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From Reference to 3D Render: Street Food Carts

Updated: Apr 25

Top view of the Street Food Cart

Wandering the street food markets in Asia is an artist's dream. They are a visual feast heighted by the smell of food and eclectic sounds. The decor is vibrant with numerous street food carts packed tightly together and featuring all sorts of different types of food or wares. During rush hour, vendors stand busily behind their carts as hungry clients, locals and tourists alike, place their orders. As your eye wanders and soaks up the environment, all the little details start to capture your attention. The rusty wheels of the carts, the colorful worn umbrellas, stained handmade signs, and all the perfect imperfections call upon you as an artist to capture this incredibly cool vibe.

A video clip of a street food market in Thailand. The music, street sounds, the food, and the people gathering around the vendors and their food carts is a multisensory experience. Video credit: Jacob Norris.

The Inspiration

The inspiration for the Street Food Carts came from travel pictures taken in Taiwan and Thailand. Like any curious traveler, Sierra Division's founder, Jacob Norris, visited many popular neighborhoods and street markets in these countries. Captivated by the ambiance and decor, he took countless pictures and videos, recognizing their potential as invaluable reference material. Going beyond simple snapshots, on some occasions he would even capture photogrammetry for elements that could benefit from it in the future.

Sometimes I would initially take pictures with my phone and make note of any interesting objects or details. Marking the spot on my map to remember, I’ll go back the next day with the camera and then I'll do the photogrammetry run or a closer more detailed reference set up for it.”

Getting Started on the Street Food Carts

It was only years later that these reference pictures became of use. While searching for inspiration for a new portfolio piece for Sierra Division, finding the pictures taken of the street food markets was like opening Pandora's Box. They provided the perfect opportunity to create a fun and challenging portfolio piece.

As a studio, you want to create a piece that will showcase all your different skill sets, and also pick a subject that is cool and that the team will enjoy working on.

Mobile street food cart in thailand

A busy road in Thailand featuring a man pedaling his tightly packed mobile street food cart. Image credit: Jacob Norris.

Sorting the Reference Pictures

Over 5,000 photographs were taken during the trip, requiring the sorting and organization of all shots of the various markets visited. Once compiled, a broad overview was conducted, emphasizing the must-have elements of Street Food Markets and contemplating what would make the environment iconic. Focusing on the street food carts was the logical choice, as they are the main element that defines these markets.

Considering the Users

When creating a prop, consideration must be given to its intended use. Behind every food cart stands a vendor, and the perspective of these individuals must be taken into account. Analyzing reference images enabled the identification of essential items required for food preparation and the various components necessary to ensure the carts are fully functional. This entailed contemplating utensils, washing bins for plates, seating arrangements, ventilation, and other pertinent factors that would need to made to bring realism to the 3D version of the food carts.

Street Food Vendor

A street food vendor in Thailand. Think about what this man would need for his food cart.

....Also that just looks like some really tasty food

Image credit: Jacob Norris.

Figuring out Requirements

Once the assets needing creation were identified, the next step was determining how to approach this project. To best highlight the studio's skills, the team opted to create these assets from scratch using traditional 3d modeling software. With limited resources, particularly since this project served as an internal portfolio piece, modularity became essential.

As a studio you need to be efficient and cost-effective. Modularity allows you to create new environments from these assets, expand on a scene and also gives the option to sell these assets, giving the opportunity for others to create with them.

Organizing assets of the Street Food Carts using a numbering system

The different parts of each asset was inventoried and organized using a numbering system. Each part can then be easily reused in a different project.

Assigning to the Team

After compiling the asset list, the team was tasked with assignments based on their skill sets and specializations. Consistently maintaining the highest quality throughout detailed environments poses a significant challenge. Even with a top-notch team, it's crucial to understand each person's expertise to ensure that each part is handled to the highest degree, be it the modeling, texturing or lighting.

Details of the different parts of the Street Food Carts

The quality, look and feel must be consistent throughout.

The Goal

Capturing the entirety of emotions and unique experiences within street food markets in a 3D environment is impossible. However, we aim to offer others a glimpse into their vibrant atmosphere. As artists, we felt deeply connected to the vendors and their improvised street food carts. These vendors are a distinct breed of artists, crafting their own food or creations and sharing them with the world for others to enjoy.

The 3D Street Food carts in their environment

Find high-resolution images of Street Food Carts in our portfolio. All vegetables seen in this project can be obtained from our store.

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