While studying architecture at Politecnico di Milano, I discovered that my real passion was about representing architectural spaces through photography and computer graphics. My knowledge of photography helped me a lot when working with 3D scenes; the same principles of composition, lighting, camera settings, and color theory must be applied in the virtual world as well.
Mountain biking is another thing I love to do. Riding surrounded by nature, away from the stressful aspects of life, is always a source of inspiration. That’s why I also like to work with 3D natural environments, trying to mimic the amazing lighting effects that interact with foliage.
Since I’ve always liked to take pictures of my bikes I decided to 3D model them to improve my skills and of course for the pure pleasure of making some virtual bike images.
The first virtual bike I’ve made is a Salsa Fargo, I created two different ambiances, a sci-fi one and a natural one. Then, after ordering the Santacruz Nomad v5, I’ve started to model it while waiting for the real one, based only on pictures. Once I received the bike, I refined some details.
My workflow is aimed to do as much as possible inside the 3D scene, this approach lets me work like a photographer, I can play with the lighting and composition in a complete virtual set. I use mainly 3ds Max and Corona Renderer.
In almost all my recent works I’ve used Substance 3D Designer and Painter to improve the quality of the materials. For the Salsa Fargo project, I used Substance Designer to make the tires material and the handlebar tape.
After the modeling stage, I used Painter to create the welding between the steel tubes of the frame and to paint the decals on the frame of the bike.
The same kind of workflow was used for the Santacruz Nomad project, I also added some dirt on the bike and I used some Substance 3D Assets ground materials to create the ramp of the bike park.
MV Agusta project
MV Agusta contacted me to realize the visuals for their brand-new e-mobility products. They saw my images and video of the Salsa Fargo in the Sci-Fi box and loved the style, so they asked me to keep that mood.
The brief was to make short animations and some images to unveil the e-bikes and the electrical kick scooter.
I’ve been helped by Claudia Sajeva to design the set and to edit the animations; we worked together with Donato di Trapani, the musician that produced the original soundtracks.
For this project, I used Substance 3D Designer to make various shaders. For example, I made the scratches on the disk brake rotor to make it look more realistic and slightly used.
The AMO RC e-bike features a particular saddle, the Fizik versus evo, made with a 3D-printed padding. Since I wanted to make a close-up image of the saddle I spent some time making the textures with Designer.
The forks of the two e-bikes are made of carbon fiber, so I downloaded a carbon fiber material from the Substance 3D Assets platform and used it as my starting point. Then, with the Corona Physical material, I added the clearcoat finish on top of it.
I used Substance 3D Painter to apply all the graphics on the e-bikes and the kick scooter.
Inside Painter there are very useful features such as the “Lazy mouse” and Symmetry tool that let me hand paint the graphics in a quite easy and precise way, based on the photographic references that MV Agusta sent me.
Other components that I treated with Painter are the tires of the kick scooter. Watching the photos, I noticed that the central part of the tire was slightly dirtier than the rest of it due to its use.
I used as a base material a shader from Substance 3D Assets, then I painted the blue line detail and on top of these layers I placed another dirt material with a hand painted mask that covers just the central part of the tire.
Most of the time I like to improve the materials directly inside my 3D scene, so I exported the textures from Painter and I added a few more details like scratches and other little grain effects.
Lighting and rendering
My approach to lighting can be really different from scene to scene, it really depends on the mood that I want for a particular project.
As an example, in the Santacruz Nomad Bikepark project, I used mainly natural light, just a Corona sun and sky with the volumetric fog effect active in the scene.
I used the fog to emphasize the depth of the forest and also to add a sense of warm calmness, a feeling that I can perceive during early morning summer ride in the mountains.
In this project I also changed the sunlight direction and intensity in each picture, I wanted to simulate the natural light change during the day but I also used this trick to help the image composition and readability. Sometimes strong shadows are needed to create contrast; sometimes they can ruin the image. Therefore, for some images I opted for a slightly overcast light.
For the MV Agusta project and the Nomad Dreambuild images, I used a full artificial light approach. I wanted to create a sci-fi mood, so I used neon tubes and simple corona lights to highlight the shapes of the bicycles. Some of those lights are strategically placed just to create a specular reflection, without affecting too much the scene illumination.
Working on these projects, I learned that in order to create realistic scenes and materials you have to observe from close (or to look for several photographic references) the objects that you have to recreate. This way you’ll see the small details that can make the difference between a standard material and a custom-made one.
I’ll definitely continue to make images of virtual bikes! I already have some cool ideas. I just have to balance the time spent rendering them and riding them outside.
Substance 3D tools are already well-established in my workflow, next I’m going to try Substance 3D Stager to see if it can fit my approach to 3D visualization.
Many thanks for your interest in my work; it really pushes me to produce more images, even just for fun.
If you want to see more bicycles related renderings, make sure to follow me on Instagram @gionaandreani.