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Learn How to Make a Highly Realistic 3D Animation of a Retro Audi Car

Irakli Kurashvili talked to us about the Vintage Vibes project, explained in detail how a highly realistic Audi car animation was created with Cinema4D, OctaneRender, and DaVinci Resolve, and shared lighting and rendering workflows. 

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Hello, I am Irakli Kurashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia. I studied at Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, where my friend introduced me to the 3D world. It was very new for me and I was amazed at how much you can do with 3D. It was a great way to express myself, so I got into that quickly. I am self-taught, I have learned everything from YouTube and watched as many tutorials as I could find. Through the years I have contributed to many great projects, such as Rosalia-Saoko and Sony Zone.

Becoming a Rendering Artist

At first, I worked as a 2D and 3D Motion Design Artist. I have 10 years of experience as a Motion Designer. Gradually, I've realized that I am more into rendering than animation, and I have been doing environment creation and rendering for 6 years now. For the most part, I love lighting more than anything else, I spend half of my time tweaking lights.

I guess lighting was what got me into this. When I started, most of my friends were using 3ds Max, but I liked the interface and ease of using Cinema4D more. I found out about Octane Render in the era of CPU rendering; speed and the ability to see results in real-time made me love this rendering engine. A great place to start learning Octane is YouTube, especially Silverwing's channel.

The Vintage Vibes Project

I was always into some retro film looks. I was scrolling through Instagram and found a short clip with a white '90s car rolling through roads in nature. I realized that I should make something like that in 3D.

I don't know why but there is always some kind of calmness that comes from old vintage films for me. I always think of happy times watching these. When I start working on new scenes, I always have one particular reference in my mind. It is kind of a theme for me, and I know what vibe I am after. I don't use many references, my guess is that I don't want my artworks to look exactly like someone else's. I use references for particular details, for example, how the sidewalk of the road looks like.

Setting Up the Forest Environment

For the forest environment, I used trees that I have made in SpeedTree, and Megascans assets for other foliage. I use Octane scatter tools for vegetation scattering. The most challenging part is to manage vegetation count and to make it random and believable. I spend most of the time tweaking random seed numbers to get desired formations. I do detailed areas whenever it is directly visible to the camera.

The Animation Workflow

For the car animation, I use the Heyne Drive plugin for Cinema4D, it has physically correct simulations. I really love to use that tool. I have set up one long simulation for the car along a spline. After I am pleased with the results, I bake the animation and move to camera work and environment creation.

For this scene, I simulated another car, besides the original one and I used it as a camera car. The most challenging and time-consuming part is setting up car characteristics, its mass, how much it should lean into corners, and such. Setting a car rig is very easy with that tool, you set the correct car weight, it's horsepower, torque, suspension characteristics, etc. Use spline for the direction of the car, set up ground for collisions, and that is pretty much it. Art direction takes lots of time for me to get the desired physics.

Lighting, Rendering & Final Thoughts

I used HDRI and Octane Sun together for the lighting of this scene. I always use Greyscalegorilla's HDRIs, they have lots of them, and they are great! As I said, lighting takes nearly half of my time when creating scenes.

Rotating and swapping HDRIs is half of the process. I guess there is no formula for creating realistic renders, you just tweak things until it looks nice and real. Observing real-life lighting and how it behaves in various situations helps me a lot. I use DaVinci Resolve for color grading my renders. I don't do much post-production, rendering passes, and things like that; for me, it's just about getting nice results in the Render viewer and color grading it. I approach it as if it were shot by a camera. Tweaking too many things in post-production messes up realism for me.

The most time-consuming part in big scenes is, of course, rendering times. I use a single RTX 4090 GPU. I leave scenes rendering overnight and check for results in the morning. I make improvements if necessary, and then I make the final render.

Since these are my personal projects, I work on them during my free time, and it is hard to calculate how much time it really takes. It took about 2 weeks to complete. To the artists, I would recommend starting with simple scenes and diving into one thing at a time. That could be texturing, making one small part as detailed and realistic as possible, or setting up correct lighting. Straight out of the box, HDRI works really well.

The thing is to make renders believable first, realism comes after that. This is a very long journey, and don't forget to have fun!

Irakli Kurashvili, Rendering Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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