It all starts with an idea…

With the holiday season rolling around, Banter wanted to send a celebratory e-card to our clients and suppliers which represented our team and our brand. We’re eclectic and together, we work well.

 

First, we needed to design a concept for the e-card.

The concept is like the blueprint a house will be built from. These sketches and plans needed to be as accurate as possible including all elements that would go into the final 3D scene. This allows the following stages to be the most efficient and painfree experiences.

Our concept for the Banter globe was inspired by a traditional snow globe but with more emphasis on celebration and good times, including a few nods to our office decor. To heighten the celebratory vibe of the globe we wanted to incorporate some animated objects and effects to really bring it life.

Modeling… strike a pose!

After the concept was finalised the modeling stage begins.

 After the concept has been finalised the modeling stage begins. 3D modeling consists of using a number of shapes called polygons (polys). These are shapes connected by straight lines which are used to build the initial form of the object. It’s best practice to use 4-sided polys (quads) when creating 3D objects so they can be easily manipulated and limit any subtle errors (eg. gaps in the object, issues with shading, etc). Quads can also be equally divided (tessellated) in order to create more quads, which will allow for more detail in the 3D object. Unfortunately, the more polys that are added to an object, the more difficult it is to work with due to the high level of detail and drain on computer processing power.

The glass dome itself, for example, was created with only a few polys, which was later tessellated to smoothen the blocky look of the object. The best indication of how many polys an object like this needs to have is to see how smooth the silhouette of the object is.

 

There are various tools and techniques built within 3D programs to quicken the process of model creation. The different styles of glassware inside the globe were all created by making a cross-section shaped line (known as a spline) which can then be “lathed” cylindrically to create the form of the glass.

 

Make it shine

Now the modelling stage is complete, texturing begins.

This is like giving a blank canvas a coat of paint. Before any texturing can be started each mesh needs to be unwrapped, which is the process of flattening the 3D object into 2D space. The best way to describe the unwrapping process would be to think of a cube, which has 6 sides; this cube will need to be unwrapped so each of those 6 sides is a flat square. These 2D versions of the models can now be painted on and textured in any photo/painting program.

There are several textures that need to be created (depending on the object) for the most realistic finish possible.

These textures can include:

  • Albedo: the colour of the object
  • Roughness: a grayscale texture which shows how ‘rough’ an object will be
  • Normal: a map used to create light-based depth on the object
  • Opacity: a grayscale texture that shows how ‘see-through’ the object is

These textures are then compiled into a single material/shader which is applied to the object. Some of the objects in the scene like the glasses and liquids didn’t require specific textures and these were created by altering settings within the material properties.

Pour me a beer

Simulating the various liquids within the scene

The fluid simulations for the scene were pretty straightforward – each consisting of a container (the glassware), a source (the tap) and each only having to fill up with minimal issues. Most of the liquids generally had the same settings except for the Cosmo which had a slightly thicker liquid and the Gin & Tonic which required a physics simulation for the ice cubes and lime slice. The physics simulations allowed the ice cubes to interact with the liquid realistically. Foam was also created to further the realism of the beer and espresso martini which is controlled by the liquid simulator.

The liquids required some unique materials to further push the realism boundary. For example, the Cosmo is almost completely translucent that is affected in terms of opacity, based on the volume of the liquid (eg more liquid means less see-through and a darker pink colour, a smaller amount of liquid appears as more see-through with a lighter tint of pink).

Observations of real world liquid and interactions allowed us to push the realism of the final piece.

Lights, Camera, Render!

Now that everything has been designed, modeled and textured, now it is time to add the finishing touches!

Lighting plays an important role in any 3D project. Just like in movies, lighting helps to highlight specific objects, create drama and help make the project look as realistic as possible. To do this I placed specific lights within the scene, controlling the direction and brightness which will later be calculated by the computer in the final step.

An HDRI map is a texture used by 3D artists to help with reflections and lighting throughout the scene. As there are a number of objects which are glass, they need to mimic their reflective properties. The HDRI map is a panoramic photo used as an environment to help with realistic lighting and reflections, especially in scenes that don’t have a full 3D environment. As this is a moving scene, the reflections on the glass items will change depending on their positions relative to the lighting and the HDRI. Completing these final steps really help to make the object ‘pop’.

We are now on to the best (or worst) final step of the process… the rendering. This is when the computer runs a large number of calculations which takes into account lighting, texturing, movement and effects – just like developing a photo! This process takes up a lot of computer processing power, and depending on the 3D model, scene and effects the rendering process can take hours, days or even weeks to complete. If you are lucky, nothing goes wrong throughout this process (eg the blue screen of death) and can you just sit back and wait until the render is complete. This 3D scene took about 120 hours to complete the rendering process due to the massive amount of reflective and refractive surfaces as well as the detail-heavy liquid simulations.

The scene is now complete and Banter’s e-card to share the holiday spirit is in the hands of our clients & suppliers.

If you’re ready to take on a project for your company with animation, we’d love to chat through your ideas and see what we can do.