Sintel, the Durian Open Movie Project » Blog Archive » Photo Reference


Photo Reference

on December 24th, 2009, by ben

I’ve felt my progress being slower than I’d like it since getting here, one reason being my texture reference library. Usually I would select some photo reference as a base for a texture, blend some stuff together and then continue painting and tweaking the image textures from there. The problem with my library thus far is that it is a mix of free images and image packs I’ve purchased. Seeing as everything used to create the film ends up on the DVD’s as well – it makes sense that we use or make our own Creative Commons material to keep things simple.

Rather than sift through my lousy folder structure to figure out what parts of my existing library are ok, it’s just easier to take a bunch of new photos. Soenke has a nicer camera but for reference mine is ample so I thought I’d get into it today. Fortunately Amsterdam is a city with history and a range of weather so I only had to walk outside my apartment to start taking photos of weathered surfaces. A couple of quick small samples – my camera is 6 megapixel, so obviously the real ones are bigger.



I’m still not sure whether to use a mix of photo based and hand painted textures or whether to just use all hand painted, but a 2/3rds painted with 1/3rd photo based detailing (grime, grunge, dirt, etc) sounds like a promising mix. At any rate, it should be a nice bonus to have a Creative Commons reference library on the disk as well as the film’s production textures eh?

Camera battery is charged so time for round two…

Merry Christmas all!

– Ben

32 Responses to “Photo Reference”

  1. Romain D. Says:

    Nice ! Great idea to make brand new textures. And Merry Christmas too !!!

  2. Gki Says:

    Great to see posts about texturing, a very weak point of many of us.

    Thanks! hope to see more on this subject.

  3. Radiant Says:

    Riot Gear could help unless you already have it. ^_^

    Merry christmas

  4. Lamoot Says:

    You can also take a look at previous open projects, like Yo Frankie which has its own library of CC photos and textures.

    And also It won’t cover all your needs but should be of some help πŸ™‚

  5. nemolivier Says:

    Why not asking community for help ? (it sound like it’s time to create, allready exist)

  6. Sly Says:

    Yes ! I am looking forward to a comprehensive tutorial about mixing reference photos+painting in order to get something nice !
    As nemolivier said, the community would be more than happy to help !

  7. Daniel Wray Says:

    Hey ben,

    The photo textures so far are looking good, I’d definitely say go for a paint/ photo manipulation for texturing, also don’t forget about Nodes and materials, creating a standard base/ grime/ dirt/ mud node group and bringing in plain looking textures and layering them can work wonders. Also with this option you can then render out large 4k+ textures since the finer details (grime/ dirt etc) will be procedural.

    I can also offer to take some photo references/ textures, I don’t live in a place like Amsterdam, So I can’t get the shots like you have. But I do have access to some old castles (wall textures etc) and some other various places where I could get some interesting textures. I have a 10.1M/pixel DSLR so the quality would be pretty good.

    P.s. I also have some reference pictures (taken from behind a glass screen, but still usable) of bronze/ iron age weaponry, axe heads, spear heads, short swords and a shield. I could upload them if they would be useful. They are from England, hence have a certain Celtic/ pagan design to them.

  8. ben Says:

    @Lamoot – Thanks for the link. From what I can tell all the previous Open Project files are still here on the server anyway so I can poke around.

    @nemolivier – A categorised site like that would be very cool. I’ve posted this before, but is what I use often as a starting point to hunt stuff down. It’s a search engine where you can specify what sort of licenses as a filter for images. Catch is they are often photography style photos, not photos shot with texturing in mind.

    @All – More than happy to have community help with photo gathering, but haven’t put much thought into the logistics (how it will work practically) of it yet. After a quick glance over the concept art, the main things we need are:

    + General grunge (dirt, decay, rust and so on)
    + Stone / rock / bricks
    + Wood (mainly planks and cut / shaped surfaces, not too many trees in the film)
    + Cloth
    + Mountains, Ice and Snow
    + Fire – more for visual reference obviously
    + Scales and animal skin
    + Human skin (will obviously need guidelines on collection of these)

    Wood, stone and grunge are the priority for now as the city environment is getting the texture focus. It will also give us a better idea for style and hence how much in the way of photos we will need as opposed to how much straight hand painting.

    I probably need to discuss things a bit further with the team for how community involvement with texture reference might best be organised, will get it’s own post later on.

    @Sly – As a side note I am keen to get tutorials underway, but it’s a time issue at the moment. There will be plenty of tutorials on the DVD’s once we are done, but now that Colin is much closer to locking the workload down and Ton is madly trying to plan around it – hopefully I can get into a bit more of a rhythm and post a tutorial every now and again. I like sharing stuff, it’s fun.

    @Daniel Wray – Awesome! Weapon photos and any other high res stuff you would offer to share would be great. Also, creating tileable textures and mixing up nodes was part of the plan to speed things up. While I would enjoy painting every little crack and detail there just isn’t time. Ton was dreaming out loud yesterday about a procedural dirt shader that checked for crevices and places of buildup similar to AO but not. We’ll see if anything comes of that. πŸ˜‰

  9. Bmud Says:

    I’m going to just start putting up photos whether you want me to or not. When Elephants Dream started doing textures, we all did the same thing, and you would be surprised how much it helped. πŸ™‚ Texturing is my favorite, so I’ll make them good!

    I’ll be putting them here:

  10. D Says:

    It’s very interesting; thanks for sharing, Ben. πŸ™‚ If there’s a call for assistance, I’ll see what I can do. I hope you guys will devise a way to organize the gathering of community contributions; if you’re going to do it, you should do it soon.
    I’ll be very interested when it comes to face texturing to see what you guys will do. πŸ˜€

  11. Greydesk Says:

    I highly recommend creating everything yourself. Too many people are being burned by supposedly royalty/license free images and such lately. ( for an example). My brother just got a letter from Getty Images about 3 images his former web designer placed on the page and told him were royalty/license free.

    If you take the photo/create the texture, you own the copyright. Make sure you tag or note on the picture somewhere that we are legally allowed to use it!

  12. Rickyblender Says:

    i think depends on the criterias you select

    but i think with blender features like paint – proc text
    and pic you can do a very good job

    but what about when you take a color pic you may still need to make some normal map or bump map from color pic

    right now there is the Bas relief plug in that can do this
    but may it would be good to have this nodes type tool included in 2.5 hope its’ possible instead of using external program like Gimp ect..
    it wold make blender more idependant of other soft


    merry christmass to all
    happy 2.5

  13. LOGAN Says:

    Photo textures often are a great base for textures giving it a reality thats hard to make using just painting.

    I’m lucky my good old camera has 2 AA batteries so I always carry a couple of spares with me. Make sure your next camera uses regular batteries and get some good Duracell recharchables.

  14. marwin Says:

    merry christmas to all of you here =D……… cool texturing is finally up
    (yey \m/) add me to your list of contributors i have a camera at home that i can use…..
    cheers to the durian team ^^

  15. Steren Says:

    @ben quoting @Ton :
    Ton was dreaming out loud yesterday about a procedural dirt shader that checked for crevices and places of buildup similar to AO but not. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

    I attended a Pixar conference recently in Paris. They created such procedural shaders and used them for the wood of the house of the main character of “Up”.
    The cracks and dust were generated using AO data.

    In the end, the artists only had a few parameters for this shader : color and age. The age parameter could also be set globally to the scene. It was also used to displace more or less the geometry, created new or old wood with only one slider.

    They told us that the system was flexible : it was automatically generated but allowed artists to tweak things, for example if there was too many dust somewhere, they could remove it by painting on a map.

    I really like this approach of shaders, they are packed and only expose relevant parameters.

  16. rogper Says:

    All and painted seams too much. The promising mix sounds cool πŸ™‚
    Merry Xmas for all the Durian Team!

  17. Anonymous Coward Says:

    Ran the sidewalk(?) texture through the WIP normal map node and came up with this ->

    Think that’s what Rickyblender is on about…

  18. rogper Says:

    … :s Man!!! I meant “All hand painted seems too much”… this keyboard is getting worse everyday… as also my spelling πŸ˜›

  19. rickyblender Says:

    @ Anonymous Coward

    i like it nice 3D small effect but still better than simple pic

    anyway to get something in a thread like to test that with the nodes you did for this

    now i’m not certain but is it as good as the bas relief plug in nodes

    mind you i was not able to test it myself cause there are no built for vista

    but the pics in wiki looks so great
    i hope we can get it in 2.5
    it would be a plus for mapping

    you can PM me on blender’s forum if you want to

    merry christmas

  20. Lyle Walsh Says:

    Look closely at the 2 images you posted at the top of the page and, IMHO, you will see some pretty bad problems.

    First – the edges are out of focus. THis is a problem with inexpensive lenses and is tough to deal with when you are shooting flat surfaces. You may want to get/ borrow an architectural camera for this. One trick that may help is to use lots and lots of light and a smaller Fstop to increase your depth of focus.

    Now look at the lines on the boards – they aren’t straight because of pincushion. Again a problem with inexpensive lenses. If you tile a texture where this isn’t corrected then it will look bad. Unfortunately pincushioning isn’t very uniform so it doesn’t correct perfectly.

    Also look at the spec highlights messing up the bottom picture, I suppose that you could paint them out.

    May I recommend that you work on a nice bright lighting setup to take these texture shots – nice diffuse nondirectional lighting would help eliminate problems that would need to be fixed by hand later.


    Blender in the New Year!

  21. jan Says:

    You did not have to walk very far for those planks!,+1019+Amsterdam,+Noord-Holland&ll=52.367464,4.918506&spn=0,359.981375&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=52.367425,4.918627&panoid=PjxTwilxjyKpyPMtjV_uPg&cbp=12,224.96,,2,15.1

  22. Jacob Valenta Says:

    I’ve tried making my own texture library before… I never make it bigger than 4 πŸ™

    Merry Christmas!!!

  23. jan Says:

    If you zoom in a little, most of the edge softness and pincushion wil disappear with the exz60. The overcast skies make for nice even light these days here in amsterdam

  24. Jan - 2 Says:

    Ben this is all very interesting. Merry Christmas from another Australian

  25. Christian Lehmann Says:

    Some private ref pics. Enjoy.

  26. Christian Lehmann Says:

    Some more with snow. The vid shows how snow glimmers when angle changes.

  27. Saverio Says:

    An idea is to host the images on flickr, as the service permits to choose the licence (i think cc images are hosted in full resolution), and decide for a convention to tag the images, accordingly to the content, e.g.: “blender, durian, texture, dragon, scale” (who hasnt got a dragon in the garden? ;D)…to facilitate the search

  28. ben Says:

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the range of replies, have been taking a couple of days off. πŸ™‚

    @Greydesk – That is exactly the sort of thing I’m on about.

    @Steren – any more details (or better yet, research papers) on this or similar shaders would be greatly appreciated!

    @Jan – Haven’t done any texture shooting around the institute yet, just the apartment area. Will continue to gather as we go, asking Ton where the best chances of seeing busted stuff are, etc.

    @Lyle Walsh – My camera is a low to mid range digital camera that is now 3 years old. Outside of that I don’t have any other photographic equipment like lights, extra lenses and so on. Seeing as the idea is to blend these images together with hand painting anyway I figure painting out a bit of specular and so on won’t be too much of an added hassle. If we were using the images straight from the camera it certainly would be. For things like bricks and wood, Soenke has a script to generate individual brick/plank/tile etc meshes, so photos of a brick wall or a group of planks are generally more for reference. Closeup photos on the details however will be useful for the textures. I’ll try and remember to zoom where appropriate. (@Jan – thanks for the tip.)

    @Christian Lehmann and All – if you post photos or links to a gallery of photos, could you please specify the license to help clear things up for people? A bit fussy I know, but Greydesk’s post is an example of why it’s important to check sources.

    Again, thanks all for your comments!

  29. Victor Says:

    I’ve been testing the last alpha and I have to say that the new interface layout looks just great. Keep up working hard! Very nice.

  30. Riton Says:


    Maybe you could use Mapzone to generate your texture, its powerful, fast, flexible and… free. Unfortunatly it’s not open source but it could be a solid basis for your textures. πŸ™‚

  31. be200fx Says:


    I want you to be able to say CC-BY where the BY refers to
    the durian project or blender, same as BBB. But, can I license
    something with the requirement that the BY refers to Durian?
    I should think that, at least, I should get permission to do so, first.

  32. meltingman Says:

    I have some beautiful textures from the prison hulks French Guiana (island), a few rocks and walls .. other photos that could contribute to a nice biliotheque free.
    contact me if it’s ok πŸ™‚

    + +