This machine was built 100% from photo-reference for an ad campaign for Futek, the company that made the servos and sensors aboard the rover. Seems the boys over at NASA would need over two weeks to give me the 3d files to build the rover, and I had only eight days to build a densely detailed model and deliver two images. This makes for a time consuming build, but you take what you have and build what you can. From many of the actual rover photos that were mostly shot with a wide angle lens and from a perspective, I sketched elevations from each of the 'high character' components. From my elevation sketches, I modeled directly on top of them, giving me a reasonably accurate model.
I rendered a few passes; ambient, reflective, z-depth using Maxwell, and added to that techincal line shader to help support the various details. All of the passes were layered in photoshop. I didnt bother UV'ing the majority of the model, since I figured given very little time I should paint in whatever details I needed in Photoshop.
Ive always liked ambient occulsive passes, of which show off the subtle modeling quality of the rover.
Many of the reference photos that I get for a project need to be translated from a perspective (angular) view to an elevation, or flat side view. I do this by sketching these parts as seen above, then scan or take a picture of the sketch and use this as a reference to model over inside 3ds Max. Its a form of reverse engineering, in a rough kind of way.
These are the very approximate elevations and results for the high character parts of the rover, which I had to build based on the reference photos that I found. I had ten different views, and these helped majorly. I set these up as planes in 3ds Max and modeled directly over. As you can see, I've lost my tactile art skills, and traded them happily for the ability of 3d artistry.
This wireframe view shows the different groupings of various systems. I had to leave out many details in order to have the renderer handle this file without constant crashing.