Mixing 3D objects and real-life environments can be quite tricky to produce believable results. It’s a combination of lighting, perspective and proportion. Making a 3D object blend with a 3D environment is relatively easy – but blending 3D objects with real environments can be a bit of a challenge.
Below are the steps I took to create the scene with ED-209 (from RoboCop), using Maya 2012. These steps are pretty quick, assuming that you have an intermediate skill level with Maya.
STEP 1: Finding the Right Background
I find that when taking the right picture for the background scene, the most important part is getting a clear picture. If it’s blurry, you will have to match your CG elements to be blurry, too. If you don’t, your objects will stand out like a sore thumb.
I chose a shot in front of the studio I work at. Some of the objects in the background are a bit blurry, but what is important is the foreground. I took this shot with my iPhone camera. Nothing special.
STEP 2: Maya
- The next step is to set up your image planes in Maya. Create a camera (Create > Cameras > Camera)
- Select your camera.
- Look through your camera (Panels > Look Through Selected)
- Choose your image as the Image Plane (View > Image Plane > Import Image…) and select the picture you took.
- Import the model you want to place into the scene. You will notice that when you move your camera around, the background will stay stationary, but the rest of the scene will seem to move. Adjust the size of your 3D object so that it is proportionate to the scene (You may need to move it around a bit)
- Open the HyperShade, and create a new material (Use Background)
- Create a ground plane (Create > Polygon Primitives > Plane), then line it up with where the ground would be in the background picture.
- Assign the ‘Use Background’ material to the ground plane. This will create a ground plane that is invisible in the scene, but will cast shadows and reflectivity from your object. If your object hovers over the ground, don’t place it directly on top of the plane. I dropped the reflectivity down a bit, to take away some of the shine on the floor.
- Move your camera around to match the perspective of the background image. (I had to increase the depth of the Image Plane, because my ground plane was cut off by the background image.)
- Once your camera is in place, it is always good practice to select the camera, then lock all attributes. This will make it so the camera doesn’t change perspective while you are working on it.
- Re-size your ground plane so that it takes up the entire ground of your reference picture.
- I used VRay for this project, but you can use MentalRay. I added 2 VRay Dome Lights (Create > Lights > V_Ray_Dome_Light) and put one on each side of the model. I left Global Illumination off, as it made it look too dark. This will all depend on your scene and model, though.
- At this point, you can start doing quick renders. Keep your render quality down to about medium, as it will take too long otherwise. I usually keep the ‘Render View’ window open, and do ‘Render Region’ on certain parts, as I tweak the settings. Once I think I like what I have, I will do a full render (at medium settings) If you want to make changes to position, etc – you can create a new camera or use the other orthographic views to navigate without changing your perspective.
- Tweak the lighting settings, position of the model and the perspective until you are happy with your results (Remember – if you locked your attributes of your camera, you will need to unlock them to move the camera around)
- Once you have the results you want, crank up the render settings and render out the final image.
STEP 3: Photoshop
I figured I would add a few touch-ups in Photoshop to create a bit more realism.
- Open your final image in Photoshop.
- I added a Lens Flare (Filter > Render > Lens Flare), chose a ’105mm Prime’ and dropped the brightness a bit. I placed it over a bright light in the scene. This adds a bit of a flare into the scene that overlays over top of the model. It’s just a good way to match the model into the scene a bit more.
- I went in and made a few more touch-ups. Not much at all. This step will depend completely on your background, CG elements and the final result you are going for.
I know this tutorial is a bit quick and general, but I will be releasing a video version of it soon. This will be a bit more in depth, as I will do each step in it’s entirety.