All posts tagged: automotive
audi R8 3d model maya
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Remember that 3d model of an Audi R8 that I started building in Maya two years ago? Don’t worry, I hardly remember many of the details myself (lol) but I’m happy to report that I’ve revived it from the dead and managed to get it wrapped up. The entire project started as a way for me to dive head first into the world of 3d modeling in Maya, and it even though I bailed on it early on I’ve still considered it a successful exercise. First of all, the work that I put into it way back then was the perfect introduction polygonal modeling and I was able to put the project aside feeling like I had a gained a very solid understanding of what it takes to build complex surfaces in Maya. I wasn’t an expert at that point (heck, I don’t even consider myself an expert now) but the knowledge I gained from that short stint of automotive modeling allowed me to jump into other Maya projects with ease.

But you know me – I feel uneasy when my pile of unfinished projects start backing up and I couldn’t resist the urge to pull this R8 out of my archives and finish what I started two years ago. The biggest reason for wanting to finish, I think, was the fact that cars are my biggest passion in life and I’ve always wanted to get into automotive design and modeling. And I’ve never built a complete 3d model of a car. So yeah – I just had to finish this, if only to say that I’ve built a car in 3d.

So, if you recall, here is where I left off in August of 2014:

Audi R8 3d wireframe

Audi R8 3d wireframe in progress

Audi R8 3d wireframe

Front 3/4 view

And here is the completed 3d model:

audi R8 3d model maya

Completed Audi R8 3d model in all white. Don’t look at it too closely…there are a ton of embarrassing panel gaps that would make a 1975 Lincoln look good in comparison!

Wireframe over the 3d model

Wireframe over the 3d model

audi r8 3d model wireframe

This is definitely not low-poly. I chose to model the tires instead of using texture maps, so that added a lot of complexity to this project.

audi R8 wireframe 3d model

One of my biggest mistakes was not taking the time to be sure that the polygon flow matched from panel to panel (compare the doors to the front and rear quarter panels). This resulted in a lot of messy transitions and weird panel gaps.

audi R8 wireframe 3d model

It may look decent at first glance, but there a ton of newbie mistakes here. Oh well – all I can do is to apply what I’ve learned to my next automotive 3d model!

Is it perfect? Absolutely not! The surfaces of the Audi R8 are generally simple and not overly complex, but there were a few sections that I really struggled with. The taillight area is a total disaster and not anywhere near accurate. Same goes for the headlights – no matter how many vertices I pushed and pulled, I just couldn’t get it to look smooth and accurate. This entire model is what I consider to be a “10-footer”, meaning that it looks okay from a distance of 10 feet or so, but things get gnarly when viewed up close.

Even though it’s quite rough around the edges and very amateurish in spots, it’s a relief to have it wrapped up and close enough to call “done”. Many of the flaws were from errors I made very early on in the modeling process that wouldn’t be able to be rectified without starting over from scratch. Could I have fixed many of the problem areas? You bet. But it would have taken a lot of time to do – time which I would rather spend working on my next automotive model instead of trying to polish this turd.

BMW M logo with engine pistons
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Some of you guys might already know that cars and airplanes are two of my biggest passions in life, and if I didn’t have to worry about being practical and trying to make a living I would probably spend my days just drawing airplanes and cars just like I did when I was a little boy. A 30-second stroll though my airliner art gallery exposes my obsession with airplanes pretty clearly, but I don’t have very much automotive art to display here on my blog (yet). Of course there are the Lamborghini, Ferrari, and BMW logos – but those are just examples of 3d logo art that isn’t much different than the other 3d renderings I’ve been doing in my professional day job for years.

My ultimate goal is to be a master at hand-drawn car illustrations. It’s something I’ve been working on privately in my spare time, and I’ll start revealing that work here when the time is right. I don’t feel like any of my car sketches are worthy of posting here at the moment, so that means that I’m relegated to continuing with the 3d logo stuff until I become the automotive artist that I want to be.

And that leads me to my latest set of automotive-based 3d renderings: the BMW “M” logo. For those of you who don’t follow the car scene, BMW designates performance versions of it’s cars as M models (M3, M4, M5, etc). And just so you know, I’m an M3 kind of guy myself. As a matter of fact, I’m doing everything within my power to refrain from browsing for old e36 M3’s on Craigslist. I want one as a project car really bad, never mind the fact that I don’t currently have extra garage space (nor the mechanical know-how to keep an older car like this running smoothly).

The need to scratch that M3 itch is what led to this set of 3d BMW M logos. I didn’t have the time to create a full set of renderings, but since it’s a simple enough logo to begin with, I thought it would be fun to model it up and arrange it with a few performance-related objects. This is what I came up with:

BMW M logo with wrench and screwdriver

BMW M Tuning

BMW M logo with precision calipers

BMW M Precision

BMW M logo 3d addiction

BMW M Addiction

So, I’ll bet you’re dying to know if this little project satisfied my craving for that M3. The answer is a big fat “NO”, and I think this actually might have backfired on me. I’ve already been to Craigslist twice today eyeing a nice little 1999 white coupe with low miles and need for a good home. If it wasn’t tax season and we weren’t in the middle of some major home renovations right now, I’m not sure I’d be able to resist…

mercedes 300sl line art
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I was a car-drawing machine when I was 10 years old, and by the time I turned 18 I was getting pretty good at it – as a matter of fact, I even started college with the intention of becoming a car designer. My freshman year was all about cars, but I found the work that the product design students were doing to be really interesting – enough so that it ultimately persuaded me to change focus. Despite that change, my passion for cars has never fizzled over the years.

In mid 2011, I set a personal goal to get back to drawing cars (by hand) as much as possible. Automotive art can be a beautiful thing with varied pencil strokes, subtle gradients, and hard reflections – none of which can be captured so artistically in a computer-generated 3d rendering. It had been years since I had put pen to paper and actually created art, so the desire was strong to get back to the basics and learn how to draw all over again.

The good news is that I’ve been sticking with it, drawing and sketching cars between meetings and late at night. I’m still not anywhere as good as I want to be – but I’m pushing on knowing that it’s going to take years to master. In the meantime, I’ve decided to start posting some of this automotive art here on the blog.

First up is a vector line drawing of a Mercedes Benz 300sl – one of the most beautifully designed cars ever IMHO. Deciding to draw this out was a bit of a spontaneous thing, as I was just browsing a car forum one night and I saw that someone had posted a picture of this beautiful Mercedes. I just had to draw it!

Creating the line work for my car illustrations is actually the easy part for me. I start by sketching it out by hand (using SketchBook Pro), export it to Illustrator to do the vector line work, and then I bring that into Photoshop to render it. It’s the rendering part that I feel like I still suck at.

It ended up being a lot more sloppy than I would have preferred, but the only way I’m going to get better is to keep practicing. If you want the vector source file for the line drawing posted at the top of this post, you can get it by clicking here.

Audi R8 3d wireframe
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Now that I’ve made the decision to migrate my 3d workflow to Maya, I feel like I’ve totally given up my “pro” status and reverted way back to newbie mode. You know…that awkward (and sometimes painful) stage where it takes far too long to accomplish seemingly simple tasks and nothing seems to be getting done. It’s a frustrating place to be considering how many project ideas I have floating around in my head, and learning a complex new 3d modeling package is putting a serious damper on my output.

Ive been busting my you-know-what over the past several months, and I’m not going to lie that I’m a bit irritated that I don’t really have anything to show for it other than a couple shiny renderings (that I can’t sell as stock) and a bunch of new data about Maya stored in my brain. I’m used to producing content at a high volume, so this is kind of a big change of pace for me. I know that I’ll be better off in the long run though, so slowing down a bit and learning Maya is not something I regret doing at all.

Building my first car

I’m currently up to my eyeballs with my second Maya project: a 2008 Audi R8. I admit that seems like a rather lofty goal for a Maya newbie, but I’m a 3d expert…right? Yes, I’m being sarcastic. While I do have years of 3d modeling experience behind me, nearly of all that has been with FormZ using solids-based modeling methods. The car I’m building in Maya is being constructed entirely with polygons – which is a completely different way of constructing objects. That means that I’m basically starting my 3d education over from scratch and there’s not much I can leverage from all my years of previous modeling experience. Sounds fun, right?

You have no idea. I’m currently about half way done with this car so far, and on two separate occasions over the past week I’ve come very close to giving up and forgetting about this project forever. I’ve been pushing and pulling vertices for weeks now, and it’s so intense that I actually dream about it at night (and these aren’t pleasant dreams). One step forward, two steps back – that’s the way it goes for a beginner to polygonal modeling.

Audi R8 wireframe I'm currently building

Front view of the Audi R8 wireframe I’m currently building

As frustrating as it’s been, I’m also having a lot of fun. Modeling with polygons in Maya has really opened up my eyes in terms of realizing what’s possible with 3d content, so I thought it would be fun to list out some of the things I’ve learned since starting to build this car:

1). Polygonal (subdivision) modeling is very forgiving

I know this isn’t a Maya-specific thing, but coming from a solids-based modeling background, I’m blown away at how forgiving modeling with polygons can be. With a solid object, the geometry essentially had to be perfect to achieve nice bevels and proper transformations – and many times those transformations simply weren’t possible. But with polygons, I can push and pull, merge and cut, extrude, and tweak forever to achieve the shape I want.

2). Tweaking forever can be a bad thing

Compared to FormZ, there is a control or adjustment in Maya for everything. And I do mean everything. That level and control and adjustment gets the designer in me very excited, but I find that the more I mess with stuff, the more I screw things up. This is especially bad when sculpting something very organic like the surface of a car. It takes a long time to get the surfaces and forms right, and I’ve ruined hours of work on my R8 trying to fine tune things after I was already satisfied with a complex panel. It’s tempting not to touch all those buttons and sliders in the control dialogs – and I’m learning to realize that less is more with complex models such as this.

3). A highly glossy and reflective 3d rendering can hide a lot of mistakes in the mesh

This is something I already knew, but Maya takes it to a whole new level. Mental Ray (the built in rendering engine) is really good at producing really juicy images without much effort. That’s a good thing, because I’ve quickly discovered that building a clean mesh is a delicate art, and I’m pretty darn far from being delicate. However, I’ve come to discover that if the end goal is just a pretty rendering or quick fly-by animation, a blingy Mental Ray rendering with some nice HDR lighting will draw attention away from the imperfections.

4). Rendering in Maya takes forever (or so it seems)

Generating quick renders to preview my progress on a 3d model has been part of my workflow for years, and in FormZ I could just quickly rip off small 320×240 production-quality renderings in a matter of seconds to check out surfaces and lighting. It’s not quite that fast in Maya – and to make matters worse, rendering completely locks up my stout Mac Pro until it’s totally complete. As a guy who likes to multi-task, this is borderline unacceptable. I can easily let a FormZ render run in the background while I work on other things, so this is a hard change for me to accept. Someone did tell me the other day that it’s possible to limit the rendering process to certain cores of my Mac’s processor which would alleviate that problem – so that’s something I’m definitely going to look into.

5). I’m not as good as I thought I was

Jumping over to Maya has been challenging enough, but trying to build a detailed car has taken it up another notch. I’m nearly in over my head here, and I hate the feeling of not being able to do what I want to do in a timely manner. This is my first truly organic 3d model, and to say I’m flailing at times is an understatement. I know I’m learning though, so I will continue to push on…

Anyway, I’m sure that I’m going to be learning a lot more as I work to complete this car, and I’m getting pretty anxious to wrap it up. I’m not rushing it though – this car will likely just be a part of my portfolio and nothing more, so it’s not like I’m under a tight deadline to get it done or anything. The wireframe previews I posted above show it in it’s current state, which is the result of about two weeks worth of work (about 2 to 3 hours each day). I figure it’s going to take another 2-3 weeks to finish completely, and at that point I’ll post some pictures here to show it off. I’m crossing my fingers that it comes together ok, so stay tuned.