It is very important to me not only to keep my skills sharp but to develop them further. That way I can provide my clients with the best quality images using the latest techniques. This CGI motorbike project has been my personal development project for the past few weeks. It helped me to improve my workflow using Blender for CGI. Blender is my software of choice for producing CGI product images.
Here I would like to share with you some of the renders created from the final motorbike model and some behind the scenes images to help you gain an insight into the process of this kind of CGI.
The CGI Process
The first step is to model the various parts of the product. This normally starts with blocking out the main shapes before going on to add the details. This appears as plain grey in the Blender workspace (e.g. see the gallery image below of the tyre being modelled). I switch between the solid (grey) view and wireframe view to line each part up correctly.
Once I’ve modelled the product, I create materials and textures. In this instance, that meant a few different metal materials and a glossy metallic paint material. Normally, I create these procedurally from scratch using node trees.
The materials phase also includes developing an initial lighting setup to make sure things look right and as realistic as possible. I then go on to finalise the lighting and camera position. From here, I set up the render engine and render out images.
The images in the gallery below show some of what goes on behind the scenes in a CGI build of this type. The images include a wireframe view of the bike, a lighting and camera setup ready for a render and also the procedural paint material used on the bike (the node diagrams).
Not all projects are as complicated as this CGI motorbike. But, the processes involved are essentially the same whatever I am creating. Modelling takes time, especially for one this complex. But, once it has been built I can then easily create many images from different angles. This has the advantage over “real” photography because you don’t need to do a whole re-shoot. You can simply set up a different scene with your existing model and create new images.
"Impossible" shots with a CGI Motorbike
CGI also enables you to cut away sections of your model and show the inner workings. The image below shows my CGI motorbike with the bodywork cut away so that you can see the engine parts and other interior elements that I modelled. In this instance, as it isn’t based on a real bike, you may well notice that the engine isn’t that realistic. If I have detailed drawings for everything then it is much easier to create more accurate models that are true to life.
Advantages of a 3D workspace
I can place the camera wherever I like an move the lighting anywhere in the 3d space, without having to worry about gravity. So, I can have finely tuned lighting as I have more control over where it goes than I would in a studio setting.
Overhead shots don’t require any scaffolding, cranes or specialist kit. I can set it up quickly and fine tune the location to exactly the angle I need. There is also no need for props to hold things in place that then need to be photoshopped out afterwards. My CGI motorbike can freely stand defying gravity!
Another advantage is that the surroundings don’t get reflected in the paintwork, again saving editing time. The camera, light stands, photographer and anyone else present can easily appear reflected on shiny surfaces in studio shoots. Not in CGI.
Interactive 360 Spins
Rotating objects or cameras to create 360 spins is relatively easy in CGI. Once the time consuming parts of modelling and texturing have been completed, we can then set up a scene for a 360 product spin. Like for a still image, I set up the lighting and background to however we want it and then “shoot” a series of images (create a series of renders) that can be turned into an interactive 360 spin for your website.
Try out the 360 spin of my CGI motorbike below:
Animating the CGI Motorbike
As well as still images, I can create 3d product animations using CGI. The flexible 3d space allows items to fly around at will. Video is a powerful medium. Moving images attract attention and can be effective sales tools. A CGI animation can do things that may be difficult or even impossible using real products, lights and cameras. I decided to do something a little different with my bike and put together an animation of it building itself (see below).
Sometimes there might be hidden features that you don’t see from a photograph or still images normally. Animating like this means I can show all the parts that I made and draw attention to all the details that go into making up the final model.
I enjoyed making my own CGI motorbike and learned from the process, too. It was based on a tutorial from CG Cookie. You can also take a look at one of my previous personal projects where I created a luxury bedroom in CGI.
If you would like to discuss how CGI could benefit your business then please do get in touch.
All content © Joe Lenton March 2021