Floating City – Maya Modelling

So I began modelling in Maya, using my initial concept as a base. I wanted to capture the towering perspective of the city, with a sort of blend between Tokyo and New York city, but set in the future. The idea was that instead of building outwards, the city expanded upwards in to a towering spire. This is shown pretty accurately in Dermott’s concept art, inspired by some of James’ sketches.


shot-of-people-on-shibuya-crossing-in-city-at-night-calgary-alberta-video-id160230696 (640×360)

I essentially wanted to make this on steroids.

Photo Credit:


I started with creating basic blocks in the rough shapes, sizes and positions of the buildings in my concept art. I then was modelling each building separately and importing it in to the main City scene.

Above are the four main assets I used when creating my scene. A few of the background buildings I used to populate the scene were modelled by James, which I had exported before the tragic loss of his first file so at least his effort was not all in vain. I created an advertisement model that I could stretch, resize and flip to populate my scene with that busy Tokyo night-time feeling.


Nearly all of the wire assets in our scenes were modelled by Matthew, which can be found here: https://matthewduddy.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/building-assets/

Cheers wire boy 😉

In the early stages, the scene looked like this:

I felt it looked quite close to my concept art, but it didn’t look busy enough. Compared to Dermott’s scene, it was too clean. I wanted these scenes to blend aesthetically and so I went further in to some detail to mimic Dermott’s. In my scene I only had a total of two area lights. All other lighting was made using the ’emission’ effect on billboards and windows with occasional use of ‘light mesh’. The main skyscraper had a very reflective front surface, and so to show that off more I duplicated some of the other buildings and placed them off camera to reflect in the building. I also added a “Hologram” advertisement that would make the scene look more futuristic, busy and add an element of movement to the scene. I modelled some more buildings, added some advertisements and this was the next set of results:

At this stage, the reflection in the window was showing a lot better than before, and with the addition of some of James’ buildings as well as some more of my own the scene definitely began to look like more a city. I still felt that it was too bright, and so I tweaked a few more of the lights to tone down the toon-ish feeling and made the lambert for the buildings a darker shade of grey. I was initially going to texture the buildings but in the end decided against it because I felt the lights did a well enough job of providing atmosphere and any in-depth texturing would have over-complicated the scene and the file. To contrast the now darker atmosphere I added a lot more bright white polygons to create a chiaroscuro environment of heavily opposite values.

Initially, I was tempted to leave the billboards the colours they were because it had a more abstract effect but in the end decided to change a few of the key ones to actual advertisements to add authenticity and lighting. The ads I chose were

Pocari Sweat – A popular water brand in Japan and other Eastern Asian countries

Pokemon Go – A worldwide phenomenon with Japanese roots

Pocky – A simple snack from Japan that has been commercially successful in the West

Razer – Due to the large fascinating culture of gaming e-sports that is exploding from the Far East.

And finally decided to add my own logo (Locko) in with an Anime character (Because Japan) for some not-so-subtle branding, along with the Japanese Kanji for “Art”.

The final HD Rendered result looked like this:

Render HD 2.png

I made a few adjustments to billboard angles and sizes in order to suit the perspective of the camera a little more and make them more visible.


I added some cranes looming overhead, modelled by Dermott, to add some more animation in to the scene. This is a view of the scene from an alternative angle:

I also thought the city looked interesting from angles that were flipped upside down:


For the final render, I added some slight movement and rotation on the camera to keep the scene flowing as well as timing it with music. The music was suggested to the group by myself due to the traditional/electronic blend that represents the culture of Nipon so well.

Music Credit: RUDE – Eternal Youth

Here is a link to my scene in the first draft of the final video:

I wanted my shot to last for 10 seconds, so at 24fps it took 240 frames. Each at a respectable render time of 3 minutes per frame, it took a total of 12 hours to render this scene.

Process Breakdown GIF:


To see my post on the initial concepts for this piece, click here: Floating City – Initial Idea

To see a portfolio of my assets for this project, click here: Portfolio

To watch the final video including the infographics, click here: Final Video


James Goodwin: Research, Modelling

Matthew Duddy: Research, Modelling, Infographics, W I R E S

Dermott Burns: Research, Modelling, Title Card, Team Leader

Ryan Loughran: Modelling, Editing


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