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Making of Apocalyptic City by Andy Walsh, UK

making of apocalyptic city


This scene was created in 3ds max, rendered using Vray and then composited in Photoshop. While this was made in 3ds max and rendered with Vray, there's nothing unusual about how I used either, so this tutorial will work in any similar software.

Key focal points in making this image were:

  1. Composition.
  2. Lighting (not in terms of complexity as there's just the sun, but more in terms of bringing out the right mood and showing form)
  3. Post production.
  4. Research. I downloaded dozens of pictures of cities, freeways, buildings, ruins etc.

It was also a great challenge to get the vegetation right. I will say at this point that I'm not totally happy with all the vegetation but what is good is that it was totally free, so in that sense you can't get much better than this for your low-budget project. But if you have access to very high quality trees, bushes and ivy then you'll be in great shape.

Step 1: Research

Boy this step is important. I spent a long time looking at photos of buildings, ruined cities such as Chernobyl, digital paintings of ruined cities, matte paintings and so on.

I had several folders for various aspects of the piece. For example I had a folder for composition ideas where I studied good photography that had little to do with ruined cities, although it was primarily urban/city subject matter. I also had a folder where I studied freeways, fly-overs, over-passes and the variously termed elevated roads that cut through cities. Another important area of study was other people's artwork that related to this theme.

Here is a very small example of the sorts of images I collected:


I think it's worth mentioning at this point that as I look over these research images I can see more details that I could perhaps have included in the final image. Again, pay a great deal of attention to your research and reference images and try your best to do them justice.

Step 2 - Making the Buildings

There's a fairly simple technique for modelling buildings which I've used in previous pieces.

I Began by making a flat plane in the top viewport, rotating it 90 degrees so it could be seen in the front viewport. I Then took that plane through the following steps:

  • Turned it into an editable poly.
  • Added an edit mesh modifier.* (see explanation below)
  • I then added a UVW modifier. Make sure the bitmap is correctly proportioned and not stretched.
  • Next I used the 'swiftloop' (within the edit poly modifier) tool with the ‘show end result’ clicked/checked, to slice into the mesh.

* You put an edit mesh modifier between the poly and the UVW modifiers because otherwise, as you push and pull edges around, you’ll see your texture stretch and mess up in your 3d display. Just a random 3ds max glitch/nuance.

I then deleted all the windows and added a shell modifier (to thicken) and then used the symmetry modifier to create 4 duplicate walls (you have to rotate the symmetry gizmo to get it to work, it’s also weird and needs a few tries to get right). Here are my steps…

building animation

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