a gallery of computer-generated images

Close Worlds


I’ve recently been trying to construct space scenes using different 3D software. This was made using Carrara.

The basic starting approach that I took was the same in each case: make a sphere, texture it to suggest a planetary surface, then wrap it in a slightly larger sphere with an atmosphere shader applied. Then use a distance light to light it in a way that emphasizes the shape of the sphere.

In practice, I find that it’s often difficult to get the planet looking exactly the way I want, so the design ends up evolving as I try different things to see what works. The planets in this scene are each composed of multiple layers, which add not so much atmosphere as additional surface detail. For example, the closest planet has a basic rocky texture on the innermost sphere, while the branching ‘veins’ were created with a shader that uses a Julia set to drive the alpha channel. The planet in the background also uses a Julia set, but in this case it’s used on a bump map to create some relief detail.

The backdrop is a NASA photograph of the Lagoon Nebula taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. Stars were added to it using the Starry Skies product by Dartanbeck, which is unfortunately no longer available. There’s also a large fog volume that takes up much of the scene and which helps convey a sense of distance by softening the objects in the scene.

I did some postwork in the upper left corner, because the nebula from the backdrop photograph seemed to stop rather abruptly. Using paintbrush, smearing and clone stamp tools, I extended the nebulosity all the way to the window edge. The image might have worked fine as rendered, but I felt that this looks better.


Carrara 8.5 Pro
Photoshop CC 2020