Hooper House II

Anyone who’s spent some time browsing through my posts knows I have a bit of an obsession with modernist architecture. This is another one of these rather futile attempts at re-creating existing modernist masterpieces–this time Marcel Breuer’s Hooper House II, a private US commission the exiled German Hungarian architect started in 1957 and completed in 1959 for one of his main patrons. The house in Baltimore, Maryland, still stands today and is occupied by its new owners.

On the technical side, the modeling was done in 3ds Max and rendered in a daily build of Corona 1.7 (hence the nice hair on the sheep skin). Exlevel’s GrowFX and IToosoft’s Forest Pack Pro are used extensively, and there’s a sprinkling of RailClone for the stone floor, concrete tiles in the driveway, and railings on one outside wall. I took the opportunity to throw in a bunch of photo-scanned assets–rocks, trees, leaves and the stone wall texture, which was actually grabbed from the side of an old church off Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. There’s a tiny bit of volumetric fog in the exterior views and some basic particle systems for the pond in the patio. ZBrush and MD were used to help model some of the assets, which, as usual, are all mine, as are 90% of the textures.

The scene is lit with this great Peter Guthrie sky.

I would have liked to push this a little further in order to render additional views (the environment is very patchy in places). But the heavy geometry, large amount of 4K and 8K textures, and liberal use of displacement meant the scene already gobbled up nearly all of my 64GB. No doubt the scene is also a nightmare of non-optimization.

The images were rendered at roughly 2K and there’s a little post-production in places. But Corona is so advanced on that front that much of the post-work was done in the frame buffer.

To finish off with the stats, this project was completed over a period of three or four months, working very occasionally whenever time allowed. Some of the assets were re-used from older projects. Render times fluctuated between about 2 hours for the exteriors and five to six hours for some of the trickier interior views. There’s a little bit of denoising going on in the interiors.

I used 3ds Max 2018 from start to finish and am happy to say it’s been extremely stable for me, at least on that project. In order to simplify the handling of such a large scene, I split it in three and grouped them in one master project using XRefs. Even so, I had some very, very long loading times for the main scene (I’m talking nearly 10 minutes towards the end of the project), which I can’t really explain since saving times were very fast.

All in all, it was nice getting back to Corona after a long hiatus and test some of the latest features. The speed remains amazing even though this was one of my slowest-rendering scenes ever. It’s when working on a project like this one that I can really tell my system is getting a little long in the tooth.

This was completed a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I’ve been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to test FStorm. I haven’t done anything worth showing yet, but watch this space in the coming weeks for some FStorm thoughts.

Some more renders below. You can find all my recent work on my Behance and in full-res on my Flickr gallery.

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

Hooper House II

  1. Great set as usual Bertrand.

    Some technical questions:

    – How did you do the fur. I’ve been meaning to do some sheep skin rugs (different types of lengths of fur) but haven’t decide what to use for it yet.
    – For the interior floor, did you model the tiles and then distribute them with railclone on a grey plane (the grout). Or is it boxes with displacement (does that work in combination with railcone?)
    – The dirt on your glassmaterial: did you use a vrayblend with a dirtmask and a regular vraymtl for the color? And is it on both sides of the glass or did you put a multisub material with a clean and dirty glass and matching material IDs.

    Only one tiny comment: you have a floating chair in the penultimate visual. Probably to do with the displacement.

  2. Hey Ashley,
    First of all, note that this was done in Corona, not V-Ray.
    – The fur is a basic Max Hair&Fur modifier with a Corona hair material. Right now, the Corona material doesn’t inherit the UVs of the emitter object, so unfortunately it’s only one solid color. For the modifier, I played with the clumping, Kink and Multistrand parameters until I got the look I was after.
    – For the stone floor, I modelled six or five slabs in ZBrush and baked them to very low-poly objects using a normal map for the relief details. I then distributed these on the “grout” plane and played with the offset parameter.
    – I might do a separate post on the glass. The trick here was to find a setup where the dirt would only show when the glass is directly illuminated by the sun on the opposite side, but look nearly transparent when there is no direct light, or when the camera is on the side of the sun. For this, I blended a glass material with a yellowish fully translucent (but not transparent) material using a black-and-white raindrop map as a mask. In V-Ray, this would be a 2Sided material. This setup means the translucent material only shows clearly when the side opposite the camera is lit up by the sun. Otherwise, it is barely noticeable, as would be the case in real life. I didn’t use separate Mat IDs for the different sides of the glass in this case. This isn’t actually accurate, but I liked the effect and left it like that.
    – The floating chair was actually deliberate. Or more precisely, it is a byproduct of the slabs being very slightly randomly tilted on the X and Y axes, as such a floor would not be perfectly flat. As a result, not all four feet of the chair are actually touching the ground, which is what you would get in real life.

    • Peter Freshman
    • October 11, 2017

    Hi Bertrand,
    It’s always great to see something new from you, your work is such an inspiration for me! If you don’t mind answering some of my questions, your insight will be very helpful?!
    – When starting on such a project like “HOOPER”, how do you decide on the object (in this case a house), where do you get that inspiration?
    – You create your projects with such a great level of detail, sometimes i think that you live in that houses for three-four months while working on them to capture all the smallest details))) I guess besides photos you are using technical drawings and plans of the objects you recreating(maybe some other kind of reference), most of the time the only materials i can find are – low quality blueprint and google images of the object (it’s not that big of a problem if we are talking about furniture modeling but when it comes to modeling a whole house it becomes a real issue), maybe you can point out some good sources or ways to obtain reference materials?
    Thank you in advance, keep up your great work and have a nice day!

    • Váczi Gergely
    • October 11, 2017

    Congratulation! Excellent renders!
    Just one note. Marcel Breuer was a hungarian architect.

  3. You’re right. My mistake. I’ll correct right away.

  4. Peter, getting good reference is often a huge problem. I’ve done a few projects based on buildings in Berlin and it makes a massive difference being able to visit the building, take reference photos, and grab textures from the actual site.
    When doing something like this, I try to collect as many photos as I can online, and on this project, I was able to find some low-quality plans I could use.
    But inevitably, I always end up making up a lot of the stuff to fill in the blanks. I’m sure the current owners would find many mistakes if they were to look at these images.

    • Peter Freshman
    • October 11, 2017

    Always thinking that i’m missing something, i guess.
    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge!

    • Giorgio Deleo
    • October 11, 2017

    Hi! Can you tell me about your setup of your PG HDRI?
    It has been hard to me to take control of this asset in Corona and not turn this sky in a totally burned or blurred background. I should use backplates in post ?


  5. Masterpice as “Always”, you stunning me everytime……and thanks for sharing your skills.

    • Anon
    • October 12, 2017

    You’re 3d is amazing.
    Why destroy it with Instagram/fad bleached cyan grading?

    • tzahi
    • October 15, 2017

    can you share about the camera lenses for the interior, please?

    • Karnbir Randhawa
    • October 15, 2017

    Hi Bertrand. I’m really curious about Max 2018. You seem to love it’s stability. Mind if I ask what OS you are on? Windows 7?

  6. @Karnbir: I use Windows 10.

  7. @tzahi: I’m not sure what you mean by camera lenses…

  8. @Giorgio: I don’t think I ever had any problem with PG’s skies. I just plug them in and they work. Are you sure your issues aren’t with the render settings? Also, bear in mind your skies will almost always be burnt out. That’s how they would be in real life because they will be so much brighter than the rest of the scene (see how burnt out they are in this scene? You can hardly spot any feature, which I think is fine). Also, PG Skies are very bright compared to other hdris. Make sure the multiplier isn’t too high. Last, and this may be a stupid comment, but did you make sure you selected “spherical environment” in the bitmap texture’s projection rollout?

    • Jon
    • October 17, 2017

    Amazing work…yet again! I think this may be one of my favorite thus far. I would love to see a post on 1) Capturing Textures like leaves, wood grain, and various other diffuse/albedos. Do you have any kind of special studio set-up at home for this sort of work or have you found a workflow for when you are just out and about and something catches your eye?? Are you using more of a PBR approach or just fine tuning using artistic feel? A bit of both Perhaps? For instance, the material for the wooden living room table is stunning – the subtle ripple effect seen in the reflective surface adds a ton of realism. 2) You had mentioned possibly doing a tutorial on capturing photo-scanned surfaces such as the stone wall seen here.. which would be amazing! I’ve gotten fantastic results using your poor-man’s guide to photogrammetry on small objects. I haven’t tried any walls/surfaces but does Agisoft hold up pretty well just shooting a series of “orthographic” images of say a brick wall on a cloudy day or do you find you still have to clean up shadow/highlight in post. Thanks, Bertrand! and again…truly inspirational work!!

    • jenetto
    • October 18, 2017

    hi master. always love it your render sir.

  9. Thanks Jenetto.

  10. @Jon: For textures, I use a range of approaches, depending on the subject. For leaves, I now almost exclusively use Dabarti Capture: Much faster processing time and much better normal and displacement map than by using Photogrammetry. And since it requires only one small light source, it’s easy to cross-polarize, which means getting perfect albedo textures. This has to be done in the studio though since you need complete control over the lighting and zero ambient light. I have a small setup built from various parts sourced at Amazon. All very ghetto-style.
    I’m not consistently using PBR yet. The texture for that wood table was a photo I took with nothing else involved. No photogrammetry, no Dabarti Capture, just extracting normal and glossiness maps in Photoshop the good old eye-balling way. So was building the shader: Just tweaking this and that value until it looks good.
    For walls, it really depends on the conditions in which you are shooting. You need a very overcast but still bright day in order to get enough light. And it helps a lot if the material of the wall is very diffuse. This particular stone wall happened to turn out well, but things often don’t work out for various reasons. It helps that you can use Landscape meshing in Agisoft for anything flat like a wall because it makes the process much faster and uses a lot less RAM, which is often the main bottleneck when working with Ultra settings (which you need in order to get sharp results). But I also did a brick wall that same day and it turned out a complete mess, so it’s still pretty hit-and-miss. You just have to try. One thing I would say, though, is that shooting RAW and feeding Agisoft 16-bit TIF images that have been processed to lift shadows and lower highlights makes a huge difference to the level of detail you can achieve. It’s hard to believe how much JPEG compression can screw up fine details.
    And as for shadows are concerned, yes, when shooting outside, you almost always end up have to delight the asset in order to get a neutral albedo. Sometimes, just lifting the shadows in Lightroom is enough, but you may have to create a delighting mask in other cases. One approach I’ve used that works well is to bake an AO pass from the high-resolution asset. I just throw it in Max with a diffuse white material and render-to-texture a beauty pass using a white light dome as illumination. It can be cumbersome if the asset is very big.

    • Jon
    • October 18, 2017

    Thanks Bertrand this is super helpful! Looking forward to more 🙂

    • Praveen3D
    • October 24, 2017

    Amazing work Master Bertrand!!
    Just curious how do you deal with the texture tiling repetition on large surfaces, like wall/ground..etc ? …Is there some texture mixing techniques to make them look random ?

  11. @Praveen3D: In this case, the stone wall texture was just a very large one (horizontally at least), so that it doesn’t actually show much repetition. For other textures that have less defined patterns, I generally use two versions (one of them offset and rotated) and mix them in a composite map using a big random noise map as a mask. Also, I never use textures in places where I can use actual geometry. In this scene, the floor is made of actual stone tiles so there is no repetition to begin with.

    • Praveen3D
    • October 25, 2017

    @Bertrand: Great tip! I’m experimenting with composite map and masks to avoid repetition. Yes I can see you model most of the details, and the quality is outstanding. Thank you for answering!

    • Carla
    • November 15, 2017

    Hi Bertrand,
    your works are always amazing!
    I would ask you some question about the modelling of water.
    Which program did you use?
    Did you use Phoenix? And, if it is yes, which is your workflow?
    Thank you for your answer!

  12. Breathtaking! Better than real world!

  13. @Carla: For the water, I did it pretty much by hand. It’s a tesselated cube that is deformed using various procedural maps and the noise and displace modifier. There is no physics simulation. Same goes for the stream. It is a particle spray with some basic meshing thrown on top. It only works visually because of the motion blur.

  14. great as always. very inspiring.

  15. Hi Bertrand,

    you’re superb and inspirational. I open your blog everyday!

    I have a question too, as you’ve used pg sky 1735 … I can see in your render that there is not even a little tint of blue color in the sky and on the surface of the whole scene.. it feels perfect as it’s giving me a warm feel. proper sunny day!
    so my question is how did you manage to that, I used the same sky and I couldn’t get rid of the blue color plus it was hard to have warm feel with this sky.. I am using fstorm..

  16. Hey @Kartik. You can do this by changing the white balance setting. If the sky gives you a blue tint out of the box, make the white balance on your camera (or in post-production) warmer. This will neutralize the blue on the diffuse light and warm up the direct sunlight.

    • Sebastien Rousseau
    • December 15, 2017

    I have no words, I’m working in CG since 15 years and I rarely seen the details pushed as far, it’s a masterpiece of 3D art.

    I have a question, for creating your scene, did you buy stock 3D asset, like rock, tree, etc or you craft each piece by yourself ?

  17. Thanks a lot @Sebastien. Much appreciated. When doing these personal pieces, I try to make a point of doing everything myself, including models, scanned assets, and textures. There are some exceptions, like the HDR map, but I don’t think there’s any stock model in this one.

    • tzahi
    • December 16, 2017

    The whit wall shade looks so real. Was it scaned

    • Mmasy
    • December 27, 2017

    Hi betrand can you help me the glass material of your scene i like it mean settings

    • toni
    • January 12, 2018

    Hi Bertrand
    I see you introduced some interesting glitter in the floor lamp, chair and in the water splashes as well. Did you add them in post or as a lens effect inside 3ds Max?
    Can you please explain?

  18. @toni: Sorry for the delay in responding. These were done with the built-in Corona lens effects, straight in the frame buffer.

  19. @Tzahi Not sure which wall you mean. The stone wall was scanned. Not the white walls.

    • Riaan
    • January 31, 2018

    Just simply beautiful. And then you blew my mind again by saying “…I don’t think there’s any stock model in this one”

    • Alex
    • April 24, 2018

    Hello Bertrand ,
    will you post a screenshot of the glassmaterial setup from within the slate material editor ? I’m trying to recreate it within FStorm but i couldnt get my head around it 🙁 thanks alot for always sharing your work!

    • Daniil
    • September 27, 2018

    Hi, Bertrand! Great work, as usual! Can you tell me, what was your process in corona frame buffer for the post-pro?
    Thenk you!

    • Dennis Ford
    • October 13, 2018

    Hey mate, which PG sky was this?

    • tatyana
    • April 3, 2019

    Hi, Bertrand – I’m new on the scene and new to your work – gorgeous of course. I am an intern at an archi firm and I’ve been tasked with rendering a castle with similar stone walls. I’ve found a texture that I like just fine (an sbsar file) but the only way I can find to resolve the displacement at the corners is to unify normals – however it looks SO rounded. How do you keep your stone walls with a wrapped displacement but low radius?

    Thanks in advance!

    • tatyana
    • April 9, 2019

    Nevermind! Figured it out finally. My problem is that I just don’t know the basics of modeling, lol. For anyone reading this that doesn’t know like me, just use the ‘smooth’ modifier and put everything is the same smoothing group. Cheers!

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