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Blackberry Panacotta – Maya: Vray

Food is something I’ve wanted to render for a while. It seemed like a good rendering challenge given how familiar people are with the look of food. When I think of what really sells an object in a scene as “real” it’s the surface detail. I could have used displacement textures to refine the surface detail, but in this case I modeled the surface detail. I find modeling almost always gives a faster rendering result. Displacement takes a long time to calculate and on top of that you’re going to need a large resolution displacement material to get good results again adding to the render times.
Blackberry Panacotta Render in VRay

Even with a model that’s a quarter of a million polygons its still faster to render the result. The base shape of the panacotta was made in Maya to scale in cm then brought into ZBrush. In ZBrush I added some generic noise as a base using ‘surface noise’. I then went in with the ‘Dam standard’ brush and added some extra pitting to the surface. Finally I went over some of the edges with the ‘Trim dynamic’ brush to give the appearance of scraping or tearing where the dessert would have contacted the mold as it was popped out.


To create the blackberries I started in Maya. I made a bunch of polygon spheres and placed them in the basic shape with an interior shape that filled the gaps in between the spheres. This was then brought into Zbrush as an OBJ. Quickly after turning the mesh into a Dynamesh I used the ‘Nanomesh’ feature to drag hairs out of the berries faces.

Originally I had planned to create a fluid simulation for the sauce, but time did not permit. I instead drew a mask over the surface of the panacotta in ZBrush. I then used the ‘Extract‘ option to create a copy of the masked area. This was then sculpted into the sauce that lays over the dessert. The sauces on the plate were simple polygons modeled in Maya.


An unexpected challenge to this piece was the colour correction. From one device to the next the colour would vary quite a bit. With furniture and objects this isn’t as much of a problem as with food. The colour being too saturated can leave the food looking unappealing, too bright and it looks fake. In the end I tried to achieve a good balance between the two given the devices the final image was to be viewed on.

Below is a shot of my VRay passes from Maya. Nothing too crazy going on here. I should mention that this is the first time I’ve used ‘Raw’ passes in VRay. Specifically ‘Raw Global Illumination’ and ‘Raw Lighting’. I’m happy with the result. The compositing of those nodes varies slightly from traditional passes. They are merged with the ‘Diffuse pass’ using a ‘Merge’ node set to ‘Multiply’ rather than simply merging all the passes atop each other with Merge nodes set to ‘Plus’.
Panacotta Render Passes

Snowy Turn Table Final

Another day and another piece done :) I had a great time putting together this snowy turn table and trying out all sorts of different methods in ZBrush for creating snowy surfaces. For some extra fun I even threw in some “Matinee” animations using Unreal’s animation system.

The snow covered assets in the scene use what is basically a layered material to map the snow, ice, and base materials over their surface. This is done through using the “Lerp” node in the material editor. If you’ve ever tried to create a layered material in Mental Ray you will appreciate what the lerp node does. Using an 8 bit (gray scale) map the Lerp node transitions values. Think of it like a mask. You can use a bunch of these Lerp nodes in a single material to create a layered shader. There are other ways of getting more than one material on an asset in the UDK though.

When exporting your assets as “FBX” files in Maya you can assign up to six (as of Unreal Engine 3.0) different materials per mesh. This is done through simply creating up to six different Lambert materials and applying them on a per face basis. This is a very convenient way to assign materials to your meshes, but it does have it’s downsides. Firstly, you are adding extra draw calls for each new material you assign your asset. This differs from using the Lerp node because with Lerp method all your different surface types are constructed within a single Unreal material and consequentially, a single draw call. Secondly, the borders of your materials must lye along the edges of their assigned faces. This can end up giving you abrupt transitions that won’t look as smooth as painting a mask for a Lerp node. Going forward I would like to expand on what I’ve done in Matinee and produce an animated character with some dynamically driven accessories.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I’m moving to Montreal Canada. I’ll be heading out November 5th and my first stop will be their Independent Game Developers Association. I’m super excited to meet fellow developers and check out all the wonderful studios in Montreal.



Snowy Turn Table WIP 2

Here is an update on my snowy turn table I’ve been putting togeather. I’ve added some animated lighting and given most of the meshes another iteration of detailing and fixes. The next thing I have to do is finish the snowy bushes and make the ice on all the meshes more obvious. As a final touch I might at a sun and a moon togeather with the proper positioning of those respective lights. So have a look :)

Snowy Turn Table WIP 1

Hi guys and girls I just thought I would post a quick update on a collection of assets I’m creating for an upcoming iOS title. It’s a snowy scene and there are more meshes to come. I haven’t worked on cube map reflections yet, but I will soon. All meshes are built in Maya and ZBrush :)