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Old 27th Jun 2014, 10:50 PM   #1
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Default SciFi - Let's build a futuristic city

The final result of this project is to create a wide shot of a city, looking just over the rooftops. For those who want to follow along and try and duplicate what i'm doing, please go ahead. Alternatively, just watch.

I have created a few cities in the past (here, here and here), but i'm gonna try a slightly different approach this time around. In terms of architectural style i'm drawing inspiration from mass effect, halo, mirror's edge, star trek. Smooth lines, greenery, etc. Finally, the image should be big enough for a 100x3200 print. Lets begin!

Most cities are not square blocks one after the other, at least the interesting ones. They have grown and evolved over decades and centuries. I'm not an architect or a town planner and would not be able to create one that looks organic enough. Google maps to the rescue.

Find an interesting city, zoom in so you can distinguish individual building and take a screenshot.



Now go around the map and take screenshots of the surround area. I took 7 vertically and 3 horizontally. Make sure the zoom level is the same for all images. The next step is to put them together. I used Photoshop to stitch the images together for a final image of 8k x 9k. The image below is not that size, but should give you an idea of what you should have once everything is stitched together.



Point for anyone who can pick which city i'm using as my template. This image would cover about 4km x 5km. The next step is to use it in a 3d application to create preliminary models. Stay tuned.
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Old 28th Jun 2014, 01:06 AM   #2
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Now to create a polygon that matches the map size (in my case 4820m x 5720m). At this scale it doesn't matter if it's off by up to 100m. Make a UV from the poly and apply the map as a texture. The textured polygon can then be rotated to make the buildings match x and z planes, which makes the next step a lot easier.

Now to define building positions. Single rectangular polygons will do. Just draw them above the map polygon on top of where any buildings are visible. They don't have to be exactly to size.



This will have to be done for all buildings.

Stay tuned.
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Old 28th Jun 2014, 06:25 AM   #3
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OK, the majority of building templates are finished. Only a few more here and there. Once they are done, its time to define the roads.



It will become more apparent further down the track as to why.
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Old 28th Jun 2014, 09:52 AM   #4
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An interesting project. It will be fun to watch this develop.
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Old 28th Jun 2014, 04:12 PM   #5
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Clever! So you take the real-world layout of the city and tweak to suit your vision?
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Old 28th Jun 2014, 10:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sastrei View Post
Clever! So you take the real-world layout of the city and tweak to suit your vision?
Almost right Sastrei. The layout stays mostly unchanged. It's the buildings that will be built from scratch and will have very little to do with their real world counterparts, except the size and footprint.
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Old 29th Jun 2014, 02:37 PM   #7
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Great thread, and cool idea for a project. You've got some kickass work on your site. I like the previous cities you did, and the Normandy image. Great job.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:59 AM   #8
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The template is fished.



Lets break it down:
Red buildings
Blue roads
Yellow train lines
Everything else is vegetation. This is the ground layer.

I also put a label on to show where the camera will be positioned.

For those of you playing at home let me explain what comes a few steps after this. The plan is to punch holes in the ground layer with a boolean/slice tool and generate the vegetation on the polygon using an instancing tool.

But that part comes later. For the moment though its time to setup a preliminary scene to work out the camera angle and light position.

Stay tuned...
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 09:18 AM   #9
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interesting. looking forward to seeing how this progresses
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Old 3rd Jul 2014, 08:17 AM   #10
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OK, time to build the first scene. The first thing is to gauge the height of the buildings. I know that taller ones are 22 floors and the smaller ones are 5. Here are my height calculations:

1.5m off the ground for the first floor.
3.5m for each floor. This provides nice high ceilings and some space for the dividing slabs.
3.5m for the roof space.
This makes my buildings between 22 and 80 meters tall.

Not all the buildings are the same height. 80-22=58 meters in variance. I'm using a simple bevel tool. The bevel value is the average of the height ((80+22)/2=51) with a +/- value of 29, which is half the variance.

Once the model is ready, lets send it to layout and render:



I used a free HDRI sky image and a distant light matched to the sun position as the light solution. The camera is a cylindrical panoramic cam with a 135x145 degree angle. The reason i'm going for a panoramic cam is i don't want all my buildings to "lean" due to the curvature of the camera lens, but be completely vertical. I'll explain why later. If anyone has any good suggestions with regards to camera settings, i would like to hear them.

This may not be the final camera setting/position as the buildings will change, but i'm happy with it as a first step.

And what futuristic city is without massive towers here and there. The ones in the background are just beveled polys and the one in the foreground is a leftover from a my last city project, which, unfortunately, was unsuccessful.

Stay tuned...
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Old 4th Jul 2014, 12:16 AM   #11
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At this point i want to explain why i'm using a panoramic camera.
The final render will be between 28000 and 36000 pixels wide for a 3.2 meter print. An image that size would be a pain to hang on a wall (not to mention transport), so the idea is to split it into 8 vertical pieces like so:



The final pieces can then be split and hung on different walls if desired. A panoramic camera allows all the buildings to be vertical and match the edges of the pieces.

It now seems I'll have to move the foreground tower to not take up one region completely, but split over two.

And now begins the grind work. Time to actually model the buildings, vehicles, people, etc. Stay tuned...
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Old 4th Jul 2014, 04:59 AM   #12
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I will try to learn from this for my B5 interior model. Thought, it will be a bit more tricky because it is on the inner surface of a cylinder. ^^
But this will help me a lot!

Very interesting!
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Old 4th Jul 2014, 07:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amras View Post
I will try to learn from this for my B5 interior model. Thought, it will be a bit more tricky because it is on the inner surface of a cylinder. ^^
But this will help me a lot!

Very interesting!
Hey Amras. B5 remains in my top five favourite tv shows even after all these years, so i'm keen to see what you come up with. If you plan to use this technique, a simple bend operation should do it. You may wish to bevel the buildings after the bend operation, so they are rectangular top to bottom, or else the tops will be slightly tapered. Here is something i threw together in 15 minutes:



If you are going high res, you may have to position the buildings manually as i will be doing. More work, but the the effect will be so much better.
Also, have a look at Alexander Preuss's image Return to Abalakin (www.abalakin.de or google the image name) for inspiration. I think he even released a tutorial a while back.
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 05:36 AM   #14
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The first two buildings of many are ready.



Both are quite different in terms of design, but i think i will use both.

Stay tuned...
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 09:36 AM   #15
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An interesting project you've got going here. I like what I see so far, especially that right hand building.
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 10:11 AM   #16
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I think its time to rethink my design process a little bit. Cities aren't built one building at a time, but rather by a block or two. Each block would be similar to a suburb. Living areas, some infrastructure, school, shopping, entertainment. And each block would have buildings of the same style. The idea is to develop five or six styles with as many distinct building designs in each one and add a couple of "randoms" here and there as older, legacy buildings.
The building on the right in the above image (modeled after some halo concept art) is a good candidate for a style, while the one on the left would be a "random". I hereby throw the floor open to style ideas and suggestions.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 02:10 AM   #17
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One more building complete.





I used a similar style to the "halo" tower and made this model asymmetrical. This will allow me to reuse it more efficiently. A turn of 90, 180 or 270 degrees and presto! A different looking building.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 04:02 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avstral2 View Post
Hey Amras. B5 remains in my top five favourite tv shows even after all these years, so i'm keen to see what you come up with. If you plan to use this technique, a simple bend operation should do it. You may wish to bevel the buildings after the bend operation, so they are rectangular top to bottom, or else the tops will be slightly tapered. Here is something i threw together in 15 minutes:



If you are going high res, you may have to position the buildings manually as i will be doing. More work, but the the effect will be so much better.
Also, have a look at Alexander Preuss's image Return to Abalakin (www.abalakin.de or google the image name) for inspiration. I think he even released a tutorial a while back.
The part with the bending is exactly what I have planned to do. But as you said, the tops of the buildings are a bit tapered after that.
As you can see I started already with a flat surface.^^

On the other hand, if you think of it, it does make sense to build them that way for the right direction of gravitation inside the building. So I don't see a problem with that.^^

Another way to place them is with the clone tools fo C4D. I did try it with the trees. And I think i can use a texture for the placement too.


Well I have to make more building first...^^

Thanks for the link!
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 06:18 AM   #19
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Two more buildings done. I notice i'm moving away from the halo style. The next ones should be more in line, but these two will do a good job to break things up, so it doesnt look too similar.

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Old 6th Jul 2014, 06:33 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amras View Post
The part with the bending is exactly what I have planned to do. But as you said, the tops of the buildings are a bit tapered after that.
As you can see I started already with a flat surface.^^

On the other hand, if you think of it, it does make sense to build them that way for the right direction of gravitation inside the building. So I don't see a problem with that.^^

Another way to place them is with the clone tools fo C4D. I did try it with the trees. And I think i can use a texture for the placement too.

Well I have to make more building first...^^

Thanks for the link!
Artist's choice. It depends on the radius of the cylinder (I should know how big the inside of the station is... must be getting old) and the size of the buildings. I would guess the radius is between 250 and 400. If a building has a large footprint, you would still have to bend it match the cylinder circumference, otherwise it would cut through on the outer ends. With regards to height, from memory the B5 buildings are not very tall (significant gravity changes between the floors), so the tapering effect would be negligible.

Come to think of it, i would also go with the bend method. You still get the tapering effect, but the projection lines would meet in the center and it would be hardly visible, especially considering that you have a horizon that folds in on itself, which is trippy and vertigo inducing something chronic. I would be too busy trying desperately not to power chuck to pay attention to the fact that the walls aren't entirely parallel.

Anyway, i would try both methods with low poly buildings and see which one looks better. I'm keen to see how this turns out.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 10:21 AM   #21
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Actuallly, I was thinking maybe make them in long sections, then turn them to make a complete circle... that way you dont have distortion...
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Old 7th Jul 2014, 05:28 AM   #22
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One more. This one is modular and scales vertically quite well. Just select a part and move up. Or down...



Stay tuned...
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Old 10th Jul 2014, 04:41 AM   #23
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Another two. Well, one and a half.
It's the same building, just moved down down a few dozen meters, but looks different enough not to notice.



Stay tuned...
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 11:14 PM   #24
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A few more.
I had to remove the older buildings for this render



Stay tuned...
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Old 13th Jul 2014, 09:43 AM   #25
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pretty cool looking buildings..

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Old 18th Jul 2014, 06:35 AM   #26
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Another building update!



It's becoming more and more difficult to make rectangles that look different.
Stay tuned...
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Old 18th Jul 2014, 08:27 AM   #27
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These all look great. Loving your process.

On the last pic, the building at the front in the centre. What are the black triangles at the top of the diagonal beams. They look like errors, but not sure.
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Old 18th Jul 2014, 10:59 AM   #28
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Quote:
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These all look great. Loving your process.

On the last pic, the building at the front in the centre. What are the black triangles at the top of the diagonal beams. They look like errors, but not sure.
ooppssyyy..

looking good they are

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Old 18th Jul 2014, 10:46 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon Robb View Post
These all look great. Loving your process.

On the last pic, the building at the front in the centre. What are the black triangles at the top of the diagonal beams. They look like errors, but not sure.
Oops. Rogue geometry. The insides are just smooth shifted polys with a different texture. I clean it up, but these got through. Fixed now. I also changed the glass material color and applied a different texture to the concrete just to see what it looks like. Though I'm not sure about it, I might use it on different building sets.

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Old 19th Jul 2014, 02:54 AM   #30
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More. Same building with elements moved up and sideways to create a taller version.



Stay tuned...
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