Stéphane Belin rendered "Leaving the Fifties" in Lightwave 3D. This scene was rendered to illustrate an article he wrote on lighting and compositing techniques; he thought that a huge city would be an interesting and challenging 3D project. Stéphane had seen Ghost in The Shell and The Fifth Element, "which both feature stunning cities," but he wanted to make his city different from what had been done before. His idea was to portray the "last remaining old neighborhood in a vast ultra modern city... [the] few 50's building soon to be crushed by these menacing skycrapers."
Stéphane Belin was born in France, and lived in Montréal, Canada when this was posted. He has since moved back to France. With no formal art training, he began as a freelance videogame designer in 1989, while "it was still the era of one-man-games." He created two games on the Atari ST and Amiga platforms, called Outzone and Indigo (respectively published by Lankhor and Psygnosis.) Then he focused on 3D, because he "had the feeling it would become the medium of the next century." He started on the Amiga with Real 3D, and then moved on to LightWave and 3D Studio MAX on the Mac and PC. You can see more of Stéphane's work on his web site.
Stéphane built the models in Amapi 4.1, then did lighting, texturing and rendering on LightWave 5.6, running on a PowerMac 9500 MP, with two PowerPC 604e chips and 416 Mb RAM. Photoshop was used for tweaking the textures and final color corrections.
To help plan the composition, he created several buildings, then duplicated the renderings to create a quick color sketch in Photoshop. This helped refine the proportions and placement of the objects, prior to creating the full 3D scene. Stéphane gathered photographs from 1930's New York as reference for planning the buildings in the foreground, and collected views of modern Hong-Kong for the background skyscrapers. He also took time to look at buildings in real life. Stéphane describes the observation and brainstorming steps as essential before starting a picture such as this.
Before anything else, he chooses the aspect ratio of the picture, because a horizontal or vertical picture can lead to different emotional or visual results, and he always tries to keep in mind basic rules of weight, symmetry, paths to focal points. Without a lot of effort put into the composition, the scene could have become cluttured. His trick in this project was to create a visual path to the character, with the sharp lines of the buildings and the bridge to the right of the picture.
In regards to the color scheme of the image, Stéphane says he has always prefered pictures with only one or two different main tones. "I used to learn a lot in that field by studying the work of Rodney Matthews (an English fantasy illustrator) and of course Walt Disney. The color schemes of The Jungle Book are for me some of the best ever made." In "Leaving the Fifties," he wanted a sepia tone for the vintage foreground and something colder for the sharp and lifeless background. He adds that "different colors produce different emotional responses from the viewer, and the impact of a good color scheme should not be underestimated."
This was "by far the most complicated scene" he has made so far. Modelling took a lot of patience to get a convincing level of detail, and then the lighting needed to combine "strong cast shadows on the foreground buildings, with a more etheral light for the background." He explains that "At one time during the project, I was about to render the background and foreground separatly and composite them in Photoshop. But eventually, the 416 Mb of my powerMac were just enough to render the picture in one pass!"
Stéphane is planning a career in feature film production: "For me, 3D never gets so beautiful than when it is projected on a giant screen. My ultimate goal would be to work in production design or matte painting. That's why I love so much that cinemascope aspect ratio!"
Click for the full Lightwave screenshot.