Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sentry Turret Project I - Arrrggghhhhhhhhh the colours!!!

New project time! This will be our first solo project of the year and the brief is to design and model a sentry turret that can be used in a Unreal 4 blueprint system which is set up to turn to follow the player, tilt and fire projectiles.

First I created a Pinterest board gathering a load of cool random things which could work on a sentry gun, starting off with basic mechanical bits and bobs and then going onto some cool sci fi weapons and a load of retro goodies from Dark Roasted Blend. I then created an initial moodboard of all the images I gathered then did a bit of brainstorming by the side:

First ideaboard plus some notes
I had a couple of ideas floating around before and during this ideaboard: one idea was to have some sort of briefcase that folds open into a sentry turret, I also had another after collecting the images of having some sort of projector or camera that has been adapted into a disintegrator ray but I still wasn't committed to the idea.

I played around with one of Mike Kelly's techniques about randomization which helps which direction to go in, I had a couple of ideas in mind and randomization just helps move things forward by picking one randomly and going for it. After doing this I ended up with going with an 80s theme (It also helped that I came across some really great images that persuaded me to do the theme)

I started to find a load of really colourful 80s imagery and it brought me to my next idea which involved one of my favourite things: Lavalamps. I was thinking it would be cool to have some kind of turret that could shoot out exploding lavalamps or massive lava blobs of death which would really give me the opportunity to play around with colour and the particle engine in UE4.

So yeh colour, lots of it:

*I will not be held responsible for 80s-induced seizures*
This second moodboard is grouped (loosely) into colour reference, retro computers, weaponry and other random 80s bits. From this I began to develop a bash kit from the silohuettes for some simple thumbnail creation.

basic bashkit for thumbnails
Then I used the bash kit and photoshop lasso tools to create a load of thumbnails for the sentry turret, I coloured the lit bits separately so they are distinguished from the rest of the thumbnail and makes it easier to read.

Lava lamp death machine
Stay tuned for the next part of the concepting where I will do some basic blockmeshing and some refined thumbnails. (and maybe a bit of intense colour dropping)

Bye bye.

A look back at the film room project

So we finished and presented the film rooms project on thursday and now seems like a great time to reflect on how things went and show what we ended up with. Since my last update we created models, textured them and taken things into engine aswell as meeting up round my flat to create a physical model...

Film Rooms Project - Asset creation

Assets I created for the tent plus engine shots

After reconstructing what the assets looked like with the concepts and using the blockmesh as a base I went to create the models I was assigned for this project. I started with the record player and attempted to do a high poly version of it by baking turbosmooth down but I couldn't solve the topology that needed to be fixed in order for it to work properly in the time I had; so I went and modelled it normally and focused on getting the details right on the low poly until later on.

I did do something new during this stage however! I had some help from Jake on creating a ZBrush sculpt and exporting it for baking to a low poly in Xnormal for the bed which sorely needed some extra detail in the folds, baking is an important skill for creating realistic assets so it's nice to finally get into the basics of it. I am aiming to do more of this as I go forward into the next project. :)

Bed Sculpt in ZBrush


I went onto texturing next where I experimented a lot more with adding detail and variation to the roughness maps as during the asset swap project my textures didn't pop as much as I would have liked them to. I played around with using grungy brushes on the roughness map on a low opacity and building up subtle details which instantly made the materials look a lot better in UE4, I also did the same with the albedo in adding some colour variation.

The texture work required a TONNE of feedback and back and forth to get it looking right with our lighting setup as the light made everything look super orange but we got to a stage in the end where it looked ok, the roughness maps had a little bit of adjusting but not as much as the albedo did. The record was also a fun part to work on as creating the bands of value on the roughness really brought out the look of the vinyl disc.


Lighting screenshot in ue4
Lighting was a tedious process and required loads of tweaking, our scene was an especially difficult one to replicate it turns out because the light through the fabric was hard to predict and make it match the original shot. We also had to add more blue lighting behind the camera to pull back some of the oranges and we also applied some colour grading which fixed some of the issues. Next we got the emissive texture working for the disco ball and the globe which contributed to the scene's lighting and picked out the front of the record player like in the original shot. After a load more tweaks and adjustments we ended up with our final scene:

Final shot comparison with movie still


I am happy with what we achieved on this project, our final scene matches mostly with the actual shot and we managed to fit in a lot of detail but there are a lot of things that could be done better. I think part of the problem lies with the difficulty of replicating the lighting in this scene but also I would say more back and forth between with the shot image and the scene at every stage might have helped the accuracy as the placement of objects are a little off.

If I were to do anything differently I would say that I would try and get stuff into engine earlier so there is more time for light tweaking, we thought we had enough time allocated for lighting but on reconsideration I think even more time should have been allowed for it or even doing a lighting pass before the texturing with values to see if its accurate before going into details.

I feel like I have learnt a load more over the past few weeks compared to a solo project just because of the group factor, it has been an intense but rewarding experience this project and I am more confident in a group role as a result. The next project is a solo one (Sentry Turrets ftw) but I feel like I can take the project management and time keeping tricks I learned over this project and apply it to any others. Hopefully I can keep to it this time. ;D

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cool Shit! - Tomorrowland trailer, Feast, and art wall update

Cool shit again! This week we had Mike Kelly do a presentation about making sure to feed our minds with awesome-y things so we can go and create better art; so what he did was show us a handful of links and places which get those creative juices going... he started with one of my favourite websites ever: Pinterest.

My Pinterest Page - Yeh, shameless self promotion I know
Pinterest I've been using since college now and it's the first place I go to fill my brain with all sorts of cool imagery. The great thing about it is that the content is all prefiltered and organized by the people that use the site, allowing you to easily find the kind of images you are looking for rather than spending loads of time sifting through google image search. The newest feature that brings up similar searches with tags is also extremely helpful as it allows you to really narrow down the search to the exact kind of image you are looking for without having to know what keywords to type. You can tell I like it because of my 3000 and counting pin count. :D

Mike went through a couple of other links aswell as suggesting that we should 'possibly' donate our bodies to science so we can go to places like Cambodia and Malaysia to get some travelling under our belt (and a truckload of reference photos) if our time last year in the abandoned warehouse meant anything it's that I'm willing to go to extreme lengths to get reference photos.

An abandoned, falling apart building.. this room used to house a karate class as there are a lot of posters and stuff on the walls as well as hooks for punch bags.
Speaking of trespassing, Mike also mentioned a site that features a lot of urban exploration picture among loads of othr things. Will be making more visits to from now.

Ok my turn for cool shit. This week the teaser for Disney's Tomorrowland came out and it looks INSANE. Yeh basically sci-fi stuff again but for anybody that knows me it's not surprising that I find this to be cool shit. The way the scene transitions is really sweet, you will see what I mean by watching. :)

Next up, another Disney thing. This time though it's the teaser for the short film 'Feast' by Disney Animation Studios who are again experimenting with binding together traditional media and cgi just like they were trying with their last short 'Paperman', here the result is different but still one hundred percent Disney. There is a really cool cel-shaded look to this that instantly reminded me of Wind Waker and similar games, I really hope Disney uses this style eventually in their feature length movies. 

And to finish this post: Another Cool Wall Update!


Monday, 13 October 2014

Films, Film Rooms and a wall plastered with art

Week 2 of the Film Asset project and we have finally settled on our film scene after doing some more research, we stuck with the tent scene from 'The Royal Tenenbaums' for it's vivid colours and interesting details. After a second seminar with the lecturers our group has realized that for this particular scene that we will have to concentrate on the fabric materials of the actual tent as well as making sure there are enough details on the objects as the scene is more zoomed in.

A block mesh based from the shot image we had of the scene. A tool called 'perspective match' was used to to match the grid plane to the viewport image in 3ds max.
We created a simple blockmesh of the scene in 3ds max then used this as a guide to create our individual assets which we split up between us. I had the record player, the table and the bed so I created some concepts that reconstructed the details lost partially in the scene and used these during the modelling stage along with really handy reference I found of similar looking record players.

Record player concept - Two iterations of the same concept as the first one did not reflect the record player correctly so I redone it. The second one fixed the proportions and added some details back in.
Jolyon Webb did a talk last week on iteration which highlighted a key skill we need to improve upon as game artists, the need to iterate is very useful in creating a stronger image and is something that I'm now trying to implement more into my workflow. He showed us examples of the original Alien concepts and how different it looked from the final iconic version we saw in the films, it's amazing how much change an idea needs to go through before it can be really successful and it just makes the redo process a lot more rewarding in the end.

Other things this week

Me and one of my flatmates Amber's Blog have decided to team up and do some little experiments in Unreal 4 in our own time to help us get used to the engine and the game production process. We have a little goal of making a series of some simple games so we can concentrate on different areas of development at a time. Hopefully some cool stuff might come out of this, as a start we brought a couple of whiteboards and corkboards as well as sticking five pounds worth of print credit to my bedroom wall...

My cool wall, still didn't have enough credit for all the images I wanted :D

Next, as a result of the film room project I have been encouraged to try a lot of films. The Royal Tenenbaums was the first Wes Anderson film I've watched and I thought it was great, it has started a chain of Wes Anderson films though as I am set to watch Moonrise Kingdom next which I'm looking forward to.

Fight Club - Every scene is gorgeously grungy

There were also a couple of other films I watched last week, I made Amber watch Alien for the first time last week but also I finally watched Fight Club last friday and it was much more than I expected it to be. I now understand why it is as regarded as it is (and why people wanted to do it for film rooms project, the grunge house is a really interesting set) I already want to watch it again, luckily it's one of those films with a lot to take in. So if you are reading this and you haven't watched it yet (unlikely since it seems I'm the last person to watch it) you definitely should. :P

Anyways, I'll see you next time with more updates on the film room project.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

First Week: Unreal 4! PBR! Other cool stuffs!

So, it's my first week back at De Montfort and I'm feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after the holidays, I have grown more confident in my own art skills during the holidays and regained my strong urge to make cool things. I have made an increased effort to learn as much of the tools as I can so I can make things with a bit more speed and be able to go a bit more mental with the extra stuff.

UDK has been a focus of my efforts of my summer project where I have been trying to create a abandoned sewer tunnel in engine, this has taught me how to use BSP, lighting, and volumes correctly as well as serve as an introduction to Kismet and Matinee.

Concept painting of sewer tunnel - used a UDK blockmesh as base for paintover (see below)

Paintover process from blockmesh to final greyscale

Static mesh pass after rearranging level according to concept, replacing BSP mesh with static meshes and converting the BSP to blocking volumes to keep level collision.

First Week Back

In our first lesson back we were given a group project to create 6 assets and bring them into Unreal 4, all must have been setup correctly to take advantage of Unreal 4's PBR rendering which replaces the classical diffuse/spec material system. (I have already got some handy links and advice from other students but I think quite a bit more research into PBR is needed) This was a handy lesson in many new things including how to function in a team with other artists and in general getting used to the new software which we will be using from now on.

Which brings me onto my next topic: Unreal 4 is a really cool piece of software. it didn't take me long to get used to the navigation because a lot of it carries over from UDK but the flexibility offered by Unreal 4 is staggering and I can't wait to take full advantage of PBR rendering and the new material editor (which is a lot easier to use now) and the blueprint system which should allow for some interesting game design-y experiments.

I'll do an art dump post in the next few days with the assets created and the scene, for now here is an axe concept I made and started modelling as some extras:

Battleaxe concept plus WIP model
Deadly Viper Assasination Squad!

We were also set another group project that we will work on over the next few weeks where we have to recreate a scene from a film. This taken a bit of research to come up with suitable concepts as we had to find something as a group which had a great composition, colours and something that we could push in engine to bring it to life. 

Second iteration of film scene moodboard.

We had a large pool of ideas and originally were settling on the 'Snow Garden' scene from the end of Kill Bill Volume 1 but after a presentation with Mike, Chris and Emma we realized that we should change focus an have begun looking for better options. Current contenders for the scene are the tent scene from 'The Royal Tenenbaums' and the dinner scene from Speed Racer.

Paintovers of scenes to get rid of actors and analyse colour palette, also notes on movement, sound and mood within the scene which could be used to bring it life in unreal 4.
I'm very excited for this project and I am filled with ambition right now so expect a lot of updates for it over the next few days where I should be doing blockmeshes, concepts and sculptures which you will see in my next art dump. 

See you guys next time. :)