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Rebuilding Woodstock – Materials, Lighting, and Finishing Construction (AFF-604A)

This is part five in a series documenting John Chambers’ and my modelling of Woodstock House, as part of our Modelling Humanities Data Module. Please go to John’s blog here to see more.

Update on the Project

At this point of the project, we have had our fair share of trials and tribulations with 3DS Max. On the one hand, it’s an extremely powerful piece of software that can build incredible things, however I feel that the amount of time it takes to actually produce a working model requires a lot more time and effort than one can assume going into a project such as this. We’ve constantly been mentioning how we could have done things better in hindsight or joking about how quickly we could model certain aspects if we were to do it again. I think we were right too, but this is more to do with actually practicing and making time to watch tutorial after tutorial after tutorial until you get a technique correct. One thing that surprised me is that myself and John might think of two completely different ways to get the same job done in the software, which I think shows the breadth of creativity that the software can afford someone.

Things regularly take longer than you think, and trying to have a functioning schedule goes out of the window pretty quickly. You can spend about six hours Googling one aspect of your model and trying to figure out how to fix it, often to no avail. Ultimately, however, it pays off to actually spend the time learning a new method as opposed to just hacking at the software and expecting results. 3DS Max pulls no punches, but understanding the logic behind the construction processes is an essential skill I’ve taken from this project. Despite the set-backs in the building of the house, we are very happy with how the house looks structurally thus-far, and it’s nice to be able to focus on the cosmetic details of the house at this stage of the project.

Despite this, we have been able to add some particularly nice features to the house in the form of decorative features, materials and inserting a daylight system into the scene. Since there were a lot of small features we created, I will try to sum them all up in this post.

Wall Wraps

One of the simplest things to model which actually turned out a lot better than we expected were the ‘wall wraps’, as they came to be known. These were made by aligning lots of tiles according to the photos of the house and then snapping the entire wraps to the corners of the house where needed. These were then cloned and used accordingly at certain corners of the house, and mirrored in the Y-axis to save time rotating them.

The 'Wall Wraps' on the original house
The ‘Wall Wraps’ on the original house
Our 'wall wraps' aligned and ready to be put on the house.
Our ‘wall wraps’ aligned and ready to be put on the house.







Adding Textures and Materials

We had been experimenting with materials and textures throughout the construction process to get an idea of which materials we would use and come back to when we would be finishing the house. For the general walls of the house, we used bitmaps on the Mental Ray Masonry materials setting. We were able to use in-house materials for all of the walls, however we needed to download a brick texture and slating texture from Textures.com. These came out very well, and we were able to match most of the colours and textures to one coloured artist’s impression of Woodstock.


Finishing touches…

We added ivy to the side of the house to match the photographs using a downloaded plugin called gwIvy by Guruware. This was a very cool addition to the house, as it really made it stand out a bit. However, as with most plugins or modifiers, this took a lot of tinkering to get right. The result was worth it though;

A render of the house with Guruware's Ivy plugin used to create Ivy.
A render of the house with Guruware’s Ivy plugin used to create Ivy.

We added a bottom plane to the house to create a front and back garden and added a hair and fur modifier with a tall grass pre-setting. At this point, the project was starting to be very intensive on the computer’s CPU, so we had to hide most of the scene while editing at any time.

We inserted a daylight lighting system also, using Mr. Sun. We set the date to 1922 as a nod to the actual events surrounding the house and its fate.

Since we couldn’t model the statue on the facade of the house sufficiently, we were able to download one from Turbosquid.com that looked similar to the photographs.

Finally, we added a ‘sky’ to the scene by creating a huge hemisphere and adding a sky texture to the inside. Since we couldn’t add grass to the whole scene due to CPU limitations, we just added a large green plane at the bottom to match the sky. Although the lighting from our sun didn’t quite match the ‘sky’ and ‘ground’, I think it still made the house pop out a bit and not seem like it was just floating in space.

Rendering the scene properly takes quite a while, and this will be covered in my next post….


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MA Digital Humanities student in An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University. BA Music from Maynooth University.

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