Snow White’s Coffin – or getting vintage right


SK4 by Dieter Rams

Since I haven’t posted anything substantial here for a while, and since I’m now up-and-running with the new workstation, I thought I’d answer a few questions some people have asked about the vintage materials I’m using on a lot of my assets. Clearly, this won’t be “Materialism 2″, but it will show you a few recipes that work for me and can be extrapolated to other models.

The image above shows the SK4 record player by Dieter Rams, also known as “Snow White’s Coffin” because of its transparent perspex lid (though my daughter tells me this is actually not the exact same perspex as used in Snow White’s original coffin).

I’m not the only one to hold German-born Rams as a design hero. His “10 principles of design” have found their way into the DNA of many Apple products via Johnny Ive, who has acknowledged Rams’ role as a design pioneer. This is not the last time you will read about him on this blog.

The SK4 was devised by Rams in 1956 for Braun, a few years before he was appointed as the company’s Head of Design. So if any piece of consumer electronics deserves the vintage treatment, the venerable SK4 certainly qualifies – although if you own one, I hope you’ve kept it in a better state than I have mine, which, incidentally, you can acquire here.

Before I start, here are a few close-ups to show you what we are talking about.

SK4 by Dieter Rams

SK4 by Dieter Rams

SK4 by Dieter Rams

SK4 by Dieter Rams

SK4 by Dieter Rams

The key for vintage stuff, as for many realistic materials, lies in high-quality texture maps. Which means you won’t escape having to UV-unwrap your object – a tedious but unavoidable step. Once you are done, the fun can begin. I’ll start with the body of the beast, an off-white painted metal with relatively faint (as always, you want this to be rather subtle) streaks in places that make sense (think about how the object would have been used, or better still, get yourself some real-world references). This is how my material tree looks like:


The material includes three maps: The diffuse, off-white with darker streaks, the glossiness map and a decal map for the button labels and Braun logo. The diffuse and the decal map are merged together using a composite map (the black-and-white decal map is on top with the blend mode set to “multiply”) and plugged into the material’s diffuse channel. Note that the decal map uses different UV coordinates from the diffuse map (if it used the unwrapped UVs of the body, it would have to be enormous in order to retain sufficient resolution). The extra UV set is a standard square UV map that is applied to the model like this:


Note that the diffuse map, without the decal map, is also used for the reflection channel. In many instances, this map would also work fine as a glossiness map. But you can add an extra ounce of realism if you actually customise your glossiness map. This map, shown below, differs from the diffuse/reflection map in one important respect – it is additive as well as subtractive. In other words, its base is a medium grey with both darker streaks (blurrier reflections) and lighter spots (sharper reflections). This can nicely mimic parts of the metal where the rugged surface has been flattened through use, resulting in more polished reflections. The decal is used here too (inverted, with the blend mod set to “screen”) as reflections on the text should be a lot sharper than on the body proper.


The settings for the body material are as follows:


Now to that perspex lid. Mine is a bit over-the-top as it plays with refraction and reflection glossiness, which are fiendishly difficult to tune in a subtle way. The material itself is very simple, with just one map used in both these slots for a scratched and smudgy look. You may want to use a slightly less messy map for this and lower map multipliers.



The wood on the SK4 would have been nicely varnished before receiving the stress of age. So it had to be quite reflective with relatively sharp reflections, especially at a grazing angle. Again, most of the work here is in the map, which was painted in Photoshop using a clean wood texture blended with a grunge map showing scratches and bumps. A lighter and a darker version of the diffuse map are plugged into a VrayDirtMap, with “inverted normals” checked and a low radius (1 cm or less) in order to mimic some aging at the sharp corners of the wood box. That effect is quite faint and more perceptible than actually visible (it is best seen where the perspex lid and the wood meet), yet it still adds quite a bit of authenticity. It is one of these effects that you do not quite see but miss if it isn’t there.




One challenge was the LP record, whose mat setup is shown below. I settled on a three-layer material. The final mat is a MultiMat that includes a very basic paper mat with very dull glossiness for the label and the vinyl mat proper. The latter is a VrayBlend mat, which uses a mask to merge between two vinyl types: the “blank” parts of the disk, with more intense, sharper reflections, and the pressed spiral grooves, a Ward mat with higher glossiness and high anisotropy using a spiral falloff map to guide the anisotropy rotation and a “groove” map (in Photoshop: make noise, radial blur a few times) for reflection and bump. This one remains a work in progress as I’m still struggling to get the anisotropy to do exactly what I want – namely to converge nicely towards the centre. Any suggestion on this would be much welcome.


This is it for now. I hope you can find a few ideas here. As always, I’m grateful for comments and for any image you may come up with using these techniques.

17 Responses

  1. Luk says:

    Sorry I forgot to add the link :) you can find me on http://www.behance. Not pasting the direct link here because I do not want to let in such a respected place for me to have accepted it as advertising or something mnei znaczeniu.mam hope you understand :)

  2. Luk says:

    BBB3viz welcome.
    Forgive my late apposition, the previous year was quite complicated – mainly performs design and not the commercial paintings, often I have to wait for acceptance to be able to show up the same graphic images, strange contract ..;/
    This year, more znacnzie 3d ede August gave such a decision :) I
    You can see here a lot of commercial and design.
    now my cancellation does not work, it is processed and added new projects (for me old so it will not be revealing 3D image ..) Thanks for the wish to book!
    my address is the same web as the mid-February but not deeds.

    Besides highly adored your models on TS. I’m a big fan of buying them. :)

  3. tsivolas says:

    my sequence: turn on the pc-> wonder if there is any update in bbb3viz-> if no-> make coffee
    if yes->make lunch
    superb stuff, as always!!

  4. Alex says:

    Happy New Year!
    Love your work! Every morning, when i wake up i do the following: ‘turn on the PC -> coffee -> BBB3viz’.
    it wasn’t a full year (i’ve discovered your site this autumn) but 2013… i’m sure the ‘morning ritual’ will happen every day!
    Again, Happy New Year, my fav render artist!

  5. shawn says:

    hi bertrand, nice one, however my issue since starting to go deeper into using material is figuring out how to layer materials efficiently and when to, its one reason why am so amazed to see your work, your materials, i made a comment over at the first materialism tutorial, well i asked more of a question because when i downloaded your test scene i found it strange (your gamma settings). Take a look at it when u can. very good work . Bok!

  6. BBB3VIZ says:

    Vladimir: the setup here is just one HDR map, so not much to say about it. I will post if I come up with something more sophisticated.

    Danio: thanks for the info. Will make sure to check it regularly.

    Lylemills: congrats. Yes, I haven’t given up on Materialism. Just need to gather a few good case studies.

    Luk: thanks for the kind words. I’m dying to see some more stuff from you. Is there anything you can show? You are even worse than I am at updating your site ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Jorge: these are absolutely phenomenal and very humbling. Where can I see more?

  7. Bertrand! Epic educational material as usual! Thank you!
    Was wondering if you at some stage could give us an insight into your product/studio lighting set up?
    The renders here show the design in all its glory! The lighting along with the materials make it perfect!
    Great work as usual! Would really love to see your process/thinking behing the lighting stage of this!

  8. lylemills says:

    Amazing work as usual, Bertrand! Very inspiring. Congrats on the new workstation as well. I just got a new HP-H9 Phoenix – no where near the status of your Z820, but much better than the Asus G73J laptop I have been using the past 3 years to educate myself in this frustratingly wonderful world of CG. Are you still going to do a Materialism 2?

  9. Luk says:

    bertrand super work! I’m a big fan of Dieter R. I am definitely a fan of Audio 1 M model 1962 .. Your model is very good, slide on the scale (right panel) affinity be with you :) housing is where you can see its thickness.

    Materials as always paramount, setting new levels! hard keeping track of your materials, but long way to go before me hehe. :)

    counting how IR engine Lc or BF? the low values โ€‹โ€‹of the presumption that the material subdivsw IR

  10. Great Job Bertand,

    Thanks for taking the time to explain your materialing process a little further. I have also experimented with using a lighter/darker bitmap plugged into the vray Dirt map in the diff slot with some great results. Excellent renders!

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