3D Tutorial: Neo Roman Interior using 3ds max & Vray

Here’s how I made my ‘Neo Roman’ interior architecture rendering using 3ds max, Vray & Photoshop…

3d tutorial - architecture visualization

Final Image

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture

This is the first interior rendering I’ve done in a good while. I fancied creating a modern office space and combining it with large, stoney, rough features like a cave or castle.

The whole process was organic and was kind of like sketching in 3d because I didn’t have a fixed idea or plan of how I wanted the room to look.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that much of the furniture and objects inside were downloaded separately – I find it unnecessary to create intricate details such as these which can take days in themselves. The advantage though is that you own the objects and can repurpose them or even sell them, but if time is against you, just source them elsewhere.

There aren’t too many techniques shown here, it’s mainly a walk-through, showing you the steps and my thought process with one or two technical pointers. This also makes it easy to follow if you use other software than 3ds max and Vray.

Let’s begin…

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture
This was the starting point. I went through a few stages prior to this but I have a tendency to not render out and save a progress stage until I’m basically satisfied with the direction I’m taking. It might be better to save early renders though, even if they suck as you can get a better grasp of your total process.

So I started with the floor and then went to good ol’ cgtextures.com to get some rough concrete for the walls. I started with a boxy look and then thought it might be interesting to try a cylindrical room.

The walls started out as a tube with the slice option configured to allow a gap where you can see the sun coming in. I wanted the walls to be a sandy colour and made that by taking a few concrete textures, layering them and putting over something like a parchment/leathery texture over the top for the colour.

I then threw in some furniture to see how that would look. Let’s see more renders…

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 23d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 3

Here (above) I wanted to bring the wall round so we could see where it starts and ends and not just have it open up to one side and be undefined. This helps to frame the picture.

There’s some general shifting around of furniture to improve composition as well as moving around trees. This one also has a slight haze to it using vray fog and a gizmo that isn’t encompassing the camera as I wanted the haze to be background and maybe midground but not right up in the fore.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 4

Next I changed the colour of the sofa to one that was a bit more ‘futurism’ i.e. orange. Orange also goes better with the surrounding browns.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 5Then I realised that the room was too dark and it needed some other form of window so I shrunk down the tube into a panel the size of the one you can see above and replicated it several times using shift+rotate (it rotates about the central axis of the room) but left one out which would be our main light-intake/window area.

Here are the next four renders…

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 63d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 73d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 8
3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 9So I still wasn’t happy with the light in the room and felt like it needed some kind of skylight.

I made a hole in the ceiling and tilted the camera slightly to bring it into view.

I then started to play with the idea of corner beams/supports that would be a rusty colour. These were made using a new technique I picked up: I went into a side view and made a curve shape using the spline tool and then checked the option that allows you to render the spline and view it in a viewport, I then made the cross section rectangular. This saves you having to draw a perfectly parallel two line curve and extrude it. Awesome time saver.

In the first shot of the beams they were so close they occluded too much light and the black drew the eye to them more than I was happy with so I spaced them farther apart to let some light in.

Next I tweaked the ceiling to make it look ‘stepped’. By this point it was looking quite roman. It’s worth noting at this stage that my inspiration and research was mainly done in the area of steampunk but I was pleased with this look as steampunk is more victorian and with this looking less victorian/industrial and a bit more roman it just had a unique quality that I hadn’t really seen before.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 13bNext up, good ol’ foliage. I thought it might be cool to have ivy growing inside in the same way you’d have a large house plant growing inside if the room was suitably lit and spacious.

For this I used the trusty Ivy Generator.

I also swapped a few plants around and brought the thick plant up close to the camera to add some foreground. Composition-wise it’s good to define depth by having strong foreground contrasting with mid and background content, each with contrasting tones and making use of distance fog/haze/desaturation. For me this was the tables, books, plant and chair and the vray fog helped separate elements and define a strong z-depth.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 15I then created the bookcase shown here as well as swapped some of the foreground books for a globe, added a couple of busts above the bookcase and started to experiment with vray lens effects to give it a glow. I eventually dropped the glow as it was too much.

The bookcase took a long time to make. I created one set of shelves then duplicated them to make the five.  For the top of the shelves I made a tube with a slice on, just like the walls, but instead of being tall and thin, they were short and deep. I duplicated this tube three times making it slightly bigger each time to give a step effect which you can just about notice by the left bust.

I then got as many pictures of book spines as I could and went about tracing them using the spline tool and doing a basic extrude of the whole block of books. This took a long time and was mainly only good for distance shots rather than up close.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 17b

Here is a render with the bookcase complete and filled with all the books. As you can see, they look pretty real from this distance but each block of books is totally flat and boxy up close.

I downloaded a few more free objects and played with their textures. Here’s a tip for using vray materials if you want them to be reflective but slightly matte as per the chair and some of the foreground books:

  • Turn up the reflection from black to grey depending on how reflective you want it to be.
  • Turn on the background in the material editor so you can see something reflecting on the sphere.
  • Click the ‘L’ next to ‘Highlight Glosiness’ to gain access to it and lower it to around 0.6.
  • Then turn the reflection glossiness down to about .7
  • If you render something up close with these settings you’ll get a lot of noise on your surface and this is because the samples need to be way higher than normal when using this technique.
  • So turn your samples from the default 8 to around 32 and if it still shows noise then you might want to put it up to 64.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 19I began working on the window. This was quite time consuming too because I had to work on a curve. To combat this to some extent, I started creating the window geometry in the top viewport away from the main scene so I could work in a standard x,y space. After I was finished I placed the window in its home.

As you can see, the addition of this window changed the light somewhat but I felt it brought out the ivy in the pillar and also added some nice streaks to the fog.

Incidentally, I made the globe glow a kind of turquoise to make it into a kind of modern lamp. Give it a different feel. I also felt like there needed to be some turquoise in the scene to contrast with the rusty oranges. So the globe material is a vray 2 sided material with a light inside.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture 20

Above is the final scene without fog and with a little depth of field added just as an experiment.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture

Above is a render with a texture override material to show off the lighting.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture altAn alternative camera view with some depth of field.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture final3An earlier composite test without the girl and the dog. I always felt like it needed something alive inside to really sell the space.

3d tutorial - Neo Roman Architecture finalAnd here is the final image. So a word about post production in Photoshop.

I rendered out a shot with fog plus depth pass, atmosphere pass and alpha. Then I did the same without fog (so I could add the fog later using the atmos pass in Photoshop) but with depth of field added.

It turned out that the depth of field made it so that only the sofa was in sharp focus and I felt it was a shame to reduce everything else to a blur, so I used the fogged render as the basis. Each render took 30 hours so I wasn’t going to keep messing with further renders!

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that I was having a common problem of trying to ramp up the exposure to show off the interior but then this would blow up the exterior to a solid white. You can see this happening if you scroll up a few renders back.

To combat this I used the default vray sky and dragged it (from the 3ds max environment rollout) onto the environment override (as a copy, not an instance) in the vray settings. I then dragged an instance (not a copy) of the vray sky (from the 3ds max environment rollout) into a spare material slot so I could change it without affecting the light. It was important to change the name of the material at this stage because we would then have two materials with the same name and 3ds max would treat them as one. So as I lowered the exposure for the instance of the sky environment, it would render more blue and less white. As it happens, it still needed to be a nearly white blue but this was a necessary, subtle tweak.

I did my own slight blur to fake the depth of field but only on foreground elements. I then added the girl and the dog and painted them in to look as seamless as possible. I think they just about work. It’s important to source images with the right lighting.

And that’s it. I hope you got something out of this tutorial. Come back soon for more of the same!

About Andy Walsh

Concept Artist in Seattle
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