Making a Pool
Wednesday 28th Feb 2007
In this tutorial, you will model, texture and light assets and assemble them to make an outdoor pool shot. You will use Mental Ray for both its lighting and its architectural textures.
Step 1 - Set up your unit scale
Generally, this sort of shot would be utilised for architectural pre-visualisation. That means that things would usually come off plans, and that without a correct world scale, you'll be in for a world of hurt.
Customise --> Units Setup...
I have selected a metric scheme because I also don't believe in creationism.
Step 2 - Modelling the pool
Make a box 8m in length, 3m in width and -1.5m in height. This will ensure that 0 on the Z axis is 'ground'. Set the length segments to 3. Name the object Pool.
Apply a Normal modifier, this will flip all the polys to face inward, since it is extremely unlikely we will ever see the pool from underneath the floor. Then, apply an Edit Mesh modifier.
Note - In this tutorial, all objects will retain their entire modifier stack. This allows for faster modification in the event of 'Client Changes'. On larger scenes, this slows down 3D Max, but the trade-off is not having to revert to previous versions of the scene to change things.
Edit the vertices until your pool is shaped something similar to this.
Step 3 - Modelling the kiddie pool
I've decided to model this using a spline for no other reason than demonstration. Turn on 3D Snap (default hotkey is 'S'), and draw a shape similar to the one shown.
Apply an Extrude modifier and make the extrusion 3m (the width of the pool). You'll need to move the the object so it sits in the pool correctly. It is also quite likely that the polygons will be facing the incorrect way, so apply a Normal modifier if this is the case.
It should look something like the above image.
Step 03 - Modelling the ground and surrounding paraphernalia
We're going to make a fairly rudimentary ground, but it will have topology that is going to be texture dependant. We'll be making panel sections of this texture Wood Texture 07.
Make a flat plane, 2m x 2m in size.
Bring up the Material Editor (default hotkey, "m").
Warning - This will show you how to circumvent watermarks on my textures. You cheap bastard.
Crop the image as shown, the exact settings are also shown if you wish to cheat.
Drag/Drop the material onto the plane. Ensure that 'Show texture in view port' (the White/Blue checker box underneath the previews) is on. Exit material editor. Select the plane. Show wireframe/shaded (hotkey is F4). Bring up the modifier panel.
Now you're going to change the segments to match the wood. To save you counting, there are 11 segments. So Length 1, Width 11.
Apply an Edit Mesh modifier, then a UVW Map modifier. What you're about to do is chamfer all those edges, bevel up the wood segments slightly and then remap the entire object on the Z axis in a planar manner.
You can in theory do this entirely with bump mapping, but sometimes bump mapping just isn't going to cut it.
Select "Edit Mesh", click the "Show End Results" toggle (next to the pin). Select Edge select mode and select only the lengthways edges (ignore the ones on the outer edge). Now drag the chamfer distance out to be 0.02m.
Move into select vertices mode and line them up with the texture as shown... Change to Poly mode and select just the plank polys. Extrude by 0.015 and Bevel by -.005. Select none. Select the top of the stack.
You should have something that looks essentially like this.
Now select that object and offset it as an intersecting shape so it looks something similar to this. The reason I've done this is purely so I don't have to go into showing Photoshop or texture modification. Yes, I'm a cheap bastard. I get it.
So you've made a simple texture look pretty similar to this. Select both of the intersecting planes, group them and call them something obvious. I've chosen NCC-1701-E, because I'm sure any artist who gets this scene after me will pull their hair out with anger.
Step 4 - Cloning the decking
Clone the decking around the pool in an orderly and measured fashion. Within a few minutes, you'll realise I've done something very stupid. Due to the nature of working without plans, I haven't put a great deal of thought into this tutorial, and you've been subjected to a nasty piece of maths.
When you put the decking around the pool, you'll notice you won't be able to nicely slot a panel in at the head and tail of the pool... So scale it, nobody will notice. Honest. People are stupid.
You'll notice if you pay close attention, but have no fear, most people won't.
Continue building up the area a little, once you're happy with the size of your pool area, we'll add a surrounding fence, a gutter, etc.
Step 5 - Modelling the surrounding wall.
Once again, I'm keeping this very simple. Model the interior of the wall from the top view, I've chosen to put in a little bit of shape and detail because it will add detail later on.
Now we're going to build quite a few things off this one spline. We'll keep the spline there and then reference it to built the wall and then the glass on top of it.
Clone the spline (as a Reference) and move it 15cm down. We're going to build the outer wall with a slight drop so we can put a recessed garden on the edge of the pool area.
Apply an extrude (make it around 1m high), then apply a Shell modifier and make it around 0.3m on its inner amount. At the very bottom, tick 'Straighten Corners'. You have no built a wall with nothing more than a spline. We'll add slight bevels using the architectural material rather than spending time selecting polys and edges etc.
Now clone the original spline again as a reference. Put it at the same height as the top of your wall object. Add a bevel modifier and push its Start Outline 15cm inward (so its in the exact middle of the wall). Extrude it upwards (about a meter) and add a 2cm thick Shell modifier on top.
So now our pool has a barrier. Next, we'll finish off the garden.
Step 6 - The garden area
I've put a plane in underneath the level of the decking with plenty of polys, mapped it from the Z axis with the UVW Mapping modifier and added some random Noise (Noise modifier) on the Z axis so its got some up/downs about it.
Ordinarily, I would make cut-out-trees and put them in here, unfortunately all the tree textures I have are not royalty free.
Step 7 - Modelling the Lip
The pool needs a lip, a cement barrier around the outside. It will also need some separating stones from the spa/children's area to the deeper end.
In the Spline Creation menu, select rectangle. Drag it around the pool. If you've made a non-rectangular pool, outline your pool. Apply a Bevel modifier to your spline and make it roughly 2cm thick. Untick both the capping options on the top of the modifier.
Apply a Shell modifier and make it 25cm. You should get something like this.
Next, model some basic boxes that would serve as a divider and as a walkway across the middle of the pool.
These don't need to be bevelled, once again, we'll be doing this with the material bevel.
Step 7- Setting up some materials
Generally, when doing architectural pre-vis work, you'll be using a lot of tileable textures, often from packs. This is generally because the building in question doesn't exist, thus there won't be any photos you'll be realistically able to use for texturing.
Open the material editor.
Select an empty slot. Name the material 'Outerwall', and change its type to 'Arch & Design (mi)'. You will need to have Max set to use Mental Ray in the render panel (F10, renderers panel).
Select Matte Finish as your basic preset, and lets go find a concrete texture. Inside your max folder, you'll find maps/archmat. I've chosen "concrete.cast-in-place.exposed aggregate.recessed" for the diffuse texture.
On top of the stack of the wall object, I've also put a UVW Mapping modifier set to Box, with a 2m x 2m x 2m scale.
In the material editor, expand the 'Special Effects' rollout of the material. Turn on Round Corners, and set it to 0.025m.
Clone this material and call it 'PoolLip', change the diffuse texture to a different concrete so its visually distinctive from the back wall.
Apply it to the pool lip, also with a UVW Mapping modifier set to box, but this time, set it to 1m x 1m x 1m (depending on your choice of texture).
Apply the same texture to the pool walkway over the pool.
Step 8 - Texturing the pool
Makke a new architectural material. I'm using finishes.flooring.tile.square.terra cotta.bump for the bump at 100%, and I'm also using it with modified Output curves so its tinted blue.
For the pool itself, I'm using a 20cm cubed box map.
I'm using the same texture but in its original white for the kiddie-section of the pool. Just to add a bit of variety.
For the outer glass, I have used the default architectural material preset for Solid Glass. It will start to work properly once we've put in a background.
Step 7 - Making the water
Drag a plane out for your water and apply the standard Architectural Material water preset. In the material, change its Transparency to 0.8. You can tweak and play with this water later to fine tune it to your personal tastes.
Step 8 - Make a camera
Lets put a camera somewhere flattering.
Here's an example camera.
Step 9 - Adding something to cast interesting shadows
Visually, this is going to be quite dull without some dynamic range. So lets build a cover for this pool out of basic blocks.
This is just some basic boxes put together to make a roof of some sort, with a very simple wood texture applied (Find it here). The image has also been cropped.
Now we begin the lighting.
Step 10 - Add a sphere around the scene
I've chosen a photo to use as ambient light source. You can of course use a HDRI map, but I've chosen to use the following texture.
Apply it with substantial blur, and set its opacity to about 50%, and make its background colour black. Change the mix amount from black to full colour to change the amount of ambient light bouncing around your scene.
Flip the polygons on the sphere with Normal modifier.
Select the object properties and make the object invisible to camera, not to receive or cast shadows.
Next, place a MR Area Spot light outside the sphere and aim to toward the pool, angle it so some of those newly modelled structures cast some interesting shadows across the area.
Tint the light to a slight tinge of yellow.
Put a large plane in the background, and apply a background image to it. Use the same one as the background image.
Step 11- Turning on final gather
So, You've built a background plane, a sphere for some ambient bounce and you've put in your main spotlight. Bring up your render panel and go to indirect illumination. Turn your final gather onto draft and do a test render, you should get something 'similar' to this.
For reference, I've set the bounces to 1.
Step 12 - Adding more!
Realism is basically going to span from complexity, this can be achieved by adding furniture, using better textures, etc and so forth.
Step 13 - The final composite
Once you've done your final quality render, you might want to render an ambient occlusion pass to use as a multiplier in post. This will give a bit more reality to your shadows.
Make a new material, name it AmbientOcl. Set Self Illumination to 100, and apply an Ambient Occlusion shader to the diffuse pass. This pass doesn't need to be spectacular quality, so 64 samples and a fall off range of 2 meters will be more than enough
Open up the render panel, goto the Processing panel, and drag the ambient occlusion texture into the Material Override tab. When you go to render, ensure you have turned of Final Gather.
Step 14 - Photoshop
Everything in the real world goes through some post, be it Photoshop, Shake, Nuke, Combustion, Flame, Inferno or even Gnome. Use your ambient occlusion layer as a multiplier layer at around 50%. Add some glows. Tweak. Have fun.
Final (with some chairs added and the ambient occlusion pass included).
courtesy of tutorial outpost