Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Making of Winter Snowscape

The first 3D art program that I used was Bryce, by DAZ Productions.

My husband Eric introduced me to it and I was thrilled that here was something I could use to create art that the cats couldn't get into and mess up and they seemed to manage to do with other arts and crafts projects!

Eric's sister, Michele, also uses Bryce for her art and I noticed right away that she was a very prolific artist.  This inspired me to learn all I could about the program and start creating in it!

I spent a lot of time over the Christmas season on 2007 listening to Jethro Tull's Christmas Album. It's still one of my favorites but then it was even more special as it had been the first Christmas gift Eric had bought for me, before we were married.  Since he was travelling on business that Christmas (bummer) I listened to that album almost 24/7 as a way of keeping Eric near.

I really loved the cover art of that album. As I listened, I began to wonder if I could recreate the scene, or at least evoke the feel of it, in my newfound obsession, Bryce.

So I started out by opening a scene with the default ground and sky in Bryce.  Then I had to consider where to get or create a building that looked similar to the one on the album cover. Bryce comes with landscape features built-in -- the terrains, atmosphere and texture editors.  But it doesn't have any man made objects - they have to be purchased, or obtained as "freebies" from one of the 3D art content providers.

I found this one as a freebie at 3D Commune, which sadly is no longer online.  I felt it had promise, but obviously, I was going to need to either find or make a texture for it.

I was able to find a texture that simulated the brickwork.  I still would have to find/make a "snowy" texture for the roof parts and perhaps have some lights glowing at the windows.

But first I needed to make the scenery look a bit more wintery.  I added some basic mountain terrains and moved them to the back of the scene, and added a snowy texture to the ground plane.

In this one, you can see I've added some snow to the roof parts of the building.  It gets a little tricky adding textures to these 3D models because you have to identify, out of the hundreds of meshes that make up the whole object, which ones are which.  It's especially difficult if the parts are named in a foreign language.

Here, I've located all the windows in the mesh and applied a yellow glow and I've also started working on the atmosphere to try and come close, or at least get the same feel, as the inspiration piece.

I continued to tweak the atmosphere and  I also added some more houses, all objects found free at Renderosity or 3D Commune.

To add a little more detail to the scene, I added some trees - both pine trees and leafless winter trees - to fill out the scene and make it look more complete.

I might have decided to call it finished at this point, but I had been doing quite a bit of work in another 3D program, DAZ|Studio, also by DAZ Productions, and it offered me a chance to do something I hadn't been able to do in Bryce up to that point -- add people to my scenes.

Whereas Bryce is specifically for creating digital landscapes, DAZ|Studio is a program in which you can create characters for your scenes by using 3D models to which you add textures and clothing and then pose them. Scenes can be rendered within DAZ|Studio, using a photographic backdrop for the 3D models, or the models themselves can be exported and used in programs such as Bryce and Vue, which is what I did here.

Looking back on this now, I see I changed the atmosphere again.  Not sure I like this version, it's too yellow to my eye, I prefer the previous version, but this was the one I went with in the end.

I added some more characters, as well as a horse and sleigh (which I really had fun creating in DAZ|Studio) and that was it, finished.

Of course, it's difficult to see the detail in these small images, so you can click on this one to see a larger version of the finished render.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I was inspired by the cover artwork on Jethro Tull's Christmas Album.

Do you think I captured the essence and feel of it?


  1. Thanks for the great blog on 3d art. I never knew jt had a Christmas album! Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Fishboy. As for JT's Christmas Albumn, I think it dates from 2004-ish. It's one of my favorites and I play it every year LOUD, while putting up my Christmas tree.

  3. I'm amazed, Jayne! I had no idea that such programs existed. Sounds a lot of fun :)

    And yes, you definitely caught the essence and feel of the original inspiration.

    I love blog posts where artists show how they arrived at the finished piece so I hope I can look forward to more from you - though I know from experience that they can be time-consuming to do! So when you have time . . .

  4. Thanks Judy - yes, it *is* a lot of fun. I hope to do more of this type of post - if I can just remember to do renders of the work in progress!