Modeling the environment

By - - 3ds Max , Arnold , Flame , Maya , MotionBuilder , Mudbox , Shotgun
Last modification: 4 Mar, 2021

If you’re dying to escape the 9 to 5 work grind, we’ve got you covered with a (virtual) trip to a beautiful winter getaway. This week’s update on Mkali’s Mission is snow laughing matter as we’re diving into environment modeling for the sequence. See Andres Saarnak, a 3D visualization artist, create the snowy mountainous landscape. Let’s jump into it!

Joining us for the first time?
We’re producing an epic 3D sequence called Mkali’s Mission using each of the tools in the Media & Entertainment Collection and sharing the whole journey right here on AREA. Take a look back at earlier blog posts in this series to learn more. 


When it came time to finding a 3D environment artist, I knew I wanted to find someone proficient in 3ds Max due to its powerful worldbuilding tools. As usual, I took on AREA and Artstation for my research. After reviewing many possible artists, I found a 3D visualization artist, Andres Saarnak, who would be able to bring our concept of the environment to life.  


I reached out to Andres explaining the project and what his role would entail. He replied with an enthusiastic “YES, I’m interested!” and we couldn’t be more excited. He went on to tell me that his company, The Highlight, had just finished working on a movie called Anatomy of a Decision which was all filmed on a green screen. For that job, he had the similar role of creating 3D environments and backgrounds based on concept art and storyboards.


Andres is based in Hiiumaa, Estonia which meant there was an 8-hour time difference between him and me. This made it challenging to schedule calls, but we eventually managed to find times that worked for both of us. We met to discuss the project in more detail and after a few more meetings, he was finally ready to start modeling the snowy environment in 3ds Max. With the exception of the “Itoo Forestpack” plugin, Andres used all of the native tools within 3ds Max for his work. Additionally, since he was brought onto the team during the early stages of the project, his role also entailed creating materials for the environment. We would later polish them up during the look development and lighting stage.


Modeling the environment in 3ds Max using the concept art as a reference.


Refining the environment in 3ds Max.


Rock textures (normal, gloss, color, high-gloss).


Andres also modeled the first iteration of the bunker on the mountainside. In fact, this point was a big learning experience for me as a first-time production manager, but I’ll get into that in a later blog when we dig into the destruction of that bunker. For now, I leave you to admire Andres' truly remarkable work on Mkali's Mission. 


Model of the bunker made in 3ds Max.


See Andres in action. Watch him create the environment for Mkali's Mission in 3ds Max.


Final render of the environment. 


Final render of the environment. 

Want to see more of Mkali's Mission? Visit our virtual animation studio to discover the different stages of the process and to get a glimpse at some real 3D eye candy.

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Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Arnold
  • Flame
  • Maya
  • MotionBuilder
  • Mudbox
  • Shotgun
  • Film & VFX
  • Games
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