For my project I decided to recreate Bankers Hall, a skyscraper in downtown Calgary. This was my choice of landmark because last summer I saw it all the time when I looked out my window at work. It is a pair of towers that make up one building. The symmetry between the two towers is very appealing. I also thought it would be a challenge to recreate the windows, reflections, and shadows.
I noticed some very common landmarks were chosen in past years so I wanted to do something different.
The right image is my attempt at recreating the left image. I think it turned out quite well, and am especially proud of the glass windows that actually reflect images, light, and shadows (as you can see on the right tower).
I chose to use an angle that shows off the reflecting light and also where you can see one tower in the glass of the other.
I chose to use the free software Blender because POVray didn't want to work with OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Blender didn't officially support it either, but it worked just fine.
I had never done any modeling before, so it was a challenge just to understand the software. I read an online book about getting started with blender which helped quite a bit.
Manipulating objects and the camera (your perspective of the objects) is very, very difficult. I fought with the camera until the last step. Orienting objects, and lining them up correctly is also challenging. I would've liked to see the ability to rotate by a given amount, instead of having to do it manually.
Without a reference book I would've been very lost. The software is not intuitive at all and requires many shortcuts. I'm sure it is wonderful once you've been using it for years, but it is painful for a beginner.
The towers are constructed around one large rectangle that makes up the main trunk of the tower. Each tower also has 6 extrusions (3 on each side, layered next to eachother). These are made up of 3 more rectangles that were extremely tedious to lineup, and even after more than an hour still aren't perfect in the final image. Compared to "snapping" in software like photoshop this is very painful. Each tower is capped off with a peak and some small details. Lining up and scaling each piece is very time consuming.
I spent most of my time creating the texture for the windows and buildings. There was no reflective glass-like texture built into blender, so they are made up of a combination of lighting, alpha, and sampling from around them. The end result looks excellent (in my opinion), especially for a first time modeler. I found numerous "guides" on creating glass, but could not get any of them to work correctly. The end result came from a mixture of trial and error and guidance from the blender wiki: wiki.blender.org.
However, once the texture was created, I still needed to create each of the planes that make up the windows, orient them to be parralel to the building, and as close to touching the main trunk as possible without getting clipped. The windows also needed to lineup in rows, and columns. There is no simple lineup tool for this in blender either, so it is all done by hand. While it is somewhat accurate, it is not exact.
Like all software, save often! Blender crashed a few times for no reason when rendering. It does store automatic backups, however. Very handy.
Watch tutorial videos and pickup time saving tricks.
Read articles, google everything just incase there is a simple 3 click trick to create an object that will take you hours to put together manually.
The total time spent for this project between testing multiple software packages, learning blender, creating mockups that were not used, building the towers and scenery was approximately 25-30 hours. Looking at this time spent I am not impressed by my result when I look at some of the work people can do in minutes on youtube, but for a first attempt I am satisfied.
In the future I do not plan to do any more modeling, but this has given me more appreciation for the environments created within films, games, etc.
Youtube for various help using the blender software
Michael Karst for cpsc3710 spring 2010