Better Days [Project PR.01]

Firestorm in the garage. Click on the image for 4k resolution.

2022 – Project PR.01 is introduced in the last quarter of the Synoris Championship. It comes second to last in the championship due to many mechanical failures
2023 – Project PR.01 wins it’s first race in the championship (two in total). Charismatic drivers – Ian Quinn and Skylar Walker, combined with great PR ensure PR.01 gains fandom quickly. It gets nicknamed “Firestorm” due to many failures of the last year championship ending in fire, besides the (now signature) backfiring.
2025 – Project PR.01 – now unofficially adopting the name “Firestorm”- comes second in the championship, the last match being the deciding.
2026 – Project PR.01 gets destroyed beyond repair in a massive crash at the 14th match (out of 22) in the championship, causing it’s retirement. To this point, PR.01 was winning the ’26 championship.
2027 – Project PR.01 gets restored with the name “Firestorm” and is put into the museum as one of the most influential racers of its (short) time.
2029 – Firestorm gets stolen from the museum.
2032 – The picture was taken.
2033 – ???

There’s a story behind this image, though not quite as dramatic as Firestorm’s.

The Beginning

It was March 2016 and I was browsing through internet. I’m not sure what exactly the deal was, but I think I was seeing someone asking for product renders. Something cynical inside me triggered a thought “You want product renders? Product renders are the easy part of 3D!”. In the haste, I set myself to do a product render, on the side of my other projects. I didn’t really mean that, of course… but in my experience it’s much harder to make a convincing damage in CG, as opposed to the shiny surfaces.

The storytelling part of CG world is also much more appealing; and product renders aren’t really my thing. I have great respect for people making product renders, mind you, and I’ve made my share of product renders in life. I find so much more joy in lovely, storytelling imagery, full of life.

So I’ve set myself making a product render. I didn’t care much for what I’ll make, I just knew I’m going to make it shiny as hell. Hence, a lot of high gloss materials it is, with (slightly) curved surfaces for the most part, and many details. People love details.

The earliest screenshot I could find.

I was going for something unrealistic. If you were to see my older work, you’d notice I have a thing for a certain type of a vehicle – two big engines in the front and the main part in the back. Podracers, essentially. Maybe it’s something about the idea of sheer power, that gets me. Something  that can be just barely controlled – to the point where it’s best to keep it away from breathing creature. In fact, two of my earliest 3D works were just this type of a design.

The Shift

In a couple of days after I started, the production of product render was disrupted and I completely forgot about this vehicle. I was busy with paid work and Faery Tale so everything else was completely out of the picture. It wasn’t until December that year, that I opened the file once again. I needed some break from Faery Tale to clear my mind and this project seemed appropriate. I started with some additional modeling, basically and that was it for the run. I got back to the Faery Tale. The picture below is where I was left.

If I wrapped this up in December, the engine part would look kind of like this.
I’m happy I didn’t.

Then a couple of weeks back I decided I want to add something to my portfolio. I knew I have some works in progress already and the “product render project” was well underway, just something I’d enjoy developing further. I opened it up, checked up where I am and realised two things immediately: First, I need to work up my design if I want this to look appealing. Second, I don’t freaking want to make a god damn product bloody render everyone will forget about immediately. We love stories!

A side view screenshot, with lines in PS.

First things first, design. In my current model, I figured I could crank up flow of the shape a little bit. I’ve had some pretty good curve potential, but it was disrupted way too often. I had this bonnet with elegant line, so I kept this as my core part. The bonnet was indicating flow that would work nice and I felt I could roll with it. The engine part worked well but I had no idea what to do with the rest, especially the cockpit. I captured screenshots and took them to PS, drew over them to define the rest of the basic shape. With that, the rest of the model came together pretty nicely. I had to decide the scenery for the vehicle (where I’m going to put the model). I made something looking like a product render just for the sake of it, and because I knew the shape/design will be easier to see in this form.

I decided to leave the file alone for a week or two. If I go back to it immediately, I’ll just want to wrap it up as soon as possible and the quality will suffer. I didn’t even know how to go about the next stage anyway.

Default V-Ray material, final model. Before the destruction, that is.

The Rendering

Due to real life matters I couldn’t get much work done for about a week anyway, but when I did come back to the project, the idea fell into place. I settled on the environment, design, camera angle… All I had to do was to bring it home.

I didn’t make UVs while modeling, especially because as a product render it’d require little of it, so this was the first (tedious) thing to take care of. Next up was preparing materials and with relatively little experience in realistic rendering it proved a challenge as well. I wasn’t going for full realistic piece, but I wanted to have it convincing. Enough, that you feel what it is when you see it, but I think I did manage to pull that off.

Early rendering tests.

I prepared a few different materials for the car and some more for the scene. I had to destroy the roof quite a bit to get nice effect and added the environment fog. Environment fog made the picture instantly 15% nicer, but at the expense of devastating render time. I added the particles for the feeling of dust and in the end enabled Depth of Field, cranking up render time even further.

The Final render time (that we see here) is over 8 hours. I shifted the curves a little bit in PS to give it more contrast and make the atmosphere a bit more powerful.

Aftermath

I’m glad I got to play with textures and materials. I found some interesting workflow options along the way which I might use in the future as well. I learned it’s sometimes best to leave the project for a while and get back to it later, when your pool of energy (for the project) is restored. What I love to say is, nobody will give you praise for being fast if your product is bad. I’m learning to embrace that and try to practice that, too.

The story behind this project that I made up now gave me some more inspiration and I might be making the drivers next.

OH, and PR in the name of the vehicle of course stands for “Product Render” because I just couldn’t come up with the name all until writing this post.

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