Transformers Project

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  04 April 2013
Transformers Project


My name is Charlie Bennett, and I am a student at Leeds Metropolitan University. I am in the process of creating a transforming Lamborghini Aventador based on Bumblebee for a university project. I would appreciate feedback and my brief requires me to respond to feedback so any comments, even if they are very short, would be greatly appreciated.

I have catalogued my progress in a blog:


I have spent a lot of time explaining my methods, but if you don't have time to read a wall of text do not worry as it is full of pictures and videos.

  04 April 2013
Hey man,

Could you post a few more close up shots of your model with the wire frame showing? Are you familiar with subdivision modeling?

The movie robots have lots of really sharp highlights that help them pop, but your base mesh needs to have subtle curves in order catch and reflect the light. I see a lot of your parts are just flat, and they aren't going to reflect light in a very dynamic way. Instead of a nice, smooth highlight that travels the length of your object as it moves, it will be dark most of the time, and then suddenly all white as it lines up with your light.

Edge bevels are also great for getting rim highlights. They can really help define the shape of certain parts, especially dark chrome. If your using MR, check out the rounded corners shader.


Last edited by AJ1 : 04 April 2013 at 05:50 PM.
  04 April 2013
First of all - thanks for your feedback; this is exactly the sort of constructive critique I am looking for. I would have replied sooner but I have been producing an up-to-date render (~40 hours) and wanted to wait until it was finished so I can include it in my reply.

I am familiar with sub division modeling, yes. This is the method I used for the car; all panels of the car have a single turbo smooth iteration on them and I've gone into the base mesh to raise up inner edge loops slightly to create those subtle curves you mentioned.

For the rest of the geometry, however, I have left it low-poly with smoothing groups. I felt this was necessary to work on the animation - higher polycounts were causing me choppy viewport playback (<15fps).

My plan was to make it with as few polys as possible (the scene total is ~400k atm), completely finish the animation to the best of my abilities and then go in adding edge loops and turbosmooth modifier where needed.

I am glad you brought up this point because at this stage I was unsure whether or not it needed further modeling work, and to be honest I probably would have left it as is.

Re edge beveling: Some edges are beveled already, and it was always my intention to bevel a few more select pieces - forearms and chest, but no others. Would you recommend that I simply go in and bevel every unbeveled edge or are there certain areas that stand out as needing more work?

A lot of my materials are matte metals with medium glossiness, would you say that these techniques are still important to apply to these compared to high gloss materials like the car paint?

Aside from the areas I mentioned, places I think could use some more highlights are the shoulders, pelvis and the non car parts which carry the orange car paint (knee caps, shins, forearms, toes and head).

  04 April 2013
Cool man! Your animation looks pretty slick! I'm not much of an animator, so I really cant offer much feedback on that though.

Your model, lighting, and shading could use some tweaking though. As far as the model goes, your in good shape because you've kept things low poly. You really need to tighten up those bevels though. Try to make your edges flow around corners and bends. Keep the edges on either side of your bevels equal distant, so the bevel stays the same thickness through out. That helps your edge highlights look long, even, and sharp. Play around with the rounded corners shader in Mental Ray. It works well for simulating subtle edge bevels. Also try adding some instantiated greeble to help break up your large surfaces. If you model one small part really well, you could get away with using it 10 or 20 times in your model.

As far as the lighting goes, try to get rid of the grey texture. If you look at still from the movie, the robots are mostly black chrome. The slightly grey shading you see comes from reflections. This makes them look great when they move around, because the highlights are always shifting, and it really communicates the motion well. Try to darken your texure, and crank up your raytrace reflections or specular highlights. Try turning off your indirect illumination, and use large area lights for your illumination.

  04 April 2013
If your car is still meshsmoothed, can you please share, how you managed to hide seams in car mode? I do believe they will be obviously noticeable by highlights and reflection distortions. I'm doing pair of transformers too, and decided to simply first build entire car, meshsmooth it, and then slice to transformer details. Results in heavy geometry of course, but reflections don't give away all the seams at least.
  04 April 2013
AJ - cheers for the continued feedback. I am not using indirect illumination, just large area lights and an ambient occlusion pass. With regards to the grey texture, I did actually have it as black chrome before and changed it to the current set up. It is not meant to be an exact copy of the movie robots - to be honest, I was not even aiming even close to the look of the films when I started this project. It's my first attempt at hard surface modeling and animation in 3DS Max.

I am hearing you highlights wise though. The textures I have do not have to be final by any means, and I will definitely play around with darkness/glossiness once I have gone in and done the finishing modeling touches (greeble is something I have considered and I agree with you on reusing geometry; I have used the same pieces quite a few times already - scale and rotate is my friend).

The length of the final animation needs to be 10-15 seconds, I have definitely completed the bulk of the work at this stage, but finishing off the animation needs to come first. I feel I could fiddle and tweak and improve forever on this project! My deadline is May 13th, so I have plenty of time to improve. I will get the animation done and then see how much time I have left to refine and refine. Watch this space.
  04 April 2013
Darth - I have outlined my methods in the blog, but it is just as you say. The car is made up of lots of panels as is evident. Most of them need to be split into smaller parts, and for these I have collapsed the turbosmooth modifier and then cut up the geometry. I posted a couple of renders in the blog comparing the difference this makes compared to dividing before turbosmoothing. Some panels have not needed division, and for these I left the stack uncollapsed and turbosmooth off when animating to help with viewport playback speed.

This method is not perfect, and there are still some seams visible, but most of my seams are placed along the lines and creases of the car anyway. I think the seam on the front quarter panel just above the wheel is the only visible one.

Something I considered to avoid any seams was to copy the car before breaking it up, having one with seams and one without. Then selective hiding and rendering would take care of the rest - the first frame the panel pops out you would render the rigged transformer car, and any earlier frames use the undisturbed one. I elected not to do that, as the seam is so subtle anyway and I didn't want all the extra polys in the scene slowing down my viewport animation playback (student working on laptop).
  05 May 2013
Final Render

So the project is finished. 17 seconds of video doesn't seem like much for the hundreds of hours of work but I can safely say I have learned a lot. Here is the youtube link (please view in 720p):
  05 May 2013
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