A few years ago I sold all my stuff to explore the world, creating 12 startups in 12 months and building $1M+/y companies as an indie maker such as Nomad List and Remote OK. I'm also a big pusher of remote work and async and analyze the effects it has on society. Follow me on Twitter or see my list of posts. My first book MAKE is out now. Contact me
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Day 29 of Learning 3d 🎮 Glass, reflectives, HD, coloring and more details

Today is day 29 of my challenge to learn 3d in a month. I want to create a Tokyo street scene in 3d. I’ve never done any 3d before. Two days ago, I added lots of small details like manholes and found more reference material to use.

Today a loooot happened, so this is a long post. Be sure to skip through if it gets boring. I added lots of pictures, so you can follow it easily 🙂

Replacing the bar panels

The old wood was a bit too bright:


…so today I picked a dark wood texture to replace it:

2016-03-01-wood logo

Scruffy bar doors

Today I also wanted to design the bar’s scruffy doors with its wooden paneling.

I started with one big door panel, then added 4 cubes that I boole’d through them. Then I added 4 more smaller panels to add depth inside. I know real paneled doors have a more curved style. But I have to speed up the modeling now so I’ll have to skip some details (for now):

2016-03-01-render no glass

Making glass

As with most things in Cinema4D, making glass was surprisingly easy too. I created a new material and then I clicked Transparency:

Screenshot 2016-03-01 03.32.58

Changing the refraction value from 1 and up creates real glass, and it just becomes more reflective after that. Adding it as a panel in the door made it look like this:

2016-02-30-glass 2

There’s also a nice blurriness setting at the bottom. The blur it creates is more of a dusty mess (but pretty) though:

2016-03-01-render w glass blur

Making other materials reflective

Inspired how I now could make glass. I wanted to fix the carved Bar254 in the panel. It was wood before:

2016-03-01-wood logo

…but I knew from the photos it was actually some kinda shiny rusty metal:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 02.00.23

So I tried to make it:


Not completely there, but it’s getting there. Might have to add some rust later.

Aircon wall mounts

The aircon’s actually don’t just hang in the air like I thought. They stand on wall mounts:

Screenshot 2016-02-29 21.55.43

So I made a wall mount:

Screenshot 2016-03-01 18.27.32

And set it up:

Screenshot 2016-03-01 18.42.53

Aircon cabinet

There was also a cabinet for the aircon in front of the bar from wood:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 17.10.50

So I built that:

2016-03-01-aircon box

I think they use it as some kind of extended bar to drink outside. So, now they can drink outside in VR too. Yay!

Asphalt desaturation

The asphalt was a bit too blue before:

2016-03-01-asphalt before

This gave me some problems with the colored lights. Because the street started turning green with orange and blue lit on it, so I made it a bit more neutral. I know this stuff is very subtle but important:

2016-03-01-asphalt after

Canvas on wine barrel

I quickly added the canvas:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 16.57.26

It has the same texture as the wooden menu in front, because I didn’t have time to make its own. But I’ll do that later. For now, most important is speed.


Orange light bulbs

The light bulbs actually aren’t white:

2016-03-01-street after move4

But light orangey, so I fixed that:


Extreme HD rendering

As you might see from some of the pics in this post, I finally started rendering in HD, as before I was capped to C4D’s 800×600 demo limit. It looks really good. The only thing is that now that everything looks so high-res, you really need the proper details and lighting to make it look realistic.

2016-03-01-render hd5 without graded

Fixing the lights

This is why I’ve started to analyze the original photo carefully.


The lighting is orange vs. blue. Most of the picture has some source of orange either from lanterns or lamps. At the end of the street is a big blue light though which is panned slightly to the left. It gives the picture a kind of unfolding story that gets blue-er the deeper you go and ends with the guy standing at the end with his back towards you.

The main lights now are:
– The orange bulb in the wooden paneling on the right
– The orange lantern in front of it
– The lamp above the Bar254 menu
– The orange lamp above the Bar254 hanging sign
– The orange lamp above the Bar254 carved logo
– The red lantern on the end left
– The white lantern on the end left
– The red lantern on the middle right
– The red lantern at the end right
– The blue area light at the end (arguably the most important)

There’s a few signs emitting strong light too, like the CyberDAM sign and the white logo sign in the end of the street. They have textures with illumination so they overpower the general lighting falling on them.

Color grading during render

In Cinema4D’s render settings, it actually has a nice color corrector built it. To keep things simple I’d rather use that one as it’s internal than having to keep color correcting from Photoshop afterwards.

Screenshot 2016-03-02 01.24.03

The issue is to preview whatever you’re doing in that panel, you have to keep rendering your scene and that takes awhile. So it’s not very intuitive. I got pretty close though. Not completely happy but I’ll have to tweak it later.

2016-03-01-render hd5 with graded

Rounding the aircons

A wiser man than me once said “an aircon’s gotta be round”. Because a square one looks like a cardboard prop:

2016-03-01-aircon without radius

Being a CSS-head, I googled “border radius cinema4d” and found it’s called Fillet. And you can set it on any object you make under the Object Properties:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 16.48.22

You can set the radius, but also subdivisions. If you set 1 division, you’ll get a very sharp corner. The more divisions you set though, it will decrease performance a bit when rendering.

Screenshot 2016-03-02 02.35.49

Rendered it’s a subtle difference but important for realism:

2016-03-01-aircon with radius

Recreating the OPEN sign

Screenshot 2016-03-02 03.19.48

This was pretty fun. I had to recreate the OPEN sign texture. I took out my iPad, opened up ProCreate and took a similar brush and tried it:

IMG_2016-03-02 16:41:59

Pretty cool:

IMG_2016-03-02 16:42:05

Then with some edits in Photoshop:

open sign

And rendered:

2016-03-01-open sign2

Moving the left side of the street

I started seeing the issue that when comparing my scene with the photo, the left side of the street was way too far away from the right part. I had to move it. I was already getting nightmares from thinking of separately selecting each object. Luckily, Cinema4D has an excellent lasso selection tool:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 16.35.47

With that I could easily select the left side:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 03.31.48

Here’s it before:

2016-03-01-street before move

And after:

2016-03-01-street after move

I had to correct some stuff that was moved wrongly:

2016-03-01-street after move4

Much better!

Japanese text

Because I wasn’t able to read what was on the lanterns I just randomly picked some text from the internet, which resulted in these situations:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 17.58.36

This street is definitely NOT a UNESCO heritage site, maybe it should be though? 😛

So I asked Twitter if they could send me the correct Japanese characters for these lanterns:

Can any Japanese speakers write me the characters for these 4 lanterns? 🙏 pic.twitter.com/orAO30fmow

— levels.io (@levelsio) March 2, 2016

I got lots of great replies back, especially from jbanse3 and b123400:

@levelsio まんぷくや/酒処/わこ I cannot read the third one

— bちゃん (@b123400) March 2, 2016

@levelsio @shoinwolfe まんぷくや

— JB3 (@jbanse3) March 2, 2016

…and with that I was able to fix the lanterns text, before:

2016-03-01-render without lantern corrections

…and after:

2016-03-01-render with lantern corrections3

I also fixed the curtains on the restaurant using this reference picture:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 17.33.54

I was able to make a rough cut out from it:

curtain flower texture

And rendered:


I did the same with the black curtains further up:

Screenshot 2016-03-02 19.57.17

And got this:



Here’s the final render for today:

2016-03-01-no grade7

And a GIF:


I’ve made lots of progress and it’s really starting to feel as busy as the original photo. I’m going to be honest, the end is the hardest part. Lots of small tiny annoying details I have to figure out and fix. But I’ll push through regardless.

Just a few more days to finish the end of the alley! Let’s hope I make it 🙂

Tomorrow I learn to clone objects!

P.S. I'm on Twitter too if you'd like to follow more of my stories. And I wrote a book called MAKE about building startups without funding. See a list of my stories or contact me. To get an alert when I write a new blog post, you can subscribe below:

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