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3D Scales

Bartley & Spears are conservative attorneys who focus on real estate and residential association law. I knew I wanted to use strong, iconic images to represent the firm; this client definitely did not want me to "get jiggy with it," so I decided to stick with the basics. When dealing with lawyers, there are basically three icons that work: a gavel, blind Lady Justice, and scales. I spent days searching the Getty collection and other online stock agencies, but I couldn't find a single photo that I really liked.

So, I created my own.

I drew very complex lathe templates in Macromedia Freehand 9. Freehand allowed me a lot of precision in constructing the basic shapes of the model:

  • Base
  • Bowls
  • Crossbar
  • Chain Links

View a PDF of
the Lathe Templates >>

I lathed the paths in Strata 3D and applied a basic gold texture. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could import path groups, lathe them, and then ungroup them and apply different textures to them. Using this technique, I was able to apply gilt edges to the glass bowls.

The links of each chain were created directly in Strata 3D. I modeled one link and then replicated it along the Y-Axis with a 72 degree rotation per link. This gave the links a gentle rotation along each strand which helps reduce the mechanical perfection you often get with computer models.

View demo of how chain links were created with Path Extrude >>

The flag was very difficult to create. I tried many, many different techniques before I decided to split the flag into two models: I had to separate the stars and stripes. I then drew simple paths and skinned them. Adjusting model complexity was pretty much hit and miss: too many polygons and the thing wouldn't render, too few and the flag had very sharp edges. I also spent a lot of time tweaking the textures. I created custom bump maps that included a slight rise and dip at each seam and relief for each stitch. I then layered the basic cloth pattern (a combination of the 'burlap' and 'canvas' settings in Photoshop's Texturizer Filter) with Strata's Silk Shadier. Again, this was pretty much trial and error until I got what I wanted.

Finally, the nightmare of rendering.

I needed a VERY high-resolution image. The finished product is printed at 400 dpi (a setting recommended by my printers), so I should have rendered this image at 4,000 dpi. Unfortunately, Strata couldn't handle it.

I spent weeks talking with colleagues at Strata Cafe (fortunately, we weren't on a tight deadline) and they helped me decrease my poly counts and adjust my render settings., I ordered another 512MB of memory (upping my system to three-quarters of a GB), and it still wasn't enough. Strata just isn't very good at memory management on large renders. Unfortunately, it was too late to switch to another application (although I seriously considered it). Finally, I managed to tweak and tease the app into giving me a medium-quality 3,200 dpi rendering. I took the image into Photoshop, softening some of the sharp edges and manually trimming jaggies where needed.

The final, hi-resolution image was rendered with raytracing (to capture the flag's reflection in the gold); the background clouds, soft shadows, and the lens flare were enhanced in post production with Photoshop.

In general, I'm pleased with the final outcome. It was a lot of work, but the basic elements and textures have already proven to be versatile. I've used the gold and glass textures, the cloud background, and the flag again (this time with a texture of the Texas Flag applied) for the Texas Museum of Natural History.

I will not, however, use Strata 3D for a project that needs more than 3,000 dpi output. The current version, 3.5, just can't handle it. It is, however, definitely useful for medium- and Web-resolution projects and I will definitely use it for those projects.

View Print Samples >>

View full image > >

NOTE: Variations of this image are available for purchase through Go there and do a search for "Justice Flag."

Other Projects

3D Modeling
- Rotgut Whiskey
- 3D Phone
> 3D Scales & Flag
- Belgian Jeannie

- SilverStream
(available by request)

- Logos collection

Photo Restoration & Retouching
- Before & After

- TeleCheck

- TeleCheck

Entire contents © 2003-2023 by Mike Mitchell