Creating a Wall of Mailboxes

Kent Trammell

Complexity Through Smart Repetition

If you’ve never seen the architectural visualization, “The Third and the Seventh” by Alex Roman, you need to do that right now: After the awe subsides, go back and watch at the 30 second mark. You should see a large wall of small drawers. I remember this shot sticking out to me when I first saw the film, in particular how fun the depth of field shift is across such a complex scene. It never fails to impress me. In fact what I think is so brilliant about this shot, and several others in the film, are how deceivingly simple they are to build.


  A huge benefit of computer graphics is the ability to quickly and efficiently duplicate or instance (link duplicate) geometry. This means we can spend more time building and detailing a single object then duplicate it many times to compound our scene’s level of complexity. But with such an ability it can be very easy for our duplication to feel too perfect; to feel “CG” and fake. To achieve realism we must implement controlled randomization to break up our CG-ish repetition. Mr. Roman employs such intelligent repetition along with his top-notch rendering skills to mesmerize us with gorgeous complexity. In this course, I want to walk you through a fairly simple example of this idea. From start to finish I’ll show you how to create a realistic snapshot of vintage mailboxes!

What You Will Learn:

1. Modeling: An old-timey mailbox is a pretty simple object to build. Step by step you will see how poly-model each piece, using mirror modifiers wherever possible to save time. 2. Shading: Old grimy metal is one my favorite materials construct. We’ll use a single image texture to achieve our grime through a combination of glossiness, diffusion, and bump mapping. 3. Render Prep: After materials are done, we will implement “intelligent repetition” by duplicating a basic asset hierarchy that makes it easy for us to randomize our pieces. 4. Post Production: A little bit of compositing can go a long way in helping to reinforce and compliment our lighting and photographic appeal. CC Attribution

Get this course and 261 others by joining CG Cookie

Awarded upon completion:
100xp +
Course Curriculum
1 Review
  • Brad Wheeler(brad-nbo) ·

    This is a pre Blender 2.8 course that still has a lot of great nuggets of techniques and workflow for many aspects of working in Blender. I easily followed along in Blender 3.3.7.

    I've gone through a number of the 'older' courses and found them all to be packed with great instruction that relates well with the later Blender versions. There is a lot of wisdom with the pre 2.8 courses/tutorials that I would highly recommend many of them as well worth going through.