Every year we release a tutorial for a Christmas tree created using RailClone - and I use the word tree here very loosely. In fact, this is now the fourth of these tutorials. This time around we are going to demonstrate how to make this rather festively shaped building from just 3 pieces of source geometry. As always, along the way you'll learn some useful RailClone tips, including the use of the Conditional and Material operators, RailClone Colour maps, Clipping, Deform modes and more. You might wonder why you would want to create a building like this, but of course, the techniques shown in this video can be very useful for creating architecture that is a much more orthodox shape.
This tutorial is also significant for another reason. In RailClone 4 we made the free version more powerful by enabling the use the vertical deform modes AND the ability to distribute on non-flat splines. That means this tutorial is fully compatible with RailClone Lite which can be downloaded from the iToo Software website.
In this scene, we will start with three segments that will become our building. As you can see, the geometry is very simple. We have two sections which we will randomise to make up the majority of the building, one with a window and one with simple cladding. The third piece will be used at the start and end of the spline where windows or a balcony would be inappropriate.
The boards each have a material ID of between 8 and 14 assigned so that they use slightly different colour corrected versions of a wood cladding material. We will randomise these IDs using a Material operator later.
There are also some polygons that have been assigned a V-Ray Light material to add a bit of illumination to the inside of the building and on top of the facade for some uplighting. These will be randomised using RailClone Colour.
As always, pivot placement is very important. Generally speaking, you don’t need to worry about the pivot’s position on the X-axis - RailClone’s automatic placement takes care of that for you. But I will adjust the pivot on the Z-axis because I want the top of segment (ignoring the ledge) to align to the top of the spline. Similarly, on the Y-axis I want the front wall (ignoring the cladding thickness) to align to the spline, so I move the pivot forward so that they will jigsaw together correctly.
We’re nearly ready to create the RailClone object, but before that, a quick word about using Max’s helix spline object. When using these primitives with RailClone, you might find you don’t get smooth deformations. This is because Max’s helix spline object outputs segments with their type set to Line instead of Curve. You can fix this in two ways, either add an Edit Spline modifier, select all the segments and change the type to Curve, then change all the vertices to Smooth. Or instead, simply add a Normalise Spline modifier and tweak the spacing. I’m using the second option because it’s parametric and it allows me to change the properties of the Helix at any point if necessary.
So, with all the segments and the spline ready, it’s time to build the RailClone style.
Because the base of this spline is not flat, we’re going to lose the windows on the bottom floor into the ground.
To swap windows for something that looks less weird, well, slightly less weird, we will use a Conditional operator. This node allows you to choose segments based of certain attributes of a spline such as the Material ID, vertex angle, length, type (curve or line), or in this case position along the spline.
So far so good. Now we want to add some material randomisation to this style. Remember the planks of the facade are currently set to Material IDs between 8 and 14. We want to take each one of those in turn and randomise it between the same range every time the segment is used. To do that we will create a chain of Material nodes, one for each ID we want to randomise.
Finally, let’s cut the bottom off the building to level it off. You’ll need a rectangular spline in the scene aligned flat on the X or Y-axis. Everything inside this spline will be removed.
That’s the modelling done. All that remains is to add some randomisation to the lights inside the rooms. To make this look a bit more Christmassy we’re going to tint them red, green and blue like tree lights.
This building has several Christmas trees distributed along the spline (did we mention it’s Christmas?). To do that we’ll use Forest Pack’s recently introduced Spline mode.
That’s the end of the part of this tutorial that relates to our Xmas tree building. We now have our spiral building with randomised facade, textures and lights with different segments used at the start and the end of the helix. Bit a weird one, but we hope you’ve learnt some useful tips you can apply to other projects. Before we finish up though, I wanted to take a lines to talk a little about the rest of the scene, because it uses some exciting new assets that will be available soon.
Nearly the whole scene is created with RailClone including all the buildings and of course the bus shelters from our RailClone basics tutorial. There’s also a smidgen of Forest Pack Pro used for the trees and some ground debris in the foreground. These trees are assets from The3dGarden Winter collection which integrates perfectly with Forest Pack so you can easily add them from the library.
The buildings are a sneak preview of a new commercial collection that’ll be available early next year called background buildings. I’ve used them rather closer to the camera than they were intended here, but I think they hold up rather well. The collection will include about 25 fully parametric tower style buildings. They can have any number of stories and you are not limited to a fixed footprint. Instead, you simply load a building from the library, then go to the Base Objects rollout and assign a spline. The number of stories is set from the parameters rollout and really it’s as easy as that!
There are also parameters that allow you to select from over 50 materials for each building element, options to enable interior lighting and more depending on the style.
We hope you’ll find this really useful. In fact, all the buildings in this scene were created using the library. It’s a really great way to quickly populate scenes. Keep an eye out for more announcements about this in 2020.
On that note… this was the final video of 2019, we’ve released over 25 tutorials this year. We hope you’ve enjoyed them and that they’ve helped you to understand our plugins and made your work easier and more enjoyable. We'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for watching and we hope you'll stay tuned to plenty more episodes and more announcements in the new year.