Flipmode just came out with a nifty digital product, Easy Environments: Autumn. It contains a road, bordered by a stone wall, a fence and some turning deciduous trees, surrounded by a 360-degree skybox that makes the set “[gleam] and [gloom] / ‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.” [Thank you, Dante Rossetti, for Silent Noon, which contains the best description ever of such dramatic clouds.] Quick-rendering light sets were also included, promising to duplicate the type of light pictured in the skybox.
When I saw this set, I felt an involuntary pang, as the dappling of shadows across the landscape epitomized for me the melancholy of fall. I bought the set for the lovely panorama, but then couldn’t get over the fact that the mountains contain no trees whatsoever. There should be some fall colors on the distant hills too, right?
I tried to rectify the barrenness of the background with the help of a Wikimedia Commons panoramic photo from the top of Mount Mansfield. I spent hours dividing up the panorama into four pieces [one for each side of the sky box] and blending it with Flipmode’s sky. I even made a texture for the bottom of the skybox, which originally showed more parched, treeless ground. After all that, the result looked like a bad overlay, despite all my hard work. I thus concluded that I could not get a forested skybox out of Easy Environments: Autumn, so I returned it.
Not all is lost, however. I still have the Mount Mansfield overlay panels. I have another idea. I got a great discount on Dreamland Models’ Movie Sets: 81 Blocks last night. Regularly $24.95, it was down to $7.48, so I picked it up. It’s marketed as a huge city environment, but I snagged it because it contains a skydome, low-res forest props and low-res deciduous tree props with several materials. I’m thinking of rendering some panoramic shots in this set and making my own forested skybox.