One of One: One a Day

Hello all! Missed us? We’ve been absent trying to rejig and rethink some things regarding our brand/identity (whatever that means), which has put us in a state of postlessness for the last week, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been hard at work (honest!). I’ve been cracking on with some more city building and have some stuff I’d like to show you. 

Our city has come a long way from being just a drawing on a scrap of paper, and I’m glad to say it’s looking better every day; we now have a good set of buildings, a gurt-lush crater, and even some roads! I’m still working on decorating the hole a bit, but today I’ve been looking at actually populating the scene with all those buildings I’ve modelled. So, how do we do this in a sensible way? The obvious method would be to duplicate and place each individual building down to make some kind of city-like formation, but the problem is I don’t really want Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, and I’d like to go outside at least once this week. The answer, then? Why, hair of course!

Let me explain. Particles are a very efficient way of distributing multiple sprites (whether they be meshes, images or otherwise) across a plane or object. This is often used to create hair, ash, rain, or pretty much anything you want repeated. Blender has a nice little tool to create particle effects, and one that specifically allows for hair simulation. Perhaps a little strangely, this also works very well for buildings. (as you can see in this very nice tutorial from the Blender Guru himself, Andrew Price)

We can define our buildings as a group to protrude from every vertex along a given mesh. This creates a huge block of buildings, which is great, but we need gaps to fit in roads and pavement. Defining these is as easy as deleting a row of vertices though, so no big deal, and this even lets us cut a hole in the mesh to fit our crater in. in it’s rawest form, this effect produces something like the image below.

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Now, as is nearly always the case with things like this, the solution to this problem has highlighted some other areas I need to focus on. Namely;

Building Variation; Although I’ve created a pretty large variety of models, to an eye paying any kind of attention to the scene, some repetition jumps out at you fairly suddenly. The square/rectangular buildings do well to blend in with the others, but it’s the more whacky numbers that spoil the scene. There are various solutions to this; I’ll probably use a combination of;

– Creating a few more square buildings

– Decreasing the number of ‘odd’ looking buildings in the defined group, by duplicating the existing square buildings to generate a more square-biased ratio.

– Using the ‘Odd’ looking buildings as unique, standout pieces of architecture; grouping them in a single area and scaling them up a tad (a la New York, London, or pretty much any city with skyscrapers)

– Creating the illusion of variation via rotation, scale, and the addition of duplicate buildings with varying colour correction.

2. It all seems a bit flat; Yeah, I guess cities in the US do find themselves on flat land, and I have taken a lot of inspiration from the US idea of a ‘city’ (high-rises, skyscrapers and whatnot), but I come from England where everything’s a bit more shit and disorganised. We have hills, god damnit! Our buildings follow the contours of the earth, like the universe intended! WE LOVE TO SUFFER THE HARSH REALITIES OF A BUMPY TERRAIN! So, I plan to use a lovely little add-on (a landscape generator) which should allow us to place buildings on an ever so slight, fairly random and natural-looking gradient. This should (I think) add a little realism. It also helps with the next issue on the list, too! (which is…)

3. The horizon; You can’t see it from the picture above, but the horizon line is rather sharp and unpleasant to look at. No horizon is a perfectly straight line, unless you’re looking at the sea, so I need to figure out a way of dealing with that.

Part of the solution is almost definitely using the method mentioned above; the landscape generator. It makes sense if hills get in the way of your eyeline, it’s what you expect from a view, isn’t it? The second is the use of atmospheric perspective; The further away something is, the less saturated it is, and a huge view will often end in a hazy white mist. This should help make the horizon feel a little more natural, but it’ll also emulate scale, which is something we definitely want going on if the city is to be believed.

The third part is probably cloud cover as well as a bit of mist. I think this will not only help to ease the eye off as it reaches the horizon-line, but should also add to the atmosphere. I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of creepy-ass smog to go with their post-apocalyptic cityscape? Sissies, that’s who. To do this I’ll be sculpting some fluffy-looking geometry, throw in a displacement modifier and a subdivision surface to add detail and smooth it, and then use a volume scatter node as a material. Here’s a test I did with a teacup and a cloud:

Model

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 18.06.43

Rendered (but not yet complete)

0001

And here’s a 1st draft of the city’s version.

Looks a bit like it’s covered in whipped cream, in object mode.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 18.04.42

But a lot more cloud-like when rendered, if a little obnoxious and overpowering. Also noticing some strange artefacts here and there, so need to sort them out. 

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With all that in place, I think the city will look that little more believable.

Anyway, that’s probably enough for one day; Hope this has been helpful to some of you, and if ever you find the time, let me know what you think of the city so far! Make sure to like, share and subscribe, too, because we need all the reassurance we can get… 

Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more articles!

Lots of Love,

Henry

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