This scene actually started from a lighting exercise I was doing using VRay for Maya. I wanted to create a simple night light rig setup, and it started as a really simple scene. I showed it around to a friend of mine who is a great matte painter and he gave me some pointers and feedback on how a balcony overlooking a city scene should look like and he sent me lots of reference examples, but the most important thing that I got from our discussion was “ This scene works only if it tells a story with characters, otherwise it’s just a simple 3d scene”. I took a step back and started looking at the scene and I started to visualize a story that could happen on this night on that balcony in the beautiful city of Paris.
I wanted to create a 3d Romantic scene, I started doing some simple planning sketches with some poses for my main character, just to see if I can convey the emotion of my character and if the scene can tell the story clearly. I haven’t done many night 3d light setup, especially in VRay for maya. I have done a couple in Mental Ray, so I had the basic knowledge on how to approach this scene, the first 3d night light scene setup I have done was for Studio City website which I designed 2 years ago and I was fortunate to have the help of my mentor Jeremy Vickery who taught me some amazing yet simple tips which got me to appreciate the basics and beauty of lighting even more.
Once I had the main 3d draft scene settled and I was happy where the story was going, I started planning and gathering tons of reference materials, I started looking for Paris streets photos; best place to gather them was flickr which is just superb cause it has so many photos taken by tourists and this is exactly what I needed: photos of buildings, streets and sidewalk cafes.
One of the main reference photos that I have found a while ago and I saved in my LittleSnapper library was a beautiful one I found on DeviantArt by Alexandre Parrot That photo was the starting reference that I needed.
The next step was to start modeling the buildings. I started looking for French Paris buildings styles, check out some of the reference photos. Trust me there are a whole lot more where those came from.I decided to do 5 different styled 3d buildings, just to be sure the repeating pattern of the buildings wasn’t too obvious. Here are the renderings of the 3d buildings. All where modeled in Maya and rendered using Vray for Maya.
Next step was to dress up Vickylane in some nice Taxi outfit and it turned out better than I expected, and I was even more excited to have the scene done. If you like how vickylane looks as a Taxi you can download the Vicky Taxi Parisien. Vickylane loves dressing up in different outfits check them out:
The Next step was to start referencing the 3d modeled buildings into Maya, I used referencing in Maya just in case I wanted to go back and have to make some changes on a particular building it would have been far much easier than working on huge scene with lots of buildings which was becoming very heavy cause the scene has lots of buildings.
As I said, I already had the city planned with simple cubes so now it was just a matter of replacing those cubes with actual Textured and detailed 3d french buildings.
Once the 3d buildings were in, I started modeling the 3d road and the 3d sidewalk and I wanted to have some nice streets lamps. My first initial street texture was clean and modern, then I just changed it into a brick road cause it’s more classical and it fits better for a city like Paris. For the brick roads I used a diffuse map a specular map and a normal map for the bump.
While I was working on this scene I watched “Midnight in Paris“. The visuals in this movie are just so so so beautiful. The composition, the lighting, the colors… I know they don’t make art of book for non vfx 3d movies but they should def do one for this film.
The 3d buildings were placed, the roads were paved and the street lights were added. Now I had to take care of the center point of the scene which is the balcony. First I started designing the pattern that will repeat and which will make the forged iron balcony. I wanted to be pretty detailed and at the same time to have a romantic story on its own.
The pattern was sketched using SketchBook pro (I love the mirror feature in it), once I had the pattern cleaned I took it into Adobe illustrator to create a clean vector shape of the pattern cause I wanted to make sure the lines run smoothly and clean and also because I will be using the pattern in different elements in the scene.
Next step was to create the other 3d elements that will be on the balcony like the Table, and table cloth, the 3d wine bottle, 3d wine glasses and the chairs which you might have noticed have the same styled pattern as the forged iron balcony. After finishing modeling the concrete door frame and the 3d doors, I started UV texturing them cause I wanted to have a more realistic look to the door texture while keeping clean and simple. For the walls I used some plaster textures again with a diffuse a specular and a normal map for the bump and the same goes for the balcony floor.
I duplicated the balcony and added another one facing the main balcony to frame the entire scene, and also I wanted to have a blue light coming from the other balcony to give the character some nice blue light which will act like a nice rim light and also to give it a feeling of being blue or in other words sad.
From the initial concept I wanted to have a glass spilled over, and the other one standing and still full just to show how heart broken and devastated the main character is. Adding a cigarette to the scene was an important element to emphasize the sadness of this scene and maybe even to show the character smoking a cigarette after the fight that he had with his loved one.
For the final details I added a couple of bikes here and there; it is after all Paris, this city is known for its bikes you can even say it’s a cultural symbol. For inspiration I watched Pixar’s Ratatouille and also I had the good luck to receive the Art of Ratatouille while I was working on the scene, and I gotta tell you this book is just amazing, the amount of details and materials and the attention that was given to the city and the buildings are just superb, you must own that book or at least borrow it and go through it, trust me you won’t regret it.
The scene was entirely modeled in Maya 2011, I mostly used polygons and some nurbs modeling here and there. I kept the 3d buildings simple but with enough detail to have the important elements of the French architecture. Lighting this 3d romantic scene I used mostly VRay lights and one regular Maya directional light. I used lots of VRay mesh lights, and light shader, especially for the city windows and the street lamps. Here is the final Image, I really hope you guys enjoy it as much as I enjoyed building it.
She Didn’t Say Goodbye Final Image
I know you may have wanted a more detailed tutorial on how this scene was lit and textured. But I wanted to split this into 3 parts article so it doesn’t become huge. Let’s call this the first part “The Making of”, then I will show you How to Light a Night scene in Maya using VRay for maya, then I will have another Maya Tutorial on how to Texture a Night Romantic Parisian scene in Maya using VRay material and Maya materials.
You can check out the progress of this scene in the video below:
Concept, modeling, texturing, lighting © 2011 Oasim Karmieh