Sci-fi Sailboats

A short while back I posted this image on social media, for no other reason than I thought it had a rather attractive look to it and I was pleased to have such a “happy accident.” You’ll see shortly why this was an accident, but first here’s the image:

Quite pretty, I thought. But how it came about was an interesting turn of events that deserves sharing.

I’ve been working on my next book release for a while, and while the manuscript was away at my editor’s, I started working on a concept for the cover. I won’t go into detail about what will be on the cover (that’s a surprise for another day closer to launch!), but I wanted a background showing a futuristic city. I created and arranged the buildings using Blender the way I do with all my covers, then I decided later on to add an ocean or water intruding into the city – after all, nothing says “alien world” better than high-tech looking buildings in an odd, somewhat Venetian setting!

The water turned out quite well, and I tweaked it a little until I was happy, then rendered it out feeling quite pleased. But as I stared at it, I realized there was something missing. There were no real signs of “life” anywhere, and it all looked a little sterile. After some thought, I decided it needed some vehicles in the mix. My first thought was to add flying cars (a common sci-fi theme), but they feature heavily in my Joe Ballen series, and the forthcoming book isn’t connected to that universe at all. Then I thought about the water and decided that adding some boats would be the kind of detail that would lift the image.

Now the thing is, in the original image the boats themselves would only be a few pixels high. They’re not a main feature by any means, and I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time modeling them. So I did what any good aspiring-to-be-good CGI artist would do: I looked in my collection of greebles, found a few shapes that looked roughly boat-like, added sails to some of them and a few suitably obscure textures. The result came out like this:

As you can see in the highlighted area, the boats are so small they’re almost invisible. Almost… but they add that little detail that helps bring life to the image. And while I was spinning around the 3D scene, I happened upon the shot I showed at the beginning – that happy accident. The view is from the right side of the box looking left as you look at the picture. A few brush effects and digital retouching… and the rest as they say, was history.

I might add a few more minor features or perhaps not, but I think it shows that sometimes paying attention to the smallest details can have benefits!

How about you? Have you had any happy accidents from the smallest of details? Let me know in the comments, and stay safe and well.

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