[PROJECT] Tea Time Breakdown

Making of Tea Time

I started this Tea Time project a while ago, working on it on my free time after work. So it took pretty long to achieve, but only the end result matters as it is a personal project. I like to follow a project from the beginning to the end. Passing by every step to understand the entire workflow. In this breakdown, I would like to share with you my workflow on this project.

Concept and research :

This is a really interesting step, maybe my favorite, where all is moving and changing. The idea grows in your mind and, piece by piece you are assembling the whole picture with a bit of composition, with some patterns, materials, lighting directions. All of this is part of the mental process that helps drawing a vision of your final picture.

My apologies I can't get every credits for all the pictures I found on the internet (because I can't remember where I found all of them) but I thank you for helping me during this process by sharing your creativity. So If you recognize your photograph or your drawing don't hesitate to mail me. I'll add your name as soon as possible.

Modeling :

I worked using Maya for the modeling. I didn't want to spend too much time into modeling so I kept the scene as simple as possible. I started pretty much everything the same way. I take a photograph from the internet or my own database (I prefer using a real picture than a drawing because the drawing is already an interpretation of reality. So doing an interpretation of an interpretation... not good)

Then to add some interest in the foreground I added a macaron. It was really the challenge of this project. After a simple base mesh I exported it to Zbrush for some sculpting. I unwrapped it before the export to be ready for texturing. Zebruv was a great help for unwrapping uvs.

To gain some time I only sculpted the top of the macaron and then duplicated and rotated it to make the bottom part. I used DamStandard to pull some points on the top of the macaron. Clay and DamStandard helped me to create the look of the baked paste. TrimDynamic and Hpolish were useful for faceting the paste.

Texturing / Shading :

For the texturing/shading process I used VrayForMaya, actually for the first time, Mari and Photoshop. So my shaders might not be optimized but it was a first step to understand Vray.

The cup shader is a combination of ceramic and Gold. At first I got something really clean, too much to be believable. So I added some details with Mari.

With a mask for cracks and fingerprints I plugged it in the Reflection Color to have the cracks less reflective. I did it also in the color to accentuate the effect. As it is a still, I have more flexibility about the way the shader reacts. It only have to work in one view so you can cheat a little. The gold material is pretty basic. I only added a patina to make some little variations in the reflections and a fresnel for variations in the color. The gold part Mask was also used to add a slight bump to have some thickness. Finally I add a slight bump on the surface to have some irregularities. DONE for the cup ! I did the same for the saucer and the handle.

For the macaron, I knew that I was going to need some SSS. I am not very comfortable with SSS so it was a good case study.

I painted a color with Mari's procedural tools and my cavity map from Zbrush to accentuate the macaron's cavities. As I wasn't satisfied of my displacement I also added more details like cracks and irregularities to make it more organic.

For the shader I used a VrayFastSSS2 to lay the foundations. I turned off the specularity of the shader and blended it with a VrayMtl which controls only the specular. On one side I could tweak my SSS and on the other side I could play with the specular to make it the way I like. I am not going to explain all the shaders I made because it would be boring so I'll finish with the spoon. The spoon made me loose some time because I was not sure of the design. I finally decided to make it not too complicated, just some lines to make it interesting. At first I wanted to make it with moldings, like the old silverware you use only for christmas dinner with all the family.

So a simple VrayMtl with a color map to have some little variations in the color, a scratch map, again very subtle (it had to look like a spoon you can use to drink your tea nothing too dirty or damaged) and a displacement for the ornaments. I tweaked the fresnel to be less reflective than it has to be. I wanted more diffuse on my spoon so it doesn't look like chrome.

Lighting :

For the lighting I used 2 areas to make the Key Light and the Fill Light and a DomeLight with a HDRI plugged in.

And, that's pretty much it for the lights. I added some GI on top of that with an irradiance map and some Light Cache. Once everything is in place, it's done. It is the advantage of small scenes.

Rendering :

It is certainly the step where I still have the most to learn. I had to fight against the noise and time render. Find the sweet spot between quality and speed is not simple. For this image it seems that the balance didn't tip in favor of speed.

After several test renders to get rid of the noise, I tried to optimize my settings to decrease the render time.

The next step is to setup my passes to prepare the compositing. I tried to stay simple because I used Nuke for the first time. I used the several passes provided by Vray and made some renderlayers to render masks. I also separated the foreground and the background for the Zdepth. Once it's done, compositing is a go !

Compositing :

For the compositing I used Nuke and Photoshop. I made a first pass on Nuke and did some final adjustments on photoshop in which I am more comfortable.

I used this scheme to reconstruct my beauty :


Once all these passes are added on top of each others I started to make various adjustements (color correction, contrast, grading, masking). When it has been done, I used Frischluft to create some Depth of Field (using my Zdepth pass). To have a more accurate depth pass I rendered it in a 4 time larger resolution without antialiasing. I scaled my comp and reformat it after the depth node. It works pretty well but slows down a lot your display rendering with nuke. When everything was done I wrote my file and went to photoshop to make final touches. I enhanced the atmosphere of the sunlight and added my signature at the bottom of the picture.


With this project I have learnt a lot of things with Vray and Nuke, which I didn't know before, and I pushed further what I already knew. I hope my explanations were clear enough, if it's not the case or if you want to know more about this project don't hesitate to contact me at titouan.perrot@gmail.com.