The modelling requirements of Mon Cheri where not particularly taxing of them selves. But because I was using subsurface scattering on both the cherries and the leaves I found I had to model them in a very specific way.

The cherries where pretty simple in the end. I had modelled a stone inside them to help with the SSS look but the client eventually wanted the cherries to resemble the painted wooden ones they used for pack and action shots so the SSS was all but turned off and the stones removed.

The client couldn’t indicate a look for the cherries so on the first day I rendered out a few varieties to act as starting points for discussion. They decided on a realistic look rather than stylised.

Lightwave provides a number of sub surface scattering solutions but it was only with a good deal of trial and error that we found that all but one were useless for animation. They all introduced too much flicker and artefacts which was a shame as I got some beautiful results in stills. In the end I used a mixture of Lightwaves traditional layering and Simpleskin, an SSS shader, for the cherry and regular layering for the stalk. Only one colour texture was used, the epidermis was treated as near enough transparent with all the colour coming from below that.

The diffuse colour was a mottled red while the texture used for the sub-dermal included the small seeds you can see below the surface. What spec there was was controlled in the simpleskin Shader with the reflection of a hand painted HDR reflection adding most of the kick.

The translucency and control map were used with the stalk rather than the cherry and the self illumination map was to give the SSS a little kick where it seemed to be lacking.

However by the time we came to final render the client asked us to match a wooden painted cherry instead so the SSS was all but taken out and the surface made to look more like an apple.

The twig was approached in a different way. Once the bark had been stripped and then scanned it was reworked in photoshop to ensure features were where I wanted them and all the moss had been removed. A low res mesh was built and UV’d appropriately (based on the twig texture)  into zbrush. once it had been subdivided, the colour texture was loaded and the twig was then sculpted to fit that. I then output a high res mesh to use as a model in Lightwave (I find this can often render faster than a low res sub-d mesh of the same final density.). I alos output a normal map from the sculpt which I merged with a normal map created from the colour texture. A very simple, quick and accurate process.

The leaves on the other hand proved a little more tricky. I’d tried to avoid modelling them in much detail as I knew they’d always be out of focus and and that I could fake translucency with some mapped luminosity. So the plan was to simply map and alpha a simple subdivided poly plane that could be morphed into a number of different leaf shapes. However I hit a number of rendering problems to do with the combination of transparency and normal map. I was getting terrible artefacts around the edges of the leaves during animation that I just couldn’t find a satisfactory solution for. Eventually I decided to go the route of brute force and modelled the leaves in detail and used proper translucency and some SSS. Although the rendering overheads were slightly greater than I’d of liked for something so simple it worked and with no artefacts to be seen.

I’d found some cherry trees in the local park and borrowed a few leaves. After scanning I used them to create spec, normal and various control maps. The normal maps were less than successful though due to the light imparted by the scanner so I found the best way was to blend that with some hand painted details.