CG Boost Moving Castle

I’ve never posted here before, so I hope I’m doing this right!

I made this scene a few days ago for the CG Boost Moving castle challenge. It was a really fun project, and I’ve never made anything this big this quick. I completed it in only four days, with 90% of the happening in only two of them. I’ve never made a large environment render like this before and I had no time to go looking for tutorials so I just dove in and made up my own techniques as I went along. Artistically, the idea came to me in a really strange way. I was looking at the inspiration gallery at the bottom of the challenge page. As I was admiring an amazing painting by Alan Dukardt (ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/9zq1v ) I noticed a fascinating shape, not in the dragon, but in the pillar in the bottom center of the image anchoring a rope handrail in the bridge. For some reason this shape caught my attention, and it inspired me to imagine the shape of the rock under the palace. At first I wanted to give it legs, but that seemed a bit generic and like a lot of work. So instead I decided to just put the whole thing on a big ball, and that’s what I set out to make!

Technical breakdown:

I started off with an ENORMOUS ball and a cube, the latter of which I sculpted into the initial shape of the stone under the palace. I the used a simple procedural rock generation technique to make some rock models to cover it in using a particle system. I then used a stone material with displacement to detail the massive stone ball itself. I made a simple lighting setup blending an HDRI with the procedural sky texture, which worked surprisingly well and never touched it again for the rest of the project. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the castle/palace/temple thing on top, so I built the environment instead. The mountains were made using Blender’s built in ANT landscape generator, which isn’t the best generator tool but it’s all I had time for and it looks decent in the end. In the future I want to find a better way to generate or artistically create higher quality terrain, but right now I’m not quite sure what that will be. I used simple planes with gradient textures to create a depth haze effect without real volumetric atmosphere killing the scene’s performance. I tried making simple tree models inspired by CG Cookie’s 1 minute tree tutorial, but my computer was dying when I had like 2,000 of them in the scene and I needed more like 30,000. Looking at the renders I realized the trees where just green blobs anyway, so all that detail wasn’t even improving the final image. So I switched them out for actual green blobs and went from there. I kind of whish I’d made them a bit denser in the end, the forests look a bit sparse in some areas. Something to keep in mind on future projects I guess. I spent a bunch of time messing with and tuning all that stuff before I finally got around to making the palace. After hours of being pretty much stuck with no idea what I wanted to make I just dedicated to something simple and threw it together in about 3 hours. It turned out surprisingly well and now I’m excited to make more fantasy building in future projects!

Overall the technical side of this project was FAR from perfect, but the fact that I was able to make it so quickly shows that the methods are promising. I’m working on Nodevember now (I’ll post some of my creations for that soon) but I’ll try to fit in some time to refine the the stuff I got from this project so I can make more big scenes in the future!

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Great work!

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Thank you!

Yeah… that came out nice. Love that sky, seeing you said, “blending an HDRI with the procedural sky texture” gonna guess you made and light it ?

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Thank you! Sorry, I should have been a little more specific about the sky. The sky you see is sadly just a flat image but I WISH I could make something that pretty procedurally (I’ve tried). I got the pic from HDRI haven, but it was just one of the regular images they offer and not a full panorama. The lighting that actually effects the scene is two separate components. First, there’s a full HDRI (I think it was the “the sky is one fire” sunset HDRI from HDRI haven). But it wasn’t giving me the contrast I wanted so I blended it with Blender’s default procedural sky texture, which gave me a nice strong angled light that worked really well for a semi stylized render like this. I mostly used the procedural sky texture and blended in about 20% of the full image to add a little more nuance to my indirect lighting. Very little work to set up and I was happy with it so I never bothered to mess with it again after the 10 minutes I spent making it. I’d say it’s a decent technique if you don’t need hyperrealism or reflections. Hope this helped!!!

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I featured you on BlenderNation, have a great weekend!

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Thank you!

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