May 2016 - Andrew Burles


Hi guys,

Here is my initial concept for the space elevator, I decided to go for a night shot as I think the stars will give a nice balance to the lights on the ground, and because lights are fun.

I plan on probably pulling the camera down toward the ground more to keep the horizon in the lower third as opposed to the centre, which should also give me more room for the elevator to reach further into the sky.

I will also beef up the gate security, I’ve nearly finished building the checkpoints and surrounding gates in 3D, then I will move on to the surrounding midground and the main structure itself.

I have been researching a lot of reference for places like industrial distribution centres and airports, I really think form will follow function on this one, so I want to ground the design in as much reality as I can to push the believability.

I’ll create a big sign at the gates stating what the actual complex is and have a large grid of spotlights around the lift cable shining directly up, as we can’t have aircraft flying into the nano cables.


Oh man… This is kick-ass concept! I like your night vision of the elevator and city and I like that you secured the area. Now, when you did it, it seems to be obvious that object like this would be strongly guarded (though I think the gate security and fence needs to be beefed up to be believable). If you will bring photorealism here to the level which I remember from your entry to Viking Village Challenge it will be unbeatable!



The industrial distribution centre reference is brilliant but with a completely artificial lighting setup, you have to fully control your spot lights and guide us through your image exactly as you wish. Do not create unnecessary distractions that draw attention to areas where you don’t want the viewer’s eyes to linger! Also keep colour balance in mind, as you have full control over all lighting aspects now.
This can become a beautiful image and a perfectly crafted matte painting. Pay attention to the overall picture before you get sucked into detail!


I have two main points of interest at the moment, the security entrance, which will be big and bright, but help to show that it is a secure facility that requires a thorough check before proceeding to the elevator, and the elevator itself which will be in the background.

I have switched the security gate checkpoint to the left of screen, with the entrance drawing your eyes through to the elevator itself which will be on screen right.

I have been fairly detailed with the 3D so far, which I have given some basic MIA texture shaders that I can render out and then overlay with photographs in photoshop.

I need to remember to remind myself not to fuss over small geometry detail that I can either fix in photoshop or will not be close enough to the camera to see, with the elevator itself I am trying to focus on a bold readable form, and keep the details for photoshop…

I will try to post an image later tonight


I took a basic render tonight for a bit of lookdev, I’m still working on a few ideas shape-wise for the main structure, but I am fairly certain I want to keep it’s form quite basic, and let the silhouette do the work.

With the final 4k render I would add in windows, signs and other small details to the security checkpoint, I also still need to fill out the internal grounds with a few little buildings scattered around, although I might try and keep that area pretty empty, to allow for some breathing room between the entrance and the elevator.


What a cool and unique idea! Definitely looking photoreal. Looking forward to seeing what’s next!


Here is my most recent WIP, I am basically just laying down all the base textures over the render, then I will move on to more refined textures.

I am keeping the image as a whole very low contrast until thr very end, when I will comp in the final grade, I just need to make sure I keep the dark and light areas in check so no values ping too high.

It is 4K resolution at the moment with an extra 10% overscan if I decide to add a camera move later, but I will crop the final to 2:39, so the white line and manhole covers won’t be seen in the final.

Lots of work to do…


Really great wip, you are doing good) So envy). I like the idea and thoughtfulness of your concept, and how clean and nice every step of it is. You go, man)


Hey guys, so I have gone through trying to get the elements seated in, I have added the contrast grade jist to give an idea of the final values.

Right now I have still have much to do, I plan on adding lots of detail to the vertical structure to really draw the eyes.

The red light is a laser to power the elevator, I have been reading a lot about space elevator technology and this seems to be a viable power source, but I will also add a cable and possibly more vertical lights.


I’m really, deeply jealous about your skills! It looks fantastic! Especially the first plan. If you will bring the elevator to that level… I can’t wait to see your final image. Great progress!



The deadline is looming, but here is my latest WIP, I have decided to change from wet to dry conditions, after I (painstakingly) added in most of the reflections, it looked good but made it very difficult to make out any forms, as can happen in real life, but wasnt something I wanted here.

I still have a fair bit to do, I need to add back in some subtle shadows, but most are not actually visible due to numerous light sources.

I removed the midground buildings from my original render as I was struggling to get them to look good, and I felt like they ruined the distance between the entry and elevator structure.

The elevator structure isn’t finished yet, I want to fix the middle part, it feels a bit bland, and also add more to the top, as well as an actual cable and maybe some extra spotlights.


Hey Andrew, nice edits… really sells the scale now, looks great. cheers Dave


You have done a lot of hard work but it won’t pay off unless you present your space elevator the right way. Only draw attention to what you want us to look at, and don’t make the parking lot brighter than the focal point of your image! Keep visual noise and light pollution in mind. Use something like industrial lights on screen mode but balance it so it still works as a thumbnail!


I know what you mean, I actually felt like the buildings syrrounding the elevator to be a bit too contrived so I deleted it all and reworked the lighting, I’ve added a vignette too, I remember the power of it when you added one to my Viking Village in the paintover.

Thanks for your input!


There were a few more little things I wanted to add, but here is my final shot, these are the graded versions.

The values in the original are very low contrast but balanced, to give me the most control with grading, so any extreme lights and darks aren’t in the pre-graded version.

I enjoyed this months competition, I feel like the night shot was much more challenging for me to achieve the realism I wanted, but on the flipside, playing around with lights was a lot of fun and I am glad I made the last minute decision to change the look of the elevator with the backlight.



Good job! Realism which you achieved (especially in foreground) is really something to admire!



good, real, clean and clear. i like earlier versions with lovely nigh lights, but the final result is also great) really clean and thoguhtfull workflow, nice job, it was cool to follow this thread)