This series of test shots is a compilation of months of experimentation trying to create a believable CG Earth as a personal learning project.
The shots were not planned so there is no coherent sequence. A lot of problems had to be corrected in post. Completed features include:
- Sun, Moon and Earth are constructed to scale
- orbital distances, inclinations, axial tilts are based on scientific data and constructed to relative scale
- orbital and rotation times are to relative scale (time is speed up about 1000x on average)
- terminator reddening (local lighting changes across the terminator to reflect day, sunset and night - implemented in VEX shader)
- atmospheric scattering (faked using multiple concentric transparent shells with altitude falloff and other density factors)
- volumetric clouds (very badly faked using displacement mapping)
- displacement mapped topography
- specularity for inland rivers and lakes (lower resolution than terrain data, and poorly hacked in Photoshop)
- city lights (looks cool but should not be visible for realistic "daylight" exposures, also low resolution but with additional detail using procedural patterns)
The first 2 shots are actually still renders with animation added in post. I must confess that I did not finish texturing the ISS model, which was setup and rendered in Maya because it's such a pain to surface and texture downloaded models in Houdini, especially one with hundreds of materials.
Overall, I can't say I succeeded in my original goal, but I've decided to make this a technical milestone. More R&D is need to carry on, so it's back to the textbooks and drawing boards ^^;;
My deepest respects, thanks and courtesy to NASA for generously sharing their Blue Marble (and other scientific datasets) and 3D models of spacecrafts with the world.
Houdini (procedural modeling, shader development and rendering)
Maya (rendering of ISS)
After Effects (editing, compositing, color correction, effects)
Nuke (compositing, color correction, effects)
Photoshop (texture editing)
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