Join Adam Crespi for an in-depth discussion in this video Studying existing city conditions, part of Creating Cityscapes in 3ds Max.
When you're designing a city, whether it's based on a real city or entirely digital, you need to start out by looking at real cities. And we do have enough of them on the planet. I'm looking at Seattle here at Google Maps. And the cool thing we can see with this map, as we can see with so many other cities. Is that we've got this amazing resource to define the granularity of our city, even down to a street level. Right now I'm looking at Seattle and what we can see here is that Seattle is fairly water-bound.
That is, we've got Puget Sound on the left and all the different fingers and bays and so on and the islands. And they were actually quite land poor in metro Seattle proper. It's not that it's poor, quite the contrary. Because it's hemmed in by water, the available land is limited. And that does things to the nature of the city in terms of density. Farther east then, really spreads out. We got Kirkland and Redmond and Samamash. And then finally, we can see here that we've got some mountains. We can even take the 90 freeway out and probably encounter a couple more cities along the way, like Cleone, and Ellensburg.
And if we like, head all the way out to Spokane. I'll look at Seattle, though, to start. And, like I said, the big thing is to get in and get to know the city that you're modelling your city on. Whether it's for a game or for an animation, we need to look at real data. Because the real world just screams out, how to make the virtual, if we're willing to listen. I'll zoom in on Seattle, and right into downtown. We can see as we get closer here that a number of factors shape the city. The first is obviously the water. We can't move Lake Union.
Here is Union Bay and Lake Washington. And, again, we can't move these, nor can we affect their shoreline to any great degree. This shapes our overall city. And what we can see here especially in the Belltown area, is that the city grid runs parallel to that coastline. We can also see we've shaped it with the number of docks in the Seattle Aquarium and so on, but the city grid, the very formation of the city. Has been shaped to buy that topography. We can see then where that crashes into the regular city grid.
Union street, 23rd, Cherry Street and so on. All run very orthogonally. But then we've got this odd grid crashing into it, and netting us this real interesting triangular blocks. And occasionally a street like Madison, that sort of crashes right across that grid. Once we've looked over this level, saying what is the overall order in the city? We can start to get in even closer. And the really marvelous thing about, well, this digital age we live in is that we can get in as close as we want. Even to the point of starting to see buildings, like Bena Royal Hall.
And Sam's shop, and the Fairmount Olympic, and Purple Cafe, and Winebar and, Hotel Monaco. We have name, businesses, and many more that are unnamed. We can even start to see this is Google Earth, for example, and drop in to that city, and take a look at it, and see really how it looks in volume. Here we can see this projection. We've got a good bit of height on the buildings that we've decided in this particular part of the city. And actually in a lot of cities, that we need to cluster a lot of things together, primarily offices, in some places industrial and so on.
But we need to cluster things together and build up instead of out. We can also see what this does to our city especially in this tall view. We get a lot of streets that are very well shaded from all those tall buildings. And so where the sun hits is really variable depending on the density. If we look at cities like Tokyo for example, those gets so dense that the streets sometimes become Canyons and sun rights are major concern. The same is true in New York. And, again, only studying the real cities gives us the tools to look and make the virtual.
So when you're starting out in a city, even if you're inventing proto city, the city we're going to use, which nobody has ever seen, look at real cities. Any movie out there where we see a digital city, is based somewhat on reality or multiple realities drawn from different places here on earth. And then the imagination of the set dressers and the set makers give us that future city. Even if we're looking at a past city. If you're recreating Pompeii or you're recreating the village of Paris before it was a giant city, we still have reference for it.
And so we can go forward as well as backward in looking at our city. The cool one, again, is we can take even our street view and drop right in. I'll drop into my city. And here I am right on Spring Street. I'm looking around. And there's all kinds of neat things here. And I can really get a feel for the flavor of the city. It is a marvelous resource. And there's very few places on our globe that are completely inaccessible. So again, the first step, is to assess, and to look at what's there for existing reference.
And I can't stress this one enough. We need to get in, and look at the character of the city. And be able to say for example, I can really see Seattle's classical and art deco roots here. And the overlays, of 60s modern, 80s modern and what the hills have done to it? Travel up spring and up these hills and we can see that the city is really shaped by it. Almost to the point of multi level buildings being occasionally immersed into the ground. And then only really blooming out to their full height farther down the block. What we can see also is that this builds up over time.
And we need to consider it strongly. How did the city come to be? And so we need to think of the very place of the city, and then the forces that have shaped it. The economic, physical, structural, and even building, or building design, forces that help give us our city's character. But start out with the real reference to really get you going on what is that city you're trying to make?
- Conceptualizing the city
- Planning the city in Illustrator
- Drawing buildings
- Laying out the city grid
- Creating tree and lighting elements
- Building a reference structure
- Modeling streets modules and fixtures
- Creating referenced objects and mental ray Proxy objects
- Exporting layer markers for compositing