The Creation of "Shabyat"

Artist Khalid al-Muharraqi turns to LightWave to create the popular UAE TV show "Shabyat"

Posted: Mon 22 Apr 2013

Bahrain Artist Khalid Abdulla al-Muharraqi, founder of Muharraqi Studios, relies on LightWave throughout his production pipeline for countless projects, including the creation of a Ramadan-themed cartoon environment for the television show Shabyat, which aired in the UAE and GCC. in fact, Muharraqi and his nimble team of six artists managed to create the 3D scenes for the entire Shabyat project in as little as 20 days.

In fact, Muharraqi and his nimble team of six artists created the entire Shabyat project in only 20 days. Given that utilizing light and shadow are his strengths (he has been painting and coloring most of his life with water colors, gouaches and airbrush), Muharraqi gravitated toward LightWave 3D from the very beginning. Today he continues to embrace the neweset features of the software to evoke the highly stylized daytime and nighttime Dubai scenes featured in Shabyat. "LightWave feels at home to me," explains, Muharraqi.

For Shabyat, however, the goal was to create an interesting environment for the viewer, something that would blend in nicely with the cartoon-like vibe of the animation, but at the same time push it further with greater believability and depth than a traditional 2D cartoon.

"In the summer time, the temperature is so hot here [in the UAE] that it looks like everything is one color, explains Muharraqi. “LightWave allows me to easily control the look of the environment. For example, one set I built [for Shabyat] is of a small town with houses for the characters in the story. These also include a school, a stadium and desert terrain. I wanted everything to look as if it were almost melting from the heat; that's why the shapes are all distorted.” But at night,” he explains, “the temperatures are cooler and the crescent moon, which is the symbol of the holy month of Ramadan, dominates the sky.”

Although Muharraqi and his team built one environment containing all the elements of the project, they made sure that it was all produced with low poly count models so the shots would be easy to maneuver and render. "Our role was to create the 3D environment and hand it over to the client so they could move and position the cameras according to their story as it applies to the 2D animation," he adds.

Overall, there were 500 objects, 480 surfaces and 178 images created for the Shabyat 3D scenes. One LightWave feature that was particularly helpful in the creation of these scenes was the Viewport Preview Renderer (VPR), which according to Muharraqi made the client very happy to be able to move the camera and quickly preview changes in the scene. "We also found Layout to be much faster and more responsive with the camera movement. Since we rarely create cartoony-looking environments, in fact, this was our first, all the tools in LightWave helped us achieve our sketch concepts much faster than we anticipated and with full control."

When it comes to modeling, Muharraqi believes LightWave fits well within production pipeline. "Today, all software must work together—artists always need to get better and faster results.” He finds LightWave to be especially useful for lighting and rendering.

"I love LightWave’s lighting and rendering capabilities—somehow it is a simple concept for me to understand and work with," explains Muharraqi. "It is really designed to make life easy and by usingVPR, there is no need for the F9 render and adjustments. For me, the work flow is hundreds of times faster than earlier versions of LightWave that didn’t include VPR. It has dramatically changed the way we work. For instance, we can see volume lights before render and we don’t have to sit and wait for results. "

Muharraqi also frequently utilizes the MDD import and export feature in LightWave. "I love the fact that the LightWave 3D Group has taken features that were already good and made them more robust and interactive with other programs. The ability to export perfect FBX, for example, and use it with Motion Builder makes it much easier to animate and move objects back and forth."

Control over scenes was important for the Shabyat project too—especially for the creation of daytime scenes and the handling of the overall lighting on the project. "LightWave has an amazing modeler," Muharraqi boasts, "and it makes life easy for me when I model or try to distort objects. the number of onscreen polygons is usually high for these scenes, but with LightWave, everything is smooth.”

In Shabyat, lighting was created for three scenarios: day, sunset, and night. I used the same setup for each, adjusting the lights and the textures for each to give the viewer a different look and feel. The best part of this solution was that all the scenes used the same setup with minor tweaking for each."

Creating the nighttime scenes required the added challenge of getting the crescent moon to make the look “just right.”

"Lighting Shabyat with LightWave was fun and with VPR I could see all my adjustments and changes almost instantly,” explained Muharraqi. “I like to keep image references for color selection; it helps me to pick the colors I like; I also used some GI light to get softer effect in some areas."

To view more work from Muharraqi visit Muharraqi Studios