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.
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 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.
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.
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
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…
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