Now...In 3-D!
March 17, 2009 2:10 PM   Subscribe

With what imaging software was the new Sci-Fi Channel logo created?

The logo looks like it was built from cardboard or HD polyurethane foam and then photographed, but I'm certain it's not that simple, and I don't think its creators used Photoshop--I think they used a 3-D modeling program. Note the different lighting effects and shadows here, and here.

What 3-D modeling programs would I use to create those effects? Are they compatible with Illustrator CS4? I'm on a Mac.
posted by mattdidthat to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Blender or POV-RAY for the Mac
posted by unixrat at 2:22 PM on March 17, 2009

This kind of 3D rendering look involves radiosity, something that only a real 3D modeling or rendering package can do, and Illustrator absolutely cannot do. You might be able to fake it with some crazy tweaking of gradient meshes.
posted by zsazsa at 2:38 PM on March 17, 2009

The modeling isn't that difficult once you have outlines for the letters, you could get that done with the free and excellent Google SketchUp. Then, like zsazsa said, you'll need to render it to get the same lighting effects which is beyond the capability of Sketchup, but can be accomplished with a Sketchup plug-in like V-Ray, which unfortunately, is not cheap - but they have a 30 day free trial you can tool around.
posted by spoons at 2:51 PM on March 17, 2009

Illustrator absolutely cannot do
unless it's in the hands of a skilled illustrator. Which does happen, occasionally.

I suspect this was actually drawn as a 2D image by someone with a good eye for gradients, mostly because the angles look a bit off here and there (especially the 'f'). But if you wanted to mimic the look using 3D software, sunflow is a free mac renderer that supports radiosity.
posted by ook at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2009

An added bit of info: for good lighting effects including realistic reflected light, ie. the shimmering surface of the water or a mirror or a shiny car, your most computationally expensive yet accurate bet is ray tracing, a-la POV-RAY. This takes an insane amount of cpu even for a simple scene, but regular 3-D modeling does not compare. Check out the POV-RAY hall of fame for examples of what amateurs using an open source software package can do with ray-tracing.
posted by idiopath at 3:54 PM on March 17, 2009

The above comments are interesting but don't answer the question. Virtually every modern 3d software can achieve that look. As someone who does this for a living - it could be anything.

The ad agency mentioned in the times article is 4 creative and could probably answer this question better.
posted by milinar at 6:05 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

What milinar said. Any professional, and quite a few non-professional 3d applications can easily produce the look.

Given that it's produced by a large professional studio, it was probably not POV-RAY or Blender because they're not generally considered to be professional tools. More likely to have been 3ds max, Maya, Lightwave or a few others that slip my mind.

However nowadays the final image used in an ad has been through any number of pieces of software. A possible scenario would be for one application for the modeling (making the 3d shape) another for the color on the model, a third to render the image, a fourth to color correct, composite, and otherwise muck with it. Each one of these steps could be done by 5 or more professional grade applications, and a few big houses (like Pixar, ILM) still use internal tools for some of them. (And adding in video there can be at least two more steps in there.) The functional differences in the software at this point is pretty minimal. It's more about workflow and compatibility with other applications.

To the question is "How can I do this on my Mac?" the answer is: Blender is the easiest, cheapest way. Specifically check out the section on radiosity to get the lighting mentioned. I'd pass on POV-RAY unless you really like spreadsheets and graph paper.

If you're good with Photoshop or Illustrator you could do a very similar look, but it wouldn't be as versatile. (Okay, for me it wouldn't be as versatile, but many people are better at those applications than I am.)
posted by Ookseer at 7:41 PM on March 17, 2009

Just chiming in with another (free) workflow option: Sketchup plus kerkythea can provide very high-quality rendering.
posted by Chris4d at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2009

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