I’m excited to share with you my first actual attempt at automotive rendering. With over a decade of KeyShot experience under my belt, I’ve probably only rendered a car two other times. In both cases, they were background subjects or incomplete.
While I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a ‘car guy’, I do love good design in every form and there are some beautiful cars out there. At the intersection of engineering, architecture, interior and product design lies automotive design.
When I received an email from design icon Harald Belker I was excited. I remember being introduced to Harald Belker’s work as an industrial design student in 2009. I bought and studied Concept Design 2 which featured some of his work. Belker’s design work spans product, automotive and entertainment design. He’s best known for his vehicle designs featured in films like Batman & Robin (1997), Total Recall (2012), Minority Report, Tron Legacy, Oblivion, Death Race and more.
When Harald asked me if I’d be interested in rendering one of his models, I couldn’t say no. It felt like a wild opportunity that my younger self could never have imagined.
Harald sent me one of his car concepts.
When asked about the idea behind the design, Belker says:
The general love for American muscle cars pushed in the direction of maybe the Grand-Am racing series, with some pure styling elements left to exhibit creativity.Harald Belker
I love that even with my limited automotive knowledge, the design is instantly familiar, yet new as well.
I had a ton of fun creating these images. I was presented with a few challenges and a lot of creative freedom as well.
My goal was to use detailed materials to anchor the design in reality. Roughness textures on the tires and wheels along with specular highlights in the carbon fibers offset the polished body of the car.
I also leaned into some heavier post-processing techniques that are familiar to either a sci-fi film or fashion photographer’s tool kit. I went with an anamorphic aspect ratio and lens flares to bring a cinematic feel to it. The color grading and grain came from the fashion world (or my interpretation of it).
Automotive Rendering Challenges
Every project has its own set of challenges. In this case, I’m not used to working with surface bodies. I usually model with a CAD application. Much of the automotive and entertainment industries use a surface polygonal modeling approach. One benefit of this approach is the ability to use sub-division surfaces to aid in designing organic shapes.
One challenge, is managing refractive materials such as glass and transparent plastics. This is noticeable in areas like windows, windshield and headlights and tail lights. I had to get a bit creative to give those a bit more depth.
Another challenge was framing and composition. Since I don’t spend much time consuming automotive content, I lack an intuition of common and pleasing compositions. This should be easy to improve with a bit more studying.
Finally, I did want to render this car in a bit more of an extensive and detailed real-world environment. I think that’d be fun. Perhaps that’ll be a follow-up to this first set of images.
I handled the materials, lighting and rendering in KeyShot 11. Grading and final adjustments were made done in the node-based color page of DaVinci Resolve 18.
In the end, I really enjoyed this process. I’m grateful for the opportunity and thankful that Harald was open to collaborating and allowing me to render one of his models. After years of avoiding it, I’m actually looking forward to the next automotive rendering.
Check out more of Harald’s work here: https://www.haraldbelker.com/
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