The Finer Details

Now that we've got the majority of the scene laid out, it's time to start adding in the little details. This is the most important part of creating a believable scene I feel. The details are what add interest to the scene and with them, you can tell a story. Take a look at what we've got so far. It might be instantly recognizable as a basement/unfinished room, but so what? It's boring, it's too clean. There's no focus to the scene, nothing to interest the viewer. Our job right now is to create that interest, to give the viewer a reason to keep looking at the image.

We'll start off with some of the more necessary details right now, like lights, receptacles, wiring, etc. I'll start off with placing in a couple of receptacle boxes. For electrical outlets the Canadian building code requires that they be 16" off the floor, so that's where I'll place them. If I were going for a perfect looking I'd properly measure the placement of the boxes, but I'm going for a more rundown look so I just place them were it looks right. It may even look better if they aren't all even.

Modeling the receptacles:

The receptacle box is about 2" wide, 3.5" high and 2.5" deep. The box, along with the receptacle has many intricate shapes in them and would take quite some time to fully model. If you look at any of the above renders, you'll see the hole cut in the drywall is very small compared to the rest of the scene. Using these images as reference I simply drew the shapes out and extruded them.

The reference:

The render:

With the receptacles in place we can continue on and add in the wiring. Homes are usually wired using 14-gauge wire. This stuff is pretty rigid, so if you bend it into position it will stay that way. This means that if there's any slack in the wire, you're more likely going to have to fold it up, rather than letting it hang down with gravity. To create the wire I first drew a spline where want the wire to go. Wire like this is normally stapled to the studs to have as little of it hanging freely as possibly. This is to prevent something going through the wall and cutting the wire. The wires are actually run through holes drilled into the studs.

The reference:

This is how my wiring turned out:

The lights I modeled for this scene are very basic. Since I don't plan on having any of them actually emit light I didn't want to draw attention to them. Only one of the three is intact. One is pulled out of its box, and one is just missing. These are just standard "pot lights". They're designed to be placed up in the ceiling with the glass surface being flush with the drywall. The lights and boxes are all made with splines. For the box, I created a rectangle spline and attached a circle inside, then just extruded. The lights themselves are just a lathed shape.

The Lights:

Now that the basics of a room are in place, it's time to start filling it up with junk. To keep up with the idea that this place was under construction before being abandoned, I'm going to add a stack of 2"x4"s and some more insulation. You've already made these before, so there's no need to go over that. Just keep in mind that anything on the floor must be touching it, otherwise it'll look like it's floating. To make this easier, I always use 0.0 on the Y Axis as the height of my floor. One thing I can't stress enough. Make sure that none of this junk is parallel to a wall unless it's touching it, if nothing else rotate all the junk on the floor just slightly. It's not natural for chairs or boxes or piles of wood to be parallel to the walls unless it's up against them or you're some chronic neat freak with too much time on their hands. We want to create a believable scene and part of making a scene believable is how natural it feels, so when filling a scene, rotate everything around a bit. Space things out so they aren't even. Knock stuff over. Obviously if you go too crazy with things it won't look right, but if you don't do it at all, things will look too CG. You need to find the right balance between chaos and order for your scene, and that will all depend on the subject matter.

More insulation added:

What's a dirty old basement without a dirty old couch, complete with missing feet and held up by a couple books? This is actually the first thing I've box-modeled in the entire scene, which is kind of a stretch for me. Usually I box model everything. The couch is pretty straight-forward. The cushions are boxes with a few new edges so that I could bend the cushions the Meshsmooth modifier was applied. I've included a wireframe of the couch before adding meshsmooth so that you can see how simple it is. To further simplify the modeling of the couch, each piece is a separate object. I originally started making the arms, base and back from one box but realized I was wasting my time, considering how big the couch will be in the final image.

The couch:


The next item I wanted to add was the upside-down milk crate that the TV would be resting on. This turned out to be a lot more difficult than I had first thought. I think I spent almost 3 hours messing around with this thing before I finally got the splines to work properly. Personally I think that box-modelling this thing would be a nightmare, so I decided to trace this out using splines and then just extruded the result. Easier said than done. I'm going to post a shot of the final spline I had before extruding. It was traced from a photo of a milk crate, but even still, it ended up being a confusing mixture of spline booleans. I had to clone certain pieces of the spline several times as it would keep getting used up with each boolean operation. I could create a full-length tutorial on the creation of the milk crate alone, it took so long. Here's a basic rundown of what I did though. Drew out one side of the crate with splines, then extruded. Next, I copied this piece 4 times and placed them to make up the sides of the box. The bottom is another spline extrusion. This one was much easier though, as it was just a grid of squares.

Milk Crate:


The tv was a very quick model for this scene. It's made from a Box (the casing) a flattened sphere (the screen) and two modified cylinders (the rabbit ears). All very straight-forward stuff by now.


The last of the items I want to add to the floor is an empty case of beer, and beer bottles scattered all over the floor. The case is going to be half hidden by the couch in the back so it doesn't need to be that detailed at all. I started with a Chamferbox and detached (not delete, detached) the top faces. This gives us the basic box shape with rounded edges and the top half of the box that we can cut apart into the two flaps. Take this top piece and cut it down the middle and detach one side. This gives you the two flaps and a basic box. We need to cut in some hand holes on the box so take the side face and create some new edges where you'd like the hole to be. Personally I use Edge Loop and Edge Ring to create new rows of edges. Some people choose Cut and Slice others use Slice planes. They all do the same thing; it's just a personal preference. When you have the shape of the hole drawn out, just delete the face. So now we've got a box, but there's a problem. There are no inside faces. This can be fixed in a couple of ways. You can add a Two-Sided material, but this won't give the box any thickness. The other option is to use the Solidify (MAX 5) or Shell (MAX 6-7) modifiers. These modifiers are meant for giving thickness to objects that have open faces like this box. It also has options for adding material ID's to the new faces it creates.

The finished box:

I just wanted to explain the advantages to using Solidify/Shell rather than just modeling the thickness of the box. By using Solidify I'm only dealing with one set of faces. By modeling the thickness you now have to deal with inside faces and if you cut in any holes, you need to make sure that you connect all the gaps that the cut leaves. Solidify and Shell does this for you. These modifiers also have a great advantage when working with cloth, but I'll save that for another tutorial.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, you can't have an empty case of beer without having empty bottles, so it's time to model them up. Like the ceiling lights, the bottles are simple lofts. I've included a shot of the spline profile I used for lofting my bottles

The bottles:

This completes the modeling side of the tutorial. As you can see, the modeling has been fairly simply so far. Nothing too challenging (except for the milk crate ;). After positioning these items around the room you should already have a convincing scene. What will really make this scene come alive though is the texturing and lighting. I tend to model as much detail as possible in order to make the texturing process much easier for me. The more you model, the less you have to add in with textures; that being said there's just some things that have to be textured. So lets carry on to Page 3 and start the texturing.

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2004-2006 All content created and owned by Mike Lambert, unless otherwise specified. Do not sell, use or re-distribute without express written permission.