This was another early test I made of 3D models I had bought, not originally intended to grace the cover of the book, although the scene was taken from it.
I had long wanted to visualize the scene in which Yrmenlaf and Unferth arm wrestle in the Viking style - with sharpened knives held in their other hands - a scene conceived during the writing of the film script as something that would be dramatic on screen. It proved more difficult to describe in words alone, and so this was my opportunity to bring it to life in visual terms.
Ever since I started working in 3D rendering somewhere around 2oo9 I've been on the lookout for any models that had a Viking or Nordic theme, scooping up everything that I could find.
This piece was done using the newly acquired "Saxon Settlement" set by Merlin Studios, along with a load of clothing props created by John Malis, as well as many others...a feast of Northern riches. Though by now somewhat outdated, being based on DAZ's Michael 2 figure, the clothing sets created by Malis are still among the only historically accurate Viking-era wardrobe props that can be found. Because of this, nearly all the male figures here are Michael 2, just with different hair and clothes.
First I needed a King, of course, and a bard...
The figure poses here were done as simple clothing concept tests, with just the default settings on what were very simple textures from a time when little more was possible on a home PC. But is was enough to try out an idea, bringing a scene and character to life.
I began with these quick character "sketches" before creating an environment for them. Yrmenlaf received a custom tattooed scalp and bulging vein displacement, while Harthbard got muttonchops and Hrothgar an "aged" skin texture and grey hair and beard, as well as a horn-studded headband for a crown.
All together 35 figures were composed together inside the Saxon meadhall set, along with 161 props to fill out the scene. All of this was rendered in a single pass, with a set of ten orange-tinged lights applied to simulate the glow of torches, candles, and firelight.
The image at left is the low-rez preview as seen before the scene is rendered, with no shadows or bumps applied. This allows you to work with complex setups such as this without completely bogging down your system. The render process for this scene took over seven hours, and had to be done several times to get it right. And in the end it all had to be done again to make it fit the cover!
The following two renders show alternate perspectives of the scene...
Finally, with all the elements in place and textured correctly, a final camera angle was selected and the scene rendered. Ultimately, this shot would not be used, since it was too wide, and the entire scene would need to be re-rendered at its full height to fill the rear cover, which unfortunately meant cropping out some of the characters I'd worked so hard to add. But here in the initial version of the scene you can still see them all...