Nike Air Mag Renders Featured on Ebay and Nike

Posted: 10.11.2011  \  In: 3d Graphics  \  Tags: 3D Modeling, 3ds Max, Hive-FX, Product Renders

During the Summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to work on a top secret and very high profile project for HIVE-FX, in Portland, Oregon. Over the phone, all they were able to tell me was that the project required a photo-realistic render of a new shoe for Nike, set to be unveiled sometime in the Fall.  The final deliverable would be a 360 degree turntable animation, which would be featured on a Nike-branded website to announce the launch of the new shoe.

So in June, I flew out to their studio in the great northwest for a ten day stint. Shortly after my arrival at their studio, just across the river from downtown Portland, the mystery shoe box was opened.  Inside was a pair of retro-futuristic high-tops covered with rubber, metallic fabric, glowing LEDs, and the unmistakable Nike Swoosh. Incredibly, I was staring at Marty McFly’s Nike Mag shoes, as featured in Back to the Future II!

Nike redesigned and produced 1,500 special-edition pairs of the “most famous shoes never created” for a fundraising auction in partnership with Ebay and the Michael J. Fox foundation to raise money for Parkinson’s disease. Pretty sweet!

Modeling the Shoe

The guys at HIVE set up a photo shoot in-house and we were able to get dozens of great neutrally lit reference shots of the shoe from every possible angle.  Using these photos, I spent the next several days modeling the shoe.  This was actually new territory for me, as I’d never created a shoe before.  In fact, most of my 3d work in the past has been exclusively hard surfaces with metal or plastic components (cell phones, computer peripherals, and other electronics equipment).  To achieve photo-realism, however, I would need to convey the unevenness of the fabric and leather, and the very recognizable tapered shape of the shoe itself.

To accurately capture the shape of the shoe, I had to first set up my front, back and side reference shots.  I could then import those images into 3ds Max and line them all up so that from any given angle I could toggle back and forth between the shoe model and the reference photo behind it.  Since the shoe features so many textures and details, it was imperative that the underlying mesh be clean and well thought out.  The final model contained only 16,000 polygons at its base level, which allowed me to selectively apply smoothing to the various features as needed to achieve the final photo-realistic result.

Low and High Resolution Meshes



The shoe contains several different types of textures, including rubberized edging with raised paint streaks, the vaguely metallic fabric, leather ears and front strap, glowing waffle-like sole features, and bulging rubber heel strap.  Each of these elements required layers of image maps to provide its color, opacity, sheen, and texture.


Some of the textures I created for the shoes


Lighting and Rendering

The direction of the lighting and camera angle were provided by HIVE-FX and the guys over at Nike.  The final interactive portion of the site was to feature the shoe in an enclosed display case with live action footage of people stopping to check it out.  Because of its trademark glowing features, the shoe also needed to be rendered under two different lighting conditions to allow visitors to the site to see it in both “day” and “night”.

I worked with HIVE’s lighting director to build two different studio setups–one to give a “daylight” feel, and the other to showcase the glowing lights at night.  We kept it pretty simple, relying primarily on a couple of large area lights to the sides and slightly behind the shoes in order to help accentuate the depth and really make the edges pop.  Here’s a daylight render:


Work Featured on Ebay, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Nike

The Nike Mag was officially unveiled in September, 2011 with a special appearance by Michael J. Fox on David Letterman.  That night, the eBay auction and Nike promo site,, went live.  The auction ultimately raised almost $5 Million for Parkinson’s research!  The eBay auction pages featured one of my rendered stills of the shoes, and the Nike site contained a flash turntable feature, allowing visitors to view the spinning shoes under daylight and nighttime conditions.  Ultimately, this was a very rewarding project to work on — both personally because of the incredible worldwide visibility of my work, and because I was able to participate in such a wonderful cause.  Special thanks goes out to Hive-FX for bringing me on for the project and entrusting so much of the final product to me!  Here are a few screenshots below, or you can view more renderings in my portfolio.

Blog Categories

Recent Posts

Send me an E-mail

Need a new website for your business or organization? Looking for a wedding photographer? Just saying hello? Send me an email and I’ll be in touch soon!