The initial image is not all that good to begin with. Mainly because value composition is uninteresting. It's a mushy gray mess.

    For tech fetishists:
    - done in vanilla Maya
    - plain lambert shader with a displacement map and a bit of ambient occlusion plugged into incandescence channel
    - a tad of perlin noise bump mapping (looks a bit shit, should have done some photo texture detailing in post, but no time)
    - one directional light, one ambient light and a spotlight for the accent
    - some simple depth-cued environment fog
    - slightly blurred shadow mapped cast shadows
    - rendered in single pass with Mental Ray

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  30. #18
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    Nice - funny, didn't even think of using a displacement map or even a bump - just looked fractal to me at first glance. And I completely agree about the lighting/gray mush problem with the image - light sourcing is just random and inconsistent - but that's pretty typical of a lot of concept stuff any more, mainly due to this collage process. Any small section can look pretty nice but often the overall piece suffers. But you know, it's just concept stuff - throw enough flaring white, particle debris, lighting bolts, etc. and you're good!

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    LaCan--Nice facsimile.

    Yes, the displacement map route is the quick and dirty way to go.
    Here’s my meager example done in Cinema 4D, showing the mapped box and box with disp map on (no Bump detail).

    How was this picture made? (concept art analysis)
    -----
    The ‘illustration’ looks like a toyed up clip from the actual game. Then again, I don’t work in the game industry nor do I play video games (although I have done some game box illos for Activision).
    Greeble fest tower at 2:53:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikE7jQHRZWM

    I’m not at all crazy about the illustration. But then, I’m not crazy about most 3d driven cg illustration in general. Detail for details sake doesn’t impress me, though it does titillate a lot of folks, especially males.

    Last edited by bill618; March 29th, 2013 at 02:32 PM.
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    Yeah, greeble is known to be stimulating young adult males since time immemorial. It's a modern variant of horror vacui phenomenon [link]

    Anyway, displacement is neat because it lets you control the whole thing via textures. As always with 3d, especially if it's realtime, you first ask if problem can be solved by texture mapping somehow. Better to cram it all on renderer than to push around complex geometry generated by scripts. Renderers are at least sharply optimized for speed whereas scripting engines and 3d dataset managers in 3d packages are generally not.

    Pure fractals are not too good for this because they are hard to control and may generate insane amount of unnecessary data. However, with texture driven displacement, you can experiment with fractal generated textures and mix/overlay them with more rigid stuff to get different greeble patterns. All that without any additional performance tolls for complex textures. And it's very easy to try various things and arrangements. Just play with textures or uv sets and press render button.

    Drawback of displacement is that it operates strictly along surface normals. So no additional concavity can be generated. This is not a big problem. All concavity you may need can be achieved by manually arranging large structural blocks. You want to do this manually anyway since large blocks are making your composition. Why rely on some dumb script or pure randomness to generate your compositions?

    In this type of images, it's more important to get this global composition and atmospheric perspective right. This is what gives it its monumentality, not overabundance of greeble patterns.

    If you just must have elaborate concavity with your displacement, you could write a custom displacement shader that takes in additional information via normal map, and then displace along supplied perturbed normals. For some real software fetish masturbation, you could send any other function encoded into a texture map (say sine, or a series of arbitrary vectors) and let your custom shader use that as a backbone to generate any type of (concave) extrusion instead of straight displacement. Even branching is possible. This is not at all hard to do with renderers like Mental Ray that can invoke partial geometry tesselation on demand from within shader code.

    Right. Here's a different approach using geometry generation. I put together a quick "recursive" subdivide/extrude script that generates some geometry. With this approach you can have a lot of concavity. It comes with the cost of messing your uv data. But this is irrelevant if you don't need to texture it further using 2d textures.

    Name:  greeble_geo.jpg
Views: 876
Size:  306.1 KB


    Here's the script for Maya written in Python. If someone wants to try it - just select a simple object(s) and run it. Play with parameters for different type of effect. Note how simple the whole thing is:

    Code:
    # greeble.py for Maya
    # simple recursive extrusion greeble script
    # by Lacan
    
    from maya.cmds import *
    from random import *
    
    # procedure that does the actual job
    def greeble(selection, extrusion, extrusion_random, percentage_extruded, inset=1):
    	for s in selection:
    		for e in extrusion:
    			polySubdivideFacet( duv=2, dvv=2, sbm=1, ch=0)
    			select(s, r=True)
    			ConvertSelectionToFaces()
    			polySelectConstraint(rr=percentage_extruded, type=8, random=1, m=2)
    			ez = e + uniform(-e*extrusion_random, e*extrusion_random)
    			if inset != 1:
    				polyExtrudeFacet( constructionHistory=False, divisions = 1, keepFacesTogether = False, localScale=[inset, inset, inset], localTranslate=[0,0,0])
    			polyExtrudeFacet( constructionHistory=False, divisions = 3, keepFacesTogether = False, localTranslate=[0,0,ez])
    
    
    # we don't to be bogged down with history of thousands of extrudes
    delete(constructionHistory=True)
    constructionHistory(toggle=False)
    
    #INPUT PARAMETERS
    
    # number of passes and average extrusion in each pass
    extrusion=[20, 10, 5, 5] 
    
    # percentage of extrusion randomization 1=100%
    extrusion_random=3
    
    # percentage of faces extruded 1=100%
    percentage_extruded=.4
    
    #extrusion inset percentage 1=none, .5=50% etc.
    inset=.6
    
    #get selected objects
    sel = ls(sl=True)
    
    # do it
    greeble(sel, extrusion, extrusion_random, percentage_extruded, inset)

    If I catch some time I'll try to paint the thing manually. I really don't see any problems in doing it except it'd be a bit tedious if you insist on uber detailing. But you can get other qualities from the manual approach. I'd tackle it precisely the same way as in 3d. Establish a composition of large blocks and then subdivide and extrude smaller and smaller parts. It's just boxes after all.

    Regarding the "how was this done" mindset, my experience is that whenever I wondered "how they did it" - and then found out how - I was disappointed. They always "did it" using the plain old tools everybody else can use. Just that they knew how to use them well and made some effort to combine them in powerful ways. If you wish to achieve "mind blowing complexity", the best path is to count on emergent qualities that arise when cleverly combining several simple approaches.

    Analogy for the end: When you see a magic trick performed by a good illusionist, you always wonder "how the hell is that done?". If you eventually find out how, it's always sort of anti-climatic. You're slightly disappointed with simplicity of the rig. And if you try to replicate the illusion using the same rig, you'll most certainly fall short. Then you realize that the only thing that actually makes of breaks the illusion is magician's pure sleight of hand skill.

    Last edited by LaCan; March 30th, 2013 at 11:57 AM.
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