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© Toyota Europe
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Rendering Toyota’s GR Yaris Concept in V-Ray for Cinema 4D

CGI Artist & Retoucher Tim Taylor reveals how The&Partnership London created striking car renders for Toyota Europe’s GR Yaris Concept using V-Ray for Cinema 4D.

When The&Partnership was tasked by Toyota Europe to tease the reveal of the upcoming GR Yaris Concept, it was a project that CG Artist and Retoucher Tim Taylor couldn’t wait to get working on. Leveraging the existing equity of the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) masking pattern that was first revealed on the new Supra, and the GR-4 naming — a nod to the legendary Celica’s GT-FOUR brand — the car was intended to be fully revealed as the new GR Yaris at the Australian Rally. Due to the bushfires, the reveal was postponed, and it eventually launched at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2020 in January.

“Rather than treating the Yaris GR-4 teaser and launch ideas differently, we based each execution on one central concept,” Tim Taylor explains. “Using typographic light sources to hint at the distinctive new shape of the car. We ultimately moved away from rim-lit silhouettes to revealing more of the car.”

Below, Tim Taylor reveals the making of the striking car renders for Toyota Europe’s GR Yaris Concept using Deltagen, Cinema 4D, Modo, V-Ray for Cinema 4D, and Photoshop. Discover how Tim modeled the GR-4 sign in Cinema 4D and worked with the Deltagen file provided by Toyota, as well as how he set up the materials, textures, lighting, and rendered with V-Ray. Tim concludes with his tried-and-tested post-production process in Photoshop.

About Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor is a CG Artist and Retoucher based in London, currently working for The&Partnership London, mainly on the Toyota Europe account. Tim has been working in the design industry since 1999 after graduating with an HND in Graphic Design. Six years ago, he had the opportunity to transfer into the CGI & Retouching department in his previous role, where Mercedes was a main client — and he hasn’t looked back since! For Tim, this career offers him the perfect blend of art, model making, photography and technology – and it will keep him interested and eager to learn for the foreseeable future.

Modeling the lightbox sign using Cinema 4D

The Toyota Yaris GR-4 model was supplied by Toyota in Dassault Systemes’ Deltagen format. This had to be exported out as an FBX file, imported into Cinema 4D and sorted into a workable file. This was done using instances for mirrored parts, collating meshes that use the same texture into single folders and deleting unseen meshes. Unfortunately, the interior CAD data wasn’t available, so I had to retrofit a previous Yaris interior into the space — and tint the windows!

It was a fun and interesting process creating the GR-4 lightbox sign. I was inspired by Tom Hegen’s beautiful photographs in The Greenhouse Series and wanted to create a similar layered look. I also researched rear automotive lighting assemblies to mimic the light bounces and refraction effects caused by the layering of different chrome and plastic shapes within the unit. 

I modeled several versions of the lightbox with combinations of refractive and reflective layers before landing on the final look, while also remaining true to the look of the initial visual. It’s always tricky trying to match a look in 3D that you’ve visualized in Photoshop with multiple layers and effects!

The layers were modeled within a small square area, which I then cloned to fill the space within the character, which gave me the flexibility to iterate and adapt quickly, depending on the look of the preview render. Then it was just a process of using the approved GR-4 typography as Booleans to cut out the sheets and doing a final stitch and sew to join the edges.

Modeling challenges

The main challenge was getting the GR-4 lightbox model to match the original visual. It was quite a tight deadline, so I had to work quickly, experimenting with multiple layers of glass reflectors, but I’m happy with the result. 

Starting out, I thought I’d need several layers of glass to create the look I needed, but in the end, it just needed two layers and a luminosity map. Sometimes, you need to go through the complexity just to arrive at a simple solution!

Setting up V-Ray materials & textures

The material setup was pretty straightforward. Since starting at The&Partnership, I’ve created a library of automotive textures that I refine with each job, matching colors to our Toyota Paint swatch book and supplied source photographs. They’re mostly using the old Advanced Material, although I’m transitioning them to the new Standard Material for future jobs. 

The background smoke was a stock image with transparency, set up as cards in the scene. I always make sure to increase the reflection and refraction samples on materials such as chrome and glass for a clean render.

The camo pattern was designed by Senior Designer Rohit Sharma, based on an original design by The&Partnership’s Head of Art, Dan Beckett. (Dan explains the background of the camo design in this video.)

The bodywork had to be fully UV-ed, as the camo pattern had to flow between panels as seamlessly as possible. This meant using deformers in Cinema 4D to flatten out the panels as much as possible to avoid distortion, freezing the deformer into a new mesh, and then using a planar projection in the UV Editor. I could then drag the newly created UV tag onto the original mesh and delete the deformed one.

Once all the panels had been UV-ed, I transferred the bodywork to Modo. Modo’s UV tools are great — unlike Cinema 4D, Modo allows you to edit and pack multiple mesh UVs together in the UV Editor, which makes it quick and easy to lay the panels out and make sure they’re the correct relative sizes.

Camera settings & studio lighting setup 

We sent several setups with different angles and focal lengths for the GR-4 to the client along with our recommendations. The chosen shot had a focal length of 75mm with a low angle designed to give the car an aggressive stance and poised for action, in line with its Gazoo Racing pedigree. We also wanted to show off the wide rear arches — a distinctive feature of the GR-4.

I was lucky enough to spend a day in Brussels on a Toyota shoot with Alex Howe, an award-winning automotive photographer who gave me a lot of insight into lighting vehicles. A moody setting was decided for this shot, so I kept it simple, with a big softbox directly overhead, highlighting the arches to create a dramatic look. 

I then light-linked multiple softboxes to highlight the wheels, Toyota logo — and various other areas that need to be lit or highlighted. The GR-4 sign was self-illuminated with an LED strip matrix mesh light and a luminosity map to create some variation, so I just needed a couple of softboxes to highlight the edges against the dark background and bring out the hanging cables.

V-Ray is super robust when rendering, so I’m happy to leave a render cooking overnight or at the weekend without worrying that it will have crashed by the time I arrive at work in the morning.”

Tim Taylor, CG Artist & Retoucher, The&Partnership London

Car rendering in V-Ray for Cinema 4D

This process was very standard. I like to make sure I have object buffers for all the main elements: bodywork, rims, tires, et cetera (Cryptomatte will be a big timesaver in the next build of V-Ray), along with standard channel beauty pass elements. 

During the retouching phase, there will always be a highlight you need to knock back or remove. Sometimes, you might want to add a bit of contrast or color correction to the GI layer, while still maintaining the highlight or reflection intensity.

Luckily, V-Ray is super robust when rendering, so I’m happy to leave a render cooking overnight or at the weekend without worrying that it will have crashed by the time I arrive at work in the morning. The default render settings — Brute Force/Light Cache — are pretty good across a range of different setups without too much tweaking. 

I set the anti-aliasing to Progressive, Noise threshold to 0.002, and the GI subdivision samples to 128 — and let V-Ray spend the night cleaning up the noise for a smooth, super-clean render.

Post-production in Photoshop for automotive renders

I rendered out the images as 32-bit half-float EXRs, so I had the dynamic range to push and pull the exposure of the passes to shape the lighting a bit more in Photoshop without affecting quality. Once I was happy with this 32-bit ‘darkroom’ file PSB, I placed it as a linked Smart Object in a 16-bit PSB — this way, I could still edit it easily if needed — where I could get to work retouching and color grading. This workflow allows me to work as non-destructively as possible, thinking about it almost nodally. (I dream of Photoshop becoming like Nuke one day!) 

Next, I flattened the image, gave it a 1-pixel blur — which took away that super-crisp CGI look — and layered a 1-pixel high pass over the top. A subtle amount of chromatic aberration was also added with the Nik plugin, and a layer of photographic grain to finish. Color grading was briefed to match our existing Supra shoot, with hard contrast and an overall cool blue grade.

Client: Toyota Europe. Agency: The&Partnership. CGI & Retouching: Tim Taylor. Yaris GR-4 Camo Design: Rohit Sharma. Art Direction & Original Camo Design: Dan Beckett.
Color grading comparison shot showing the Toyota GR-4 (left) and the Toyota Supra (right).

I’m really looking forward to using the new lens effects coming soon in the official Chaos Group build of V-Ray for Cinema 4D!”

Tim Taylor, CG Artist & Retoucher, The&Partnership London

Final thoughts 

The final renders definitely succeeded in terms of building up buzz for the launch. The images appeared on all the major automotive websites and were shared all over social media, generating extremely positive feedback.

For future images, I’d like to try keeping as much ‘in camera’ as possible, to keep retouching to a minimum. For instance, with more time, I would have loved to have tried adding some environment fog to create the light blooms, rather than retouch them in — maybe even using volumes for the ground fog instead of cards. 

I’m really looking forward to using the new lens effects coming soon in the official Chaos Group build of V-Ray for Cinema 4D! Stay tuned… 

Want to see how V-Ray for Cinema 4D can advance your car renders?


© Škoda Design

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