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Bicycle rendering in Photoshop

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I mentioned a great reference CD earlier this week, so I will keep that theme going and review a DVD today. Some of you may remember a little over a year ago when I posted about Scott Robertson’s book, Start Your Engines. In that post, I mentioned his instructional Photoshop Industrial Design rendering DVD, which takes you through the process of creating one of his reflective surface renderings, in this case, of a bicycle. After that post, Scott was nice enough to send me a copy of the DVD. I enjoyed watching it, but at the time a prompt review got lost in the shuffle.

For those of you who do not recognize his name, suffice it to say that Scott creates some really slick renderings and illustrations that appear 3 dimensional using quick 2d Photoshop techniques. Whether you know it or not, I am sure that almost all of you have seen a few of his renderings. Some of his bicycle renderings were circulated around the web as an April Fool’s hoax a few years ago. The concept bikes, which I believe he actually did for the movie Minority Report, were incorrectly presented in emails and on many blog posts as a new line from Specialized called Venom.

Before I talk about Scott’s DVD, I have to say that usually I can’t stand any type of instructional computer videos. Just to give an example; I tried to watch an Alias Maya DVD not too long ago. The video may have presented some good information, but I just couldn’t get though it. Though I have an interest in the software, the way that the video jumped from a guy sitting in a chair speaking directly to the camera to screen shots of the curser clicking around on menus just drove me crazy. I am pretty easily distracted, so usually when I try watch an instructional video like that, I just end up daydreaming and get absolutely nothing out of yet. My experience with Scott’s DVD was different though. He talks through his rendering process and you see what he is doing on the screen the entire time. Many of the steps that he is showing are presented in real time, so you feel like he is showing you something without a bunch of disconnected stages that leave you guessing how he got from one point to another.

Even though I admire Scott’s work, I started watching the DVD with low expectations. I have been using Photoshop for a long time, so I wasn’t sure that I would get much out of it. Well, it turns out that I did. The main reason I liked it is because it is not a video that teaches you how to use Photoshop. In fact, the video assumes that you already know the program pretty well. What it does well is present a specific photorealistic rendering technique that uses some of the tools in Photoshop that most designers are already familiar with. Basically, you are not learning to use the program; you are just getting a glimpse into how another designer uses the tools to get very nice results. It helped me to think about a program that I was already very familiar with in a different way and that got me excited about trying some new techniques.

The DVD also includes a .psd file of the concept bike with all of the layers that you see in the video as it progresses from a quick sketch to a polished rendering. I had a lot of fun playing around with Scott’s file, tweaking the curves, and quickly modifying the forms to explore different options. Playing with the file is cool and really helps to reinforce some of the techniques that are shown in the video. You can probably tell that I really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend this DVD to anyone interested in Industrial Design rendering techniques, for bikes or any other product. Here is the thing though; I mentioned that I received the DVD a long time ago. Now when I look at the website, the bicycle rendering DVD shows up as “sold out”. I have no idea if Scott plans to produce any more or to create an updated version. Some of his other instructional videos are available and I am sure they are good, but if you want the bike rendering one you might just be out of luck. I’ll see what I can find out though and will update this post if I get any news on future availability. In the mean time, I encourage those of you interested in rendering and illustration to check out Scott’s website and sign up for his newsletter.

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  1. Ron May 10, 2008 at 11:43 pm -  Reply

    I think there are a fair of bad stuff out there in the educational media. But some of the videos on maya and 3dmax i’ve come across were some of the best in my life. I think one of the problems is not with just the instruction, but also with the software you’re dealing with. For example, I think Maya is way way too complex than 3ds max. The latter is more easier to learn and fun to play with for starters. Maya is daunting. I think you have to just try between different parties who offer tutorials. Sometimes, some of the free stuff out there is as good as anything you pay for..

    I think in the past I have seen some of Scott’s DVD’s. Wasn’t he the same guy who did renderings for Kestrel for a while? I’ve never managed to conquer photoshop but thanks for mentioning him, I think I’ll check some of his stuff should the need arrive.

  2. bikesgonewild May 11, 2008 at 3:52 pm -  Reply

    …haven’t seen robertson’s instructional dvd’s so i obviously can’t comment on that aspect but in following all your provided links, i was able to get a feel for his work…

    …highly proficient, prolific & creative…his cars, planes, space & airships are awesome, wild & good fun to look at but most of his bicycle designs do little for me either aesthetically or from my admittedly limited engineering viewpoint…

    …if robertson or anyone else has a particularly good reason for remote steering on a bike, i’d be willing to listen but maybe other than some type of anti-dive front suspension, i’m not seeing it…
    …beyond that i would suggest that i’ve always found new young engineers willing to “re-invent” the bicycle for one simple reason…because they think they can…

    …one of the great beauty’s of the bicycle is that it was, through necessity, originally designed on the “kiss” principal…material strength & weight were very defining factors in that day & age but somehow that same basic design is still around…
    …suspension on mtb’s has changed certain parameters, newer high quality materials have allowed for evolution & the age of specialization, ie: time trial & tri-bikes has added to the mix but in a sense, what we ride now is not that far removed from what was defined as the “safety” bicycle back in time…& there is a good reason for that…simplicity & those original well conceived ideas…

    …anyway, sorry to hear about dave z but go, go, go ***johnny & the slips***…

  3. eradler May 12, 2008 at 3:04 am -  Reply

    I think the pure design business does not bring us forward. A bicycle is such a condensed machine, that functionality is integrated into the design. So we don’t need design software but a simulation environment. Special Steering or different seating position and load fixing requires validation by usability and driveability analysis.
    Without it design remains utopia…
    Unfortunately there is no such thing as free modelling- you have to go into mechanics deeply…

  4. James May 12, 2008 at 7:42 am -  Reply

    Ron, my interest in Maya comes from many years using Alias Studio on SGI machines. I It’s been a while though. I don’t think Maya is really good for the type of work I do, but I just wanted to play with it. I currently use a combination of Rhino and Lightwave. I have played around with 3d studio max, but I have never really used it. Whatever you use though, software is just a tool. I think you can get the most out of any software package by just exploring it.

    Bikesgonewild and eradler, I can’t speak for Scott on the remote steering issue, but keep in mind that this is something that was just drawn for Hollywood. In a way, these bike illustrations are not all that different than the fictional characters and futuristic environments that you see elsewhere in his work. If you look at the actual design work that he did for Kestrel, you will see that it is much more conservative. I personally don’t think these “Minority Report” concepts represent the future of the bicycle, but they are fun to look at and the elements from these kinds of “blue sky” forms could work their way back into something more realistic.

  5. Safa Tharib May 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm -  Reply

    Who is brave enough to ride that?

  6. joe August 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm -  Reply

    this is a really nice, bike on paper. Lets see it at work

  7. Barry Merinsky July 23, 2009 at 8:24 pm -  Reply


    they are demonstrating how to render objects, aka make it look appealing to the eye. obviously, this bike looks great and all cyclists would go, "wow, i want one" if they didn't care how it worked…

    this isn't an engineer dvd tutorial, it is a rendering how to..and it is successful at its purpose.

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