I love it when sometimes a whole scene just flows together.
Deserts inspired by jungles
For a long time I wanted to create a scene with a dense foggy atmosphere - maybe a jungle valley - with lighting filtering through the tops of trees. As you can see this scene is WAY far off from that concept. Unless I have a professional agenda, I tend to let the scene create itself in an organic manner rather than planning it out perfectly.
I created a water eroded, carved out valley terrain (4096x4096) in World Machine 2. The terrain was imported into Vue and I applied a few different materials, finally settling in on my "Rock X" material with a little sand sprinkled on top a la Arid Peak and The Elysium Seed.
Experimenting with the lighting, I set up two huge cube primitives in the back of the camera to act as light reflectors/deflectors. They give the shade/darkness around the camera. The cubes are on the two adjoining sides of the terrain, the cam being in the corner.
The scene looked too "small", so I added the Arid Peak terrain in the background to give it some balance and a sense of scale. With the new terrain, the old lighting wasn't working, so I put the sun down towards the "western" horizon and gave everything long shadows. The darkness around the camera got intensified.
Suddenly, I thought that perhaps adding a water plane in the "hole" near the camera would create some cool reflections. So I did that. The material for the water was turned very reflective (70%!!).
It looked like an oasis. So I added some palms and other trees. But the scene looked too messed up. The trees were in the dark and I wasn't getting clear silhouettes from any of them. So I threw them all away, and decided something was wrong with the soil or that it was mainly rock and nothing could grow out here even if there was water.
The Statues of Korriban
After doing a few quick renders, the whole arid environment reminded me of Korriban from Star Wars - the old Sith homeworld with huge monolithic statues. Having one of those was an irresistable! Sucking at character creation, I ended up going to Poser.
I loaded up Michael 4 and gave it a good statuesque pose - kneeling before the Gods, kind of. Old Mikey got sent to Vue where I used the Decimate function to shake more than half his polygons off. I turned off the smoothing as well to give it a stone-cut feel.
Getting a variant of the Rock X material, Mike was imbedded into the face of the eastern mountain.
After a test render or two, it was apparent the scale of the scene was shot with the introduction of the statue. To compensate I started thinking of why this statue existed.
The gait and overall feel of the statue wasn't evil - even though it was Sith inspired. It looked like "humble servitude" rather than "kneel before Zod!". So I figured the place was a sacred tomb or something where pilgrims visited. But it was way too remote and desolate to be a regular pilgrimage point. It was apparent then that this place was a lost sacred place.
The only thing that would make a lost sacred place interesting was if it was found! That was the answer to the scale issue too. I needed people!
Like I said before, I suck at character creation. So I went back to Poser to get a base. Instead of Michael 4, I needed Michael 3 this time. I was looking for low-detail people about 1/20 size of the statue.
I made 4 pilgrims/scholars/travellers: the leader of the group holding a torch, the emotional scholar who drops to his knees at the first glimpse of the holy statue, the tired one who is hunched over trying to catch his breath, and the last pilgrim who is caught up in complete wonderment of the whole thing.
If you don't know, Michael 3 has a fairly muscular build and a strong gait. I figured I could do something in postwork. All four of the pilgrims go the default (resetted) gray material to make them completely non-descript in terms of details. They were positioned against the statue, near the edge of the water.
The torchbearer got a thin cylinder primitive for a torch, with a big yellow Omni light stuck on top.
The scene still looked barren. Even though it was a desolate place, large statues dictate a civilized place - even if it was far off in the past. So I figured I needed some ruins.
I gathered some old models from here and there. Broke some columns, skewed arches, etc. The broken "gate" to the sacred place was created, along with some remnants of whatever architecture existed long time ago.
Render and Postwork
I rendered at Broadcast quality @ 1920x817. I also got all the Multi-Pass outputs as well - especially the object and layer masks. I would need them for some minor postwork.
I noticed that one of the pilgrims (Mr. Wonderment) was 30º off to the right. I rotated him and did a little area render of just him. That was overlayed on top of the big render.
The pilgrims were the first victims of postwork. No way could I have four perfectly fit M3s serving as pilgrims. I added robes and tattered cloaks, and "bent" their gaits. Torchbearer got a little fire painted on his torch, along with some glow from the torch on his arm, and the piller behind him. The object masks were heavily used for the glow effects to get the shape right.
Finally, some color correction and other minor tweaks and experiments, and I was done. I spent a total of about 3 hours (including test renders) on this image.
"Pilgrims on their way to find the knowledge of the lost Gods."