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IMPORTANT: To view the tutorial with larger images and screen shots please download the PDF or XPS files.
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This tutorial was written exclusively for The3dStudio.com by Rick Johnston of Dreamscape Studios (Member Link).
*** Build a Lighthouse in 3ds max ***
There are many lighthouses around the world which guard the dangerous shores and protect ships from inadvertent sinking because of navigational hazards. For thousands of years these landmarks have been built in many forms, shapes and sizes.
Modern lighthouses really came into existence with the use of electricity in the late 1800s. They were until only a decade or so ago, manned by lighthouse keepers who lived at the lighthouse in a small house that was attached to the lighthouse or built on the property. Recently however man has been removed except for occasional routine maintenance visits and the lighthouses have been automated.
This tutorial will assist you in learning the techniques of building a typical lighthouse without a lighthouse keeper’s residence and then texturing the lighthouse with the a couple textures we provide for you. You will need to download these textures before you begin and place them in the folder you wish to use for your project.
The first step in building the light house is to build the foundation. The foundation is concrete and will vary in shape based on the environment that the lighthouse is to be built. For the purpose of this tutorial I will use a circular foundation.
Build the Foundation and Ground
Use a standard cylinder to build a foundation about 40 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height. Position this cylinder about in the center of the project area and with the top of the cylinder about 2’6” above the 0 elevation. The cylinder should have only one vertical segment and 2 segments in the cap. It should be 36 segments around. The additional segment in the cap will allow you to visualize the center much better.
See fig 1.0
Now place a large plane in the top view also centered in the project area and on the o elevation. This plane will represent the ground while you are building you project.
See fig 1.1
Build the Tower
The next step is to build the tower of the lighthouse. I use a tube in this process so that later I can build the detailed interior and do interior renderings also. The tube should have a diameter of 25 or 30 feet. The length of the tube should be about 120 feet. The walls of the tube should have a thickness of 2 feet approximately. Modify the tube so that it has four vertical segments and 40 segments around. Build this tube in the top view and center it on the foundation. Move the tube base up to be flush with the top of the foundation surface.
See fig 1.2
Now modify the tube at the sub object level to get the semi conical shape of the tower. Select the lowest of the vertices and using the uniform scaling tool, scale the diameter of the tube up 5%. Move the second level of vertices down to a couple of feet above the lowest section of vertices.
See the illustration below:
Now select the section of vertices second from the top and move them up to about a foot below the top vertices. Then scale them down using the uniform scaling tool to about 75% of the diameter of the previous diameter, it should be about 19 to 24 feet. Now select the top vertices on the tube and scale them down to about 75% of their original diameter and equal with the second highest vertices.
See fig 1.3 and 1.4
Note: You do not want to scale both the top and previous section of vertices together as this will result in moving them closer together vertically at the same time. In this model I used 5 sections vertically, you should use two and avoid having to scale the middle vertices to align the sides of the tower.
Floor and Walkway Supports
Now you need to build the supports for the light base floor and walkway. Most of the time this is steel I beams. To build an I-beam, build a box with 1 section horizontal, 1 section in width and 3 sections vertically. The dimensions of this box should be about, Length 6 feet greater than the diameter of the top of your tube, width about 2 inches or .18 feet, and height about 1 foot. Now the edit the vertical sections so that the vertices are within a couple of inches of the top and bottom of the box.
See fig 2.0
Now modifying the box at the sub-object level select the polygons for each or the bottom and top side (along the long side) polygons and then extrude them about 4 inches.
See Fig 2.1
After completing the extrusion, get out of the sub object mode and leave the object selected. Now move and center the I-beam on the center of the top of the tower. The top surface of the I-beam and the top edges of the tower should be flush with each other.
Using the Rotate and copy method, rotate the I-beam and copy it at increments of 15 to 20 degrees with enough copies to complete 180 degrees of rotation. For 15 degrees of rotation 11 copies will be required. For 20 degrees of rotation, 8 copies will be required.
See fig 2.2
Once these I-beam are copied, union them together with the Boolean command and then collapse them to an editable mesh. Later we will be putting the same material on them and it will be easier if they are one piece. You could also just group them and this method is better if you do not have a good powerful processor in your computer.
Light Room Floor
Now we need the floor of the light deck and walkway. I used a cylinder to make the floor of the light deck. This cylinder should be slightly less in diameter than the top of the tower about 6 inches to 1 foot thick and the bottom surface centered on the top center of the I-beams.
See fig 3.1
I used a Tube to build the Walkway deck. It should have an outside diameter that is slightly larger than the diameter of the I-beam supports, and inside diameter equal to the outside diameter of the light room floor you just built and a thickness of about 6 inches. Once built, move this tube up to be at the same elevation as the light room floor. Be sure that the bottom surface of the walkway floor is flush with the top of your floor supports (I-beams).
See Fig 3.2
Note: Using two separate pieces allow you to place different materials on the walkway and the light room floor easily.
Now we need a glass curtain wall. You can use a tube to do this. Create a tube with the same outside diameter as the top of the tower. The inside diameter of the tube should be about 3 inches less than that giving you a tin wall. In reality this thickness is no more that .5 inches. The height of the tube should be about 18 feet. I only allow for two vertical sections. This will provide a center section edge that can be selected later. Move the tube so that it is centered on the tower and the bottom surfaces are flush with the light room floor and walkway floor.
See fig 3.3
The curtain wall requires a framework to support the rook and separate the glass. Build a tube with an outside diameter about 2 inches greater than you used for the glass, an inside diameter about 2 inches less than the glass and a height of about 4 inches. Center this tube with the center of the light room floor and the bottom surface of the tube with the top surface of the light room floor. Now copy this object using the move and copy tool, vertically 8 times with about 2’ feet of distance between each copy. Make one more copy and place it on top of the glass wall.
See fig 3.5
Now build a box that will represent the vertical members of the frames. This box should be about 3 to 4 inches in width, 6 inches in length and ten feet tall. Now move that box so that it is aligned with a side of the glass wall and the tubes used for frames. The bottom surface should be flush with the bottom surface of the upper surfaces of the walkway and floor as you did with the tubes to be used as frames. The upper surface should be flush with the top edge of the top tube to be used as a frame.
See fig 3.7
Now edit the pivot point of this box by moving the pivot point to the exact center of the glass tubes used as frames.
See fig 3.8
The leave the hierarchy control and use the rotate and copy tool to rotate the box and copy it about every 20 degrees around the light room this will require 17 copies to cover the 360 degrees of rotation.
See fig 3.9
Now union the tubes and boxes you are using for frames. Do not include the tube you built for the glass. Once you have the frame unioned together, convert it to an editable mesh.
Now we need a roof structure. Building a roof structure will allow for better and more versatile rendering angles inside the light room. However, if you wish to reduce the poly counts, simply go to the alternate method below. Otherwise follow the next step.
Build a box that is about 3 inches wide. Its length should be slightly larger than the diameter of the frame of the curtain wall. It should also be about 8 inches tall. There should only be 1 section in width and height and 2 sections in length. Center this box over the light room so that it is aligned vertically and with one of the quad positions of the top of the frame. The bottom surface of this box should be flush with the top of your framework.
See fig 4.0
Now copy this box to the same position. With the copy selected, go to the modify sub object rollout and select vertices. Select the middle vertices of the box and move them up so that the angles of the sides of this box are at about 45 degrees. Now union this modified box with the first one you created for the purpose.
See fig 4.1
Now make sure the axis pivot point is centered with the rest of the lighthouse tower vertically. Rotate and Copy the truss you have just build with the same number of copies you did for the I-beam supports earlier and with the same amount of rotation you used then. That should have been 8 copies at 20 degrees.
See fig 4.2
Build the Roof
Construct a cylinder in the top view having a diameter only slightly larger than that of the roof supports. The thickness of the cylinder should only be about 2 inches and there should only be 2 cap sections and 1 height section. Once constructed, modify it using the edit mesh and sub object with vertices selection and select the interior vertices of the cylinder (bottom first and then top), and uniformly scale them to the center and weld them. This can be easily accomplished by hiding the vertices on the top of the cylinder, modify the bottom vertices, then hide the bottom vertices while you edit the top ones. Be sure you do this by selecting, scaling and welding the bottom surface first and the top surfaces separately or you will weld the center vertices of the top and bottom center surfaces together.
See fig 4.3
Exit the sub object level of the cylinder and move the object so that the bottom surface of that cylinder is flush with the top surfaces of the rook supports at the center. Center the cylinder to be used as a roof to the light house vertically. Now go back to the sub-object selection roll-out and select the outside vertices in the front or side view. Move these vertices down until the lower surfaces of this cylinder are parallel with the top surface of the roof supports.
See fig 4.4:
Build a torus with the primary diameter about 6 inches less than that of the outside edge of the walkway. The secondary diameter should only be about 3 inches. Move this torus to about 1 foot 6 inches above the top surface of the walkway. Then use the Move and copy tool to copy this same torus up another 1 foot 6 inches.
See figure 4.5 and 4.6
Now build a cylinder that has a diameter of 4 inches and a height of 4 feet. Build a sphere with a diameter of 4 inches and center this sphere at the top of the cylinder. Now you should union the sphere and the cylinder together. Convert this Boolean to an editable mesh and then go to the edit sub-object level and select vertices. Your cylinder should have 5 sections and you should move the vertices of the middle three sections closer together and then down closer to the bottom. These sections should be located as follows:
Lowest section 0 inches
Next section up about .5 inches
Next section about 1.5 inches
And the next section about 3 inches.
Using the uniform scale tool, scale the lowest two sections of vertices of the cylinder out to a diameter of 6 inches. Then scale the next higher section to about 3.8 inches. The next section should be left alone. Now move this modified cylinder to center on the quad of the torus and with the lowest faces of the cylinder flush with the top surface of the walkway.
See fig 4.7
Now modify the hierarchy and move the axis to be centered on the vertical axis of the tower as you did with the other objects. Now using the rotate and copy method, copy the cylinder 8 or 10 times around the walkway. 8 times require 45 degrees and 10 require 36 degrees of rotation.
See Fig 4.8
Insure that the copies are truly centered on the correct position relating to the torus. The torus should travel through the center of the cylinders all the way around. If not make you adjustments now. Union the torus and the posts and then to the second torus. Convert this Boolean to an editable mesh.
See fig 4.9
Now group the handrails and posts for easier materials editing.
The access door for the base of the lighthouse should be placed on one side of the lighthouse at the base and flush with the foundation. Build a box with a width of 3 feet, a length of 4 feet and a height of 7 feet. Center this box on the quad position of the tower.
See fig 5.0
Using the Boolean tool, subtract the box from the lighthouse tower. The opening should be 3 feet wide so make sure you align the box that way before subtracting it.
See fig 5.1
Build a Door Frame
Now build a door frame. This can be accomplished with a box of 7 feet in height, 3 inches in width and 4 inches in length build so that the 4 inch side is flush with one side of the opening in the tower and is inside the opening. Now copy this box to the other side of the opening. It too should be flush. Now in the front view select the last box and rotate copy the box to a horizontal orientation with the opening.
Edit the sub-object vertices on the ends to line up with the sides of the opening and outside surfaces of the previous two boxes. Then move this box to a position where the top surface of the box is flush with the top surface of the opening in the tower and the ends are flush with the sides of the opening. Union these three boxes and then convert it to an editable mesh.
See fig 5.2
Building the Door
Building a door can be as simple as you like. Most of the permanently manned lighthouses used a wooden door and can be made with a simple box. You can make it more ornate or add a window if you like but in this tutorial we will use a simple box. Make a box that is 2 feet 6 inches wide, 2 inches long and 6 feet 9 inches tall. Position this box in the opening between the door frame with the inside surface of the door flush with the inside surface of the frame. With the door selected modify the axis point to be at one of the inside corners of the door and flush with the door frame.
See Fig 5.3
Bump maps, opacity maps or additional mesh editing can create a more realistic door but I will leave that up to you.
Building the rotating light
Use the rotating light tutorial also available for download from the 3dstudio.com and follow those instructions with the following differences.
Do not build the base or cover.
Do not build receptacles.
In place of the receptacles use a large cylinder of 8 feet diameter and 10 foot in length. This cylinder should also be centered on the tower about 3 feet above the top surface of the light room floor. It should be aligned horizontally and centered on the tower. This cylinder should have 2 vertical sections and 1 cap section. The vertical section of vertices will allow you to align the rotating base more accurately and check the alignment with the floor. The end caps of the cylinder should be extruded inward and beveled to allow for some depth behind the lens.
See fig 6.0
The lenses should be built in the same way as the lenses in the rotating light or beacon tutorial except for the size. They should be built to fit closely with the ends of the cylinder that will be used as the receptacle for both lights. Place one lens in each end of the cylinder. Link the lenses to the receptacle
See Fig 6.1
Now build a larger base similar to that in the rotating beacon tutorial and centered on the tower. Make sure it is tall enough to fit the receptacle. Now align the receptacle with the base and both with the center of the light room floor. Link or group the receptacles to the rotating base. Grouping them will allow easier material editing.
You can now animate the base rotation. The speed is up to you but it should flash about once every second or two. This means for a 100 frame animation it will only turn 120 degrees. You will need to adjust your frame count to include 600 frames to get more than 3 flashes from the light.
Add the lights just as you did in the rotating beacon or light tutorial and you’re about finished.
I used a max standard material of wood for the door, door frames and roof supports. I used the standard old metal for the I-beams, curtain wall frames. I used gray concrete on the foundation, walkway floor and light room floor, for the roof I made a gloss coppery color in Max and used a bump map that is supplied here for this purpose. This bump map is called TroofBmp. Apply this to the roof and use a UVW to place it on the roof horizontally and set to fit. It will give the illusion of a sheet copper or metal roof.
Make a glass material or use your own along with another texture material supplied in this tutorial for the lens. The opacity should be not more than .20 and not less than .15 because the glass in these lenses is very thick. The bump map for the lenses is called LensBmp and should be UVW vertically and aligned with the lens.
Make a second glass material with an opacity of .10 or .12 opacity. Apply this to the glass in the curtain wall. You should be able to select this object with the center edge of the sides. Remember you build that tube with two sections in height.
Now apply a grass to the ground plane and you’re finished.
The end result should be something like this.
See Fig 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0
Put a good background into the rendering and you should get very good results.