Since we suggested that we were planning to make one of our scene files available for purchase we have received a lot of requests for accompanying explanations as to how we set the scene up. With this in mind we are going to do a short series of tutorials broken down into several sections including Landscaping, Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Environment & Post.
By far the most important plugin in the production of this scene, and in fact all of our scenes which involve any kind of rural setting, is Forest Pack Pro by iToo Software. Most 3ds Max users will be familiar with this plugin or at least have heard of it as it has now become pretty much industry standard for scattering geometry in our kind of workflow at least. In this example there are four distinct Forest objects controlling the distribution of grass, clover, daisies and gravel.
There are of course many excellent plant models available to purchase from various companies online including 3D Mentor and R&D Group to name but a few but as this scene is ultimately intended for distribution we chose to mainly utilise models which we have developed in-house over the years.
Generally it's worth keeping the poly count low on vegetation if it's not going to be visible close up even though Forest Pack scatters proxies and is very memory efficient. Sometimes however it's worth refining geometry if you have anything in the foreground of your view. A simple Turbosmooth modifier on the grass should suffice or the new OpenSubdiv modifier in 3ds Max.
As always with materials you can add as much detail as you like depending on the scene requirements but in this example we used a simple VRay2SidedMtl with a bitmap on one side and nothing on the other with translucency at 100% and a colour value of 230. Using a colour correction map, three different hues of the same material are assigned to the grass clump mesh which has random ID's per blade generated using CG-Source's excellent Unique Material ID script. This same material was used for the grass, clover and daisy stalks/leaves.
The base layer to many landscape scenes is a simple rough grass covering. We start with a basic plane subdivided sufficiently that a Noise modifier will work smoothly, something like 300mm segments. The Noise is intended to give some very subtle variation in the terrain.
The next step is to add some displacement to give a rough texture to the earth which will be visible through the scattered objects. In this instance we simply used a high contrast version of the rough earth texture bump map instanced into a VrayDisplacementMod, 2D mapping, Amount: 1.2cm.
Upon this surface we can now start to scatter our plant geometry using Forest Pack Pro. This basic rough grass has four separate forest objects controlling the various plants. There is no particular order in which one should layer these up but I find it useful to start with any geometry which is going to be largely obscured from view in the final render. This varies from scene to scene of course and can be tweaked as you go along by isolating the various Forest objects. In this case I started by scattering a few pebbles around to add to the rough unkempt nature of the scene.
The set up for the pebbles scattering was very simple, mostly default setting in Forest Pack using one of their standard distribution maps and standard rotation and scale transform values. Make sure these transform options are enabled.
The next stage is the basic grass. This is made from the two clumps previously illustrated. The setting are largely similar to the pebbles above with a different distribution spread and a greater density. lower value = greater density.
Finally the clover and daisies are added in. Similarly simple settings with the exception of the distribution map being set to Groups 1 so that they are not so uniformly distributed across the surface. There are some excellent parameters for creating clusters of similar plants in the 'Diversity' section of the distribution rollup which we will come to in later tutorials.
One of my favorite things about Forest Pack Pro is the speed of the view port. Obviously this a little bit graphics card dependent but but I have had it working pretty rapidly with complex landscapes on my laptop!