Tutorial by Dutch postproduction company Souverein Weesp.
The agency TWBA/Neboko had asked us if we had an effective solution for creating a Happy Meal consisting purely out of small snack tomatoes and pieces of pineapple forming the m-shaped handles on top. It was meant for a visual that would promote the fact that one of these (tomato or pineapple) would be included as a healthy snack with the McDonald’s Happy Meal around a certain period of time.
We suggested it was best to create the whole thing in 3D for it would allow us the most creative freedom in arranging (and rearranging afterwards) the tomatoes, determining size, deciding where the green leaves would be and fine tuning the lighting and background.
First we got some real snack tomatoes which we then used to pick out a few that had an “optimum” shape and used that as our base for creating the models of the tomato. We also shot some tomatoes in our studio for texture and reference material.
After this we created a few different setups to show in what different ways the tomatoes could be arranged (very neat, staggered like bricks or more messy, tomatoes pointing outwards or sidewards, etc.). We sent these to the client to find out what kind they liked best before we started to built the whole Happy Meal.
When the client had chosen the way the tomatoes should be arranged we created a first base model of the Happy meal with all the tomatoes piled up rather neatly with some “randomness” added to their size, rotation and which side pointed outward, Once this was done we created a camera and decided upon a nice perspective after which we sent them a screenshot to show how it looked.
Once this was approved we started working on the lighting and shading of the scene. Mental Ray is our render engine of choice and we use its materials and lighting system. We always work with a linear workflow (with an exposure node connected to the camera) and use real-life scale to get the lighting as physically correct as possible. We then exported the scene to HDR Lightstudio 3 to create the studio lighting the screen required. We use this program to create HDR spheres very fast and interactively, which we then export back to use in Maya for Image Based Lighting (IBL).
We used Final Gather as our indirect illumination model and used Mental Ray subsurface shaders (misss) for all the objects in our Happy Meal to recreate the feeling of translucency fruit and vegetables have (only the floor was an architectural material). It is hard to see, but we also used the Maya fur system to create little white hairs on the green tomato leaves (the image was created at a very high resolution so we required the extra detail).
After some test renders and fine tuning of the materials and the lighting, we then rendered different passes (including shadow passes, mattes and a narrow and wide Ambient Occlusion pass) and send everything over to post. Here out Photoshop expert (which is the program we used for the post production on our stills), did his magic with the image after which the image was send to client for final approval.