Each of the images shown in Deep Cold is a rendering of a 3d computer model. I built these models over the last few years using a tried-and-true suite of software on a bunch of different Macs.
It took a while to figure out what worked and what didn't, but I have come to rely on the software and steps shown here. I try to keep up with the latest versions of the software, but the fact is there is nothing shown here which couldn't be done on earlier versions.
1. Basic modelling on Amapi
Amapi is kind of a strange modelling program. It has the weirdest interface of any program I've ever used, but you simply can't beat its ability to model complex shapes in an intuitive way.
Once I've built the basic model, I export it as a .DXF file. (It's possible to export as a Strata model, but I've had nothing but trouble trying it).
2. Making maps in Photoshop
Using screen-grabs of the wireframe model as templates, I create image maps in Photoshop. I usually make maps for color (16-bit color, no compression), ambient, diffuse, opacity (I liked it better when it was "transparency"), reflection and bump (all 8-bit greyscale).
3. Detailing, adding maps and composing in Strata Studio Pro
Although this program often frustrates the daylights out of me, I really do love it. I've used every 3d program available on the Mac (remember "Presenter Pro"?), and Strata is simply hands-down the best all-around package available.
In any case, I import the .DXF and then break it into individual polygons. I create various named "shapes" out of groups of polygons and then apply maps individually to each shape. It took years to figure out this, but it allows for great control over positioning maps on different pieces.
Then I position the cameras and lights and do the rendering. Lately I've also been making a lot of movies using the animation features, and they look great.
4. Image tweaking in Photoshop
Then its back to PSD to clean up the images. In the old days (6 months ago) I added backgrounds to the rendering's alpha channel, but with Strata's new "backgrounds" functions, I don't have to do that so much anymore. That's it! (For movies, I do all the "post production" in After Effects).