I think the tavern is one of my favorite projects. Things started off by finding the concept from a great illustrator by the name of Brandon Starr. I sent Brandon an e-mail asking about the image, and he kindly agreed to allowing me to use the image as the basis for the project.
From this point, I started the modeling process. This was my first time using Modo for a large project, so it posed a unique challenge. I found Modo to be really intuitive to use, however, so being new to it didn't seem to hold me back. I started things out by trying to get the correct proportions along the walls. This wasn't terribly difficult after a few tries, but I eventually had to change up the rocks. This is the earliest screen capture I could find.
One interesting challenge I was faced with was ropes. Modeling ropes always seems to be somewhat of a hassle, but after some research on youtube, I found a good trick from youtuber "gidkideon." Essentially what happens is that you draw out a 4-sided cylinder, triangulate it, use the diagonal patterns along the cylinder to create separate curves, set the rendering attribute to render curves as geo, and then bake the render geometry cache to generate curves. It sounds sort of complicated at first, but it's not too bad once you try it out a couple times. If you're interested, check out the link to the video here:
Modeling done! I really wanted the modeling to show imperfections in the overall design of the building. I really liked the cartoony expressiveness of the concept, so I tried to capture that in the forms as well.
After modeling, I moved on to texturing everything. For most of the tavern I used a combination of Mari and my texture library of photos. So yeah, most of this hand-painted. I think the lanterns were the most challenging for me. They feature a mixture of refractive, specular, and diffuse weights because of all the grime that's on there. So, keeping track of what those ought to be was fairly difficult at the time. In addition to hand texturing these parts, I also started experimenting with Modo's procedural texturing workflows on the window.
Next up was lighting! And wow, this was really fun. The thing I love about lighting is how it really starts to pull everything together. For the lighting, I made heavy usage of gobos to break up the light hitting each area. It just gave everything this really rich complexity. Also, I found that listening to epic Morrowind music really helped put me in the zone. I thought of my scene as existing in two parts: The front of the house and the back. For the front, I tried to make my main focal point the sign and door. The light textures against the darker wood naturally allowed the contrast to help it stick out above everything else, but eventually I added a little more light to direct the eye in that spot. I also thought of breaking things down into three zones to capture depth. The front sign/door, the side window, and the porch. When I was lighting, I tried to allow for alternating zones of light and dark to create more depth. You can also see this happening with the chimneys actually. In the back, I decided to place the brightest light around the base of the chimney. I thought about doing the top windows, but I decided to leave them feeling a bit more ominous and mysterious instead.
For the ground foliage I decided to use a mixture between a hair system and instancing individual plants. The hair system gave me the benefits of a faster render while the individual plants gave me the benefit of breaking up the landscape with a variety of plants and giving everything a bit more of a wild feel. For the instanced plants, I decided to scatter a point cloud across the ground plane that I sculpted. From each point, one of 10 plant varieties would be randomly pulled onto each point with a weighted percentage that allowed me to make certain plant varieties more likely to spawn over others. In addition to spawning these plants, I also included randomization to the scale, rotation, and transform offset from the point within specified ranges. After a lot of tweaking and balancing between how much I wanted the hair system vs. instancing, I got a full, complex, and efficient foliage system out of it.
Finally, for the moss, I decided to use a fur system attached to cards. I could control the exact shape of everything by modeling out the cards the way I liked it, and then I simply just changed the render attributes on the card to hide during render so that the only thing left was the moss!
And there you have it! That's the tavern.