My first task was to adjust my lighting, the lighting I had was from the early stages and needed some fine-tuning. My previous lighting was too bright, and in my opinion, and needed to be darker. making it darker also made the light coming from the glowstick look a lot better.
I wanted some light shafts coming from certain areas such as the broken window and the builder’s lamp. I originally tried to achieve this by using the Exponential Height Fog, but the problem with this is that it was affecting parts of my scene I did not want. to overcome this I used a simple cone to place the light shafts where I wanted. The cone then had a material applied to it that was made specifically for light shafts.
I also wanted to create a winter feel like in the game The Division. so I first created a snow material in Quixel Mixer, and made some quick geometry to apply the material to. I then simply placed the snow where I wanted it.
When first placing the snow down it had quite a hard transition between the snow and intersecting asset. I solved this by using DitherTemporalAA node to create a blend between the assets.
Beauty Shot’s and Fly-through
This project has taught me so much especially in material creation in UE4, being able to create detailed materials and be able to reuse them, yet have them look totally different is a huge time saver. At the same time being able to have the same quality resolution in larger assets as I have in my smaller assets. Also when it came to lighting I learned that if the lighting isn’t behaving as intended you can always fake it. This environment has been the most challenging project I have done so far including the new techniques I have had to learn as well as the unexpected Covid-19 situation causing me to rescale and adapt to my new working hours. But yet it has been the most rewarding.
This blog post is a little later than normal and should really be titled week 10,11 and 12. But with the current situation in the first week of lockdown, I could not get much work done due to my son being off school and my partner being a key worker. But I have now worked out a schedule that enables me to get the 30+ hours a week needed to get the project finished. Unfortunately, I have also had to scale down my project a little to just the interior and exterior of the train and part of the tunnel. It pained me to make this decision, but I believe that it was a good decision as this will enable me to apply a good level of polish to the scene without having to rush to get it finished.
So since my last post, I have spent most of my time creating more assets for the scene. I was hoping to get some photogrammetry assets made during this project, but to do this I was kind of relying on having access to a DLSR camera from the University. But as the University was shut I made do with the camera on my phone to do cardboard sections and used the textures from that cardboard section to make a pizza box.
Floor and Ceiling
After having received feedback from my tutor we both agreed that the floor and ceiling needed a bit of TLC as both surfaces looked a little flat and repetitive.
I first stripped the material back to its base material and added other dirt materials on top through masks.
I also used a baked AO dirt mask to create more dirt around the assets on the floor, this required me to do a production light build on the scene first as the mask uses the baked lighting to produce the mask.
The same technique was also used on the ceiling.
My plan for the next week is to mainly get the area directly outside of the train done, and then spend the last couple of weeks polishing and capturing a fly-through video ready for submission.
So last week I had the base materials down on the inside of the train. Since then I have been concentrating on getting the dirt and graffiti decals done. The majority of the graffiti images where collected by using Google Earth to roam around Oakland, California to take screenshots.
These screenshots were then taken into a program called Gigapixel, this program enabled me to increase the resolution of the images. I then used Photoshop to straighten the images and give a transparent background so that I could use them for decals in UE4.
The rest of my time has been spent creating assets for the inside of the train.
I plan to make a few more small scatter assets for the train as well as create some lighting assets such as lamps so that the lighting on the train makes more sense. I finally want to get round to getting all the main base textures done in the subway itself, as most of my time up until this point has been concentrating on getting the train carriage done.
So in my last post, I had the base materials on the outside of the train. Since then I have managed to get the outside pretty much finished apart for some sort of transition where the water meets the train, I don’t like the hard line and I think it needs some sort of wet algae decal to break it up a bit.
I also managed to get most of the train interior done, all it needs now is quite a lot more graffiti decals and some small scatter assets. To light the interior I am using two halogen lights that are plugged into a generator just outside the train, as the train itself is not supposed to have any electricity and I needed to light the inside in a way that made sense.
The cloth hanging from the door and windows were made in Marvelous Designer and textured in Substance Painter. When exporting the textures I also exported a height map to use for the subsurface scattering.
The window material still needs a bit of tweaking, I actually took the windows into Zbrush to sculpt some cracks and jaggy edges to bake onto the low poly. But the details seem to get lost in the opacity of the material, I think I will experiment trying to lower the opacity of that specific area by using a mask in the material and see if that works.
I also managed to get the base material on the platform floor, it stills needs a lot of work like dirt masks and some vertex painted puddles to break the repetitiveness but that will come later.
Next week my plan is to get some of the smaller assets done and to create some more tiling materials for larger areas of the environment.
The good thing about modeling a train is that there is a lot of repeating geometry. So in reality, I only really needed to model just over a quarter of the train, as a lot could be duplicated and mirrored.
Instead of going for the high to low poly workflow I decided with this asset being quite large it would be better to texture the asset using tiling textures within UE4. So the edges on the asset didn’t look too harsh without having a high poly bake for it I used a script in Maya to face weight the normals.
The inside and outside of the train were given multiple material id’s for texturing in UE4.
I textured the train using the same method as the escalator, making a library of material functions and blending them with masks. The top dirt mask that I used was able to apply the dirt to only parts of the asset that were facing upwards, to look like dust had settled on the asset. The good thing about this setup is that I can use this mask on any asset to get the same effect, and I have quite a lot of control over it.
For the more detailed dirt and graffiti, I will be using deferred decals so that I can get higher resolution. at this point, I only have the outside of the train with the finished material on. all the others just have a base material on at the moment, but with this first material made it should be fairly quick to get the rest done as I can reuse a lot of the elements like top dirt and other masks.
Depending on the weather I hope to get some photogrammetry done this week, getting some surface scans for the floor and tunnel walls, as well as some, scatter assets such as piles of rubbish. but if the weather is bad I will carry on getting the rest of the materials done for the train.
I started my week by jumping into Substance Designer and creating some tile materials for the walls. My idea was to create a clean tile material, a cracked tile material and a plaster material for where the tiles had fallen off, and use these as a tree way vertex paint for the walls.
However, once I created the 3-way vertex material and started to paint with it I quickly realized that the plaster material was not blending as well as I expected. So I decided to just use a 2-way vertex paint for the clean and cracked tiles as they seemed to blend together nicely and come back to the plaster later and maybe use it for mesh decals.
Re-doing the Escalators
As I mentioned last week I used a trim sheet to texture the escalators as this was quite a large asset and I wanted to maintain the quality of all the assets. But after having a talk with my tutor, he showed me a technique to get even better quality by using material functions and material blending to get even better surface detail.
One of my goals for this project was to try and learn how to create more complex materials within UE4, and this material was a lot larger than I am used to. but I did learn a lot creating it and when creating a material instance it gives me lots of control over certain aspects like roughness to different elements, colour, normal intensity and being able to tile individual textures like normal maps independently.
Next Weeks Plan
My main plan for the following week is to start modelling the train, as this is the main hero asset I want to try and get this done early on.
So I started my week by getting the main blockout done in Maya, I then imported it into UE4 to start adding my first light pass to get an idea of composition.
I used cold coloured light source for the light coming from the outside to the escalators and the hole in the ceiling to try and create a winter feel. Whilst inside the station, I tried to use warm colours coming from the fire and the train.
Asset and material lists
Once the blockout was done I made an asset list of all the assets I would need along with a material list, This will most likely be added to in the future.
I made a start on one of the assets for the scene the escalators, as this was a fairly large asset I created a trim sheet to texture the asset. I purposefully made the escalators look fairly clean to start with because I was using a trim sheet to texture it and I didn’t want the dirt, Wear and tear and other details to look repetitive. instead, I intend to add these details in UE4 with the use of a secondary uv channel to add some edge wear and decals to add more dirt and graffiti.
Plans for Next Week
My main plans for next week are to carry on with modelling assets and to create some tileable materials for the larger areas in the scene.
As an aspiring environment artist, I naturally wanted to create an environment for my final year project. This will give me a good opportunity to showcase my skills and ability, as well as learn new techniques to become more efficient and push my artwork to the next level.
The environment I am creating is inspired by Dan Iorgulescu’s Mind the Gap – subway station refugee camp concept. I am also using the game The Division as a source of inspiration too, as the concept piece has the same kind of gritty realism that would be seen in the game. So my main goal is to take Dan Iorgulescu’s concept art and bring it to life within a Division style game environment within Unreal Engine 4. I thought that this environment could act as a safe zone like the ones in The Division.
My first task was to make myself a weekly plan to stick to, I set myself realistic goals to achieve each week. I purposefully made a few weeks in the project lighter than others, this was just in case I run into any problems when experimenting with new techniques.
Moodboards & References
I also made a moodboard for the level of quality I wanted to achieve.
I spent some time collecting references for lots of different assets that would be in the scene, as well as real-life locations and screenshots from The Division. I then organized them in Pureref into different categories, This collection will grow quite a lot as the project progresses and more assets are identified.
Plans for Next Week
Next week I plan to get the environment blocked out and a rough lighting pass to get a good idea of composition. Then I can make a list of assets and main base materials that will be needed for the scene, I can then make a start on the trim sheets that will be needed for the larger assets.