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Being from South Korea, my usual breakfast consisted of rice, hot soup, and some side dishes that my mom prepared. When I came to United States to study Visual Effects, I was introduced to the wonderful world of breakfast food! I ended up reading a food photography book called Plate to Pixel by Helen Dujardin that included pictures of food from this wonderful time of day, which then inspired me to create a CG piece that consisted of delicious pancakes and fruits.
Before starting the piece in Maya, I gathered a lot of photo references to get ideas for composition, lighting, and what to include in the piece. The possibilities were endless, but after looking at many photos, I decided to have pancakes with maple syrup and fresh strawberries and blueberries. As you can see in the above images, there are many similarities between my renders and photo references I found in terms of composition.
The modeling was pretty simple since there weren’t any objects that were too complicated in shape. Most of them including plates, pancakes, and blueberries are made by tweaking basic shapes such as spheres and cylinders. Only full strawberries were downloaded which is why they are high-poly, but I tried to keep all the other models simple and clean.
Spending a lot of time painting detailed textures in parts that the audience will never see is a waste of time.
As for the UVs, I tried to make it take most of the space in UV layout, especially the parts that are most visible in the camera (same principle applies to the texturing process). I don’t pay close attention to parts that will not be seen in the camera view. Spending a lot of time painting detailed textures in parts that the audience will never see wastes time that you could be using to perfect the textures, that are the star of the piece.
Initially, I experimented a lot before being able to get the look that I wanted. I tried to scan the pancakes that I took from a cafeteria using a scanner, but it didn’t give a clear image that I expected. As a result, I ended up finding a high-resolution close-up photos of the pancakes so that I can project it in Mari.
For both strawberries and blueberries, I had to mix parts of the high-resolution photos that I found on the internet. It ended up like a mosaic of different photos patched together in Photoshop. Then, I painted with Photoshop brushes in some areas such as the top part of the strawberry that was white, and made different versions for epidermal using color balance in Photoshop. By doing so, it gave color variations of the strawberries and blueberries because fruits are full of rich color if you look at them closely!
For the blueberries, I decided to give a slight break-up in the specularity. Out of all the Photoshop brushes that I downloaded, I picked the one that gave multiple spots and painted over the blueberries. I find that different types of Photoshop brushes are very handy when it comes to giving break-up textures.
I used Vray FastSSS2 and used Vray BlendMtl for all of my food shaders. I plugged in all of my texture maps and after several test renders, I was able to get the look that I wanted. This took some time because sometimes, I had to go back to texturing to tweak them and continue to adjust the values in the shaders.
I find different types of Photoshop brushes very handy when it comes to giving break-up in the textures
For the lighting, I used environment light with HDRI and two area lights. The fill light had a slight tint of blue, but generally the main light was kept in a warm yellowish tone. Then, I rendered different passes including occlusion, diffuse, specular, reflection, refraction, SSS, and ID passes. Having many passes enable full control when compositing in Nuke by enabling me to get the look that I wanted.
After all the passes have been rendered, I imported them into Nuke for final compositing. The ID passes come very handy because I can use the shuffle node to select certain objects assigned with specific RGB colors for color correction or grading. This enables me to have full control over the different passes e.g increasing subsurface for strawberries that are assigned with the green color.