Mike Pan • Portfolio

BMW 1 Series M

Modelling a sports car is part of every CG artist's rite of passage. It demands a mix of technical modelling skills and eyes for lighting and composition. When I started, instead of going with the usual picks of Italian marques, I decided on something that I am more passionate about: an 'old-school' BMW. It doesn't have the sleekness of Ferrari, nor the muscularity of Lamborghini, but the bullfrog-like BMW has its own undeniable charm.

Getting good photo references took a while because the car was just released. The actual modelling process was pretty straight forward using subdivision surfaces. Because I was eager to get to the lighting and tinkering stage, I glossed over some of the finer details like brake callipers and gas cap. The interior of the car was equally plain, with just enough detail to look acceptable from the outside.

This was my first time really using the Cycles Renderer, the photorealistic pathtracer bundled with Blender. The ability to tweak materials, lights, and pretty much anything and see the fully rendered results instantaneously is not just cool, it is a huge productivity booster.

A car is notoriously hard to light. Because of how reflective it is, its surface is almost entirely dependent on the environment and lighting. Different lighting setup can also have a huge impact on the way shapes and forms on the car get highlighted. Here is a traditional studio setup is used to light the cars. A single large softbox overhead is used to light each of the car.

My experience with photography helped me immensely in the latter stages of the project. I approached the lighting and composition as if I were in a real studio, using only mesh lights to light the scene, and avoiding the more 'non-physical' omnidirectional lamps. This ensured the highlights on the car are accurate, as lighting plays a huge part in bringing out the volume of the surfaces.

For the car paint material, I was able to duplicate the Valencia Orange with a clearcoat lacquer. But I wasn't able to duplicate the metallic flakes in the paint to my satisfaction. So for now, solid orange it is.

Mike dabbles in 3D art, programming, game-making, book-writing and photography.

With 12 years of Blender experience and a keen interest in scientific visualization, he has worked for the University of British Columbia in Canada, Institute of Clinical Physiology in Italy, and Harvard Medical School.

You can contact him for quotes and projects at mike.c.pan@gmail.com