3D Design

Volumetric Trees in Blender 2.59

During the course of creating my “Bag End” scene for The Nature Academy competition one of the things I knew would be a challenge would be the sheer number of trees that would need to be created for the mid-ground landscape.

The obvious solution would have been to use an array of various 2D trees mapped to planes, seeded via a particle system on the lanscape. While this would have worked, I wanted to try my hand at something I had seen on the BlenderArtists forum. The following video is a time lapse of the creation process for the volumetric trees.

The particle setup for the landscape can be seen in the image below.

The key to this process is your material setup, which can vary greatly depending on the size of your scene. The following is an image of the material setup from the video.

For those of you who like to reverse engineer blend files, you can find the one from the video here.


Bag End – The Nature Academy Competition Entry

Bag End

Bag End - Click for High Resolution Image

Throughout the course of Andrew Price’s “The Nature Academy” Blender 3D training, images of the Shire continually popped into my head. It’s lush green imagery is evocative of nature in every way. When the competition was announced, I knew immediately what my subject would be.

There are more than 60 hours in this project, not including render times, and it was easily the most complex render I have ever attempted. The final scene consists of 412,297,837 vertices, 798,977,249 faces, and 10,036,000 strands. The final render time was slightly over two hours and 45 minutes. I chose to render the project out at 4k resolution at 3996x2160px.

Multiple render layes with individually set atmospheric falloff composite nodes were used to simulate depth. The trees in the distance are made up of a volumetric material as opposed to real geometry or billboarded images.

I would have liked to include shadows along the edges of the grass. The grass is currently rendered with “Strand Rendering” which cuts render time. With this option disabled, I was unable to complete the lighting calculations after more than 50+ hours of dedicated processing time. Perhaps a solution would be to apply yet another particle system only along to the edges and median of the pathway, which would have the strand rendering disabled.

I would have also liked to include real volumetric clouds. I have been unable to find a suitable graphic for the sky. At least not one that conveys the amount of distance I would have liked. Volumetric clouds could have helped in this aspect, but I believe the increased render times for this would have been intolerable.

“No artist is ever satisfied”, but when the deadline approaches, you just have to stick a pin in it. I hope I picked the right moment to pin this one.

I’d like to thank the guys in the IRC #blender channel as well as the ##NatureAcademy channel, especially DeanWronowski for the good competition, and Olson for being “just plain awesome”!

The Nature Academy – Week 1

These are the final results of my first week of Blender 3D training with Andrew Price’s “The Nature Academy”. A vast portion of the tips and trick for blender that I have picked up over the years are due to Andrew’s (www.blenderguru.org) excellent video tutorials. I’d like to thank him for providing this amazing resource. I highly recommend you watch the high-def version if possible.

In the meantime, how about some production stills…