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  • Shaikha Al Thani

Creating an Alien Landscape

There are so many different things that went wrong, that went right, workarounds and whatnots that took place during the creation of this project that I don't even know where to start.

The very beginning seems like a good idea.

The very first thing I did to create this landscape, was to create a landscape! This was going to

dictate the direction this whole project goes so I really took my time with the settings in deciding things like how rough, how fine / smooth, the shapes and base texture. For the sake of consistency, I needed to ensure that I don't rush what is essentially the basic landscape that would then repeat in different sizes, shapes, and rotations. The screenshot below is the settings I ended up going with.

What was the goal? there was none if I'm being frank. I basically experimented (this applies to everything within the project) with different settings and tools in order to see what I would end up with. At this point in the project ( yes, I deviate quite a bit from the mood - board and initial idea) I wanted to create a semi-realistic base that would pair well with lush foliage. So I ended up with smooth hill - like textured furrows on the actual landscape. I felt that this game me enough room to change to a different kind of terrain (sandy, for instance), whilst still staying true to the alien nature of the landscape.

Creating The Giant Alien Serpent

For the giant alien snake, I tried my best to realize what I initially planned. For context, the following is a segment copied from the Alien World Idea blog post.

(There are) giant serpent - like creatures are imbedded into the terrain (and curve through and around the floating platforms). These creatures appear as roots because in this alien world the flora is the fauna.

To do this, I worked backwards (tail to head). The main thing I did was to create donut shapes (which are referred to as Torus in C4D) and had these 3D shapes placed halfway through the landscape so that it looks like the emerging body of a snake. Almost like how the Lochness Monster is depicted in art. I used quite a few of these donut shapes and cylinder shapes which I then spliced so

that I can rotate and 'attach' to one another to create my desired serpent shape. In reality, these aren't actually attached, just placed strategically to appear so. The screenshot below shows this.

Rotating the spliced donuts wasn't the only thing I used. I also utilized the bend tool. In order to actually use the tool, I parented the object to it and then played around with the settings to control the radius and degree of bend.

For the neck segment of the serpent, I used a cylinder object, to which I matched the the width to the donuts I used for the body. Then I spliced it so that it had a flat side. This is because when looking at snake's anatomy, you'll notice that the body isn't actually circular. Rather, it has a flattened bottom (the part that touches the ground - the underbelly). This is what I tried to achieve for the segment of the neck.

Although the diagram above is a reference for healthy ball python weight. It is still a good visual reference that can be used to communicate the slightly concave shape I am referring to (and tried to emulate in the 3D model)

Next came the riveting task of attaching a head. Needless to say, this was frustrating! part of this challenge is to only use assets available in the assets browser or create them yourself natively (within C4D). As someone with no prior knowledge on how to 3D model - this was beyond challenging. The way I worked around this was natively sourcing a 3D modeled velociraptor and attempting to tweak it in C4D. I used sculpting tools like the knife and the smooth tool to thin the model so that I can strategically place it in a way that only the head would show.

Next, I started to create miniature landscapes as spheres (as opposed to planes) and placing it hollow tubes I created for the body. This is best shown in the following screenshots.

I made sure to incorporate this rocky texture into the spheres so that the alien serpent would have a funky hide.

The following are progress shots that entail the usage of tools such as the bend and squash tool in addition to showing how I utilized the landscape function to create a diverse range of textures.

Textures, Materials, & Lighting

I also experimented with incorporating spherical water shapes. This was simply a 3d sphere that had water as the material.

I really loved how it turned out but didn't know how to incorporate it without having the scene appear too cluttered or busy. At this point in the project, I decided to keep it on the side and form an opinion towards the end - once I've added all the materials and lighting.

For the serpent, I decided to give it a metallic finish because why not? It's an alien landscape - anything can be reality. For the sake of this project, my reality is that there are pools of a mercury like liquid from which a giant serpent is formed. This substance is seen melting off meteorites that are encrusted with the same material.

Materials wise, the result is very different from what I initially planned. I was originally intending for a lush green landscape but decided to veer away from

foliage as I feared it would look too earthy. I did experiment with using different kinds of metals for the serpent and pools of (mercury?) such as burnished gold, rust, verdigris, as well as the mirror finish steel. I ended up going with the final material, highly reflective steel, because I felt it gave a very satisfactory contrast to the warm colored matte environment.

Lighting the metallic surfaces proved to be quite a nightmare as no matter how many light sources I used or the extent of which I increased the intensity - it just wouldn't reflect well. I'm sure there is some obvious reason I just am not seeing but the way I worked around this (and got it to what it is now) was by having really bright light sources (multiple) that only lit these materials. I did so by using the Project function in the lighting menu bar and including only the objects I wanted lit.

Retrospectively, there is a lot I would have liked to have done differently. Lighting and textures are the main areas I feel could have benefited from more revision. Learning how to properly use the camera as well would have been great. I could sit here and pick out the million and one flaws in this project but the fact remains that I definitely know more now than I did prior to starting the project. This, in itself, is a cause for celebration. I am certainly looking forward to learning even more!


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