Seclusion Print E-mail

The theme behind Seclusion is obvious, a young couple find a secluded spot deep inside a canyon, having reached it by rowboat. I wanted to evoke a sense of romantic isolation, of being away from it all. I showed several draft renderings to various people (obviously those who never heard of 3D modelling in the first place) and the response was, where was the picture taken. This is not meant to offend the sensibilities of anybody here seriously involved in 3D modeling, rather, just to make a point, that the content or thematic elements of an image can cleverly distract the viewer from the inherent shortcomings of the rendered image. We could talk all day about the lighting, texturing, shadowing, blah, blah…(not to mention my  modeling skills)



Anyway, as I noted earlier, I often set out to make a composition in my mind, and ended with something completely different. The original idea was to create some badlands landscape, which is always an interesting surface to work with. Using Acropora I initialised a flat surface and applied the Badlands modifier. Using the settings below I originally settled on an approach where I would extract a particular badlands structure and zoom in onto some details. There is a tutorial in the gallery that describes this very action.






Adjusting the strength, seed and frequency you can tweak the surface endlessly (If you like ticking spin controls, you will simply have a field day with this). You can adjust the size of the working volume with the toolbar control along the bottom of the client area.


The badlands modifier mixes several noise operators to generate the surface you see. However, it generally gives you flat tops that aren’t necessarily realistic. To remedy this I apply a region along the upper 25% of the volume (occupied by the terrain) and then apply a fractal operator such as the Ridged-Fractal modifier, which can add some detail to the tops of the badlands structures.




The next step was where it all kind of got screwy. I added a River/Canyon modifier with the specific intent of creating some subtle surface pattern. What I got was something different:




I wasn’t completely pleased, so I changed the frequencies of the two main river operators and got this:




The settings I used for the River/Canyon modifier are shown here:




Extending the boundaries of the working volume and refining the grid I settled on the mesh below:




I thought, that’s cool, now what? Most of what when on above probably took less than 20 minutes, however, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. The evolution of the final piece took some time. I exported the grid as FBX into MAX.


First, I needed to texture and bump it. I decided on Gugila’s procedural texture toolkit ( using a layered sandstone texture of my own creation. Second, the idea of a watery surface intrigued me, particularly the idea of sub-surface scattering with lots of submerged rocks. Was the canyon deep enough to be convincing? In the end I opted for a water shader supplied by DL3D ( Here is the first rendering:




Not bad, but definitely in need of lots of work. I used mental ray sun and sky for lighting.

To make the scene interesting I added vegetation, as in tufts of dry grass, and rocks, lots of rocks of all shapes and sizes. Gugila is pretty good at spreading things around, from time to time I used a brush to paint objects. Something manmade would also be nice, but it needed to be discreet, so I added an old wooden rowboat. With the exception of the boat (and the grass), just about everything in the images are procedural, essentially derived from some expression (and a little noise!). To finalise the idea I decided on a young couple escaping to some secluded spot. You probably think me mad, but not a single vertex was moved or altered in any way manually (by mouse), other than through procedural calls. The only exception, of course, are the two human models.




And a closeup:




Project files:

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