This is the result of an assignment I gave to a Masters Student class in the fall semester of 2016 at The Academey of Art University. I called it A Slice of Embarcadero. The intent was to encourage the students to use the real world for inspiration and as a resource for their 3D assets. I dedicated a full class to a walk down San Francisco’s Embarcadero to teach them how to gather reference. Not only did we take reference and texture photos; I taught them how to scan for photogramerty captures and how to shoot an HDRI sky dome.
With all of this great reference I gathered I decided to take on the assignment myself after the semester was complete. I loved this little coffee house I photographed just south of the Bay Bridge. It remains unchanged for decades like time stood still for it. My idea was to do a period piece in the early 1970s. Something very loosely based on the film Bullit which portions of where filmed on the Embardcadero.
With my workload being very full for the last year I’ve only been able to work on this in small bits at a time but with the class coming up again this fall I made a big push to complete at least a look development render before the new semester starts.
For the technically aware; this is modeled in Maya, painted in Sudstance Painter and rendered in Modo. The post production was done in Lightroom and Photoshop with a fog pass in Unreal. The models are a combination of scratch build, model bashing and photogramery scans.
I’ve been putting in some time on shooting HDR panoramas which many consider to be one of the hardest photographic techniques to master. The main goal of this process for me is to use the HDR images to light 3D scenes. This is called Image Based Lighting but the panoramas look cool on their own.
These were originally shot with an HDR technique to create a 32 bit floating point image that can be used as virtual light source for rendering. But HDR images don’t look good on a normal monitor so they need to be “tonemapped” – the process of converting to an 8 bit image to look presentable on a normal monitor.
There is a huge misunderstanding in the photography world as to what an HDR image actually is. Theses tonemapped images are what most people think of when they think of HDR. But they are really just the result of the tonemap conversion to an 8 bit image. So when people say they hate HDR, they are really saying they hate Tonemapping. Some people don’t even know what the are hating!
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