Hello everybody, my name is Luis E. Nieves. I am a digital artist currently working as Technical Director at Lightstream Animation Studios and based in Northern California. I would like to share some tips of my workflow through this making of the Ford GT-40 in Vegas. I will cover several aspects of hard surface polygonal modeling, lighting, texturing and rendering. This project was done using Autodesk Maya, Mental Ray and Adobe After Effects.
I wanted to push myself on how far I could go, so I decided to build a piece capable to make an art statement; I didn't want to feel that it was just another 3D model. Being an automobile nut, I, like some of you, have had the idea of building a car from the first to the last bolt. I find out that for this task a good set of blueprints is never enough. I spent around a week collecting photographs before the beginning of the modeling process, and I was still collecting references at the end of the texturing and rendering steps. My first advice to you will be, if you are trying to make a model above average, start with planes, boats or cars that had been restored. You will easily find part catalogues, illustrations, schemes and diagrams of objects with historic meaning. I made a quick selection of some of the GT-40 pictures I found during my research.
I usually try as much as possible to start from spline cages. It comes very handy to have a tridimensional blueprint of your model; it will guide you making decisions about size, position, and where your components should be organized, even before you model the shell. Later on, you can use the spline curves to loft panels that will be the base mesh of your car body. Once I had my cage done, I started modeling the chassis using photo references.
The next step was modeling all the components that have direct relationship with the chassis. I always started creating primitives to establish rotation and proportions, and then I went in detail using pictures. Here once more I used techniques like nurbs revolves, lofts and extrusions than later on turned into polygons. Finally, I used lattice and nonlinear deformers to achieve the desired shapes. After I finished all the components, I moved to the interior. As you notice, at this point I already started a rough lighting & rendering process. It is a good idea to shade with a high specularity material, so your mistakes show up and all the annoying bumps and pinches are easier to identify and clean.