Saturday, 28 November 2015

Through The Gate - A World Below!

I've been waiting to go back and do something from my own fictional universe for a while!. The last time I tried to make anything based from it was in college where I knew almost next to nothing about 3d but now seemed like a great opportunity to work from some of my old sketches and ideas and make them into something interesting for this project.

The goal for this project is to create a sci-fi environment on the otherside of this door shape we have been provided, we can do whatever we want as long as the door is included and the environment includes some sort of procedural texturing and high poly baking. 

The high poly requirement is why I decided to do the weapons project first as a test, with the stylized shop front acting as a way to brush up on more traditional 3d techniques and planning. My aims for this project include creating a modular building structure I can reuse and apply for FMP as well as focusing on creating some really cool effects and other things in engine. The overall goal is mostly making an environment which feels like it has a life of its own rather than just focusing on asset building, so a priority is to get stuff into engine as soon as possible.

(I will come back in and edit the moodboard in here as the library doesn't have photoshop and all my moodboards are saved as PSDs.)

My first day was mainly dealing with how I would create this environment and what design cues it would take, my main point of reference for this project was architecture. Stas advised me to take a trip to the library and get some books on neo-brutalism and apply some of the forms and structures to creating pieces for my own environment. 

First I blocked out a simple plan of an environment made out of a number of smaller pieces. I liked this design at first but later fell out of favour with it due to it's lack of purpose and by how large it was. I had a brainwave wednesday night and went back to one of my old ideas about a skyrail: A transport system that can take people to platforms at crazy heights in this giant cave world. I made a real quick guide sketch of the idea and began to create some modular pieces to test a layout. I felt a lot more excited about this idea, as it gives the whole area a sense of purpose which is crucial for a more outlandish environment like this, it helps keep it grounded in reality.


 Reworked level plan - The basis of the train platform, this first iteration was a little too small for the train platform to work so I extended it out.


 I also looked at a lot of reference for brutalist train platforms and began to apply those forms to what I model, some things I twisted a bit. This shelter here was taken from a photograph but I moved the support and angled it slightly to give it a bit more of a interesting design.

 The screenshot below shows two new features I added. The glass holes in the floor help bring more light into the platform as the light is coming from the fake sun below in this environment, Casto suggested that it looked a bit odd and maybe it could serve a dual purpose like as a floor based display unit for train information or something else that could help it fit more nicely into the environment.

The rings around the platform I intended to be stabilizer/guiding rings for the lightrail, more of these can be seen floating in the distance controlling the direction of the rail. Other uses of these rings were suggested to me though, Craig suggested that I make them more mechanical and maybe include more moving pieces to suggest that they are really heavy pieces of machinery, he told me to look at russian shipyards and heavy industry to look at all the metal constructions they used. I added in some support structures based from them.

 The next bit really helps to sell the light rail: The rail itself! I created a splinemesh component inside UE4 and applied an emissive cyclinder to it, this means I can adjust the position and curve of the rail inside UE4 and add more points into the distance for when I get to fleshing out the view later on. Another thing I plan to add is some kind of pulsating or flicker to the rail, to give it some life.


 I spent a while trying to get the large cave rocks sculpted and looking right in engine but they still aren't where I want them, they need a more complex material and a better diffuse/roughness to bring out the detail. I had three types of rock I wanted to do for the environment but I'm going to see now what texture space I will have after I do the highpoly sections. That is what I'm going to be focusing on next along with getting all the little environment props modelled.

 Current Feedback and goals

-Add more colour to environment pieces
- Swap rock diffuse for darker one, add roughness map
-Fix bounce lighting issues, try a production build on a separate computer
-Create all environment props and begin highpoly modelling

Next time I will have some environment assets to show, as well as showing some of the planning of the structural pieces. :)

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Shop Front 3 - Chad's Bar and Grill

I'm just going to start with a warning that this is going to be a massive art/screenshot dump again. I hope it's not a problem, I doubt you would want endless paragraphs of writing anyway over just showing you loads of process pictures, but I'll help out when I can though. 

I started texturing by getting what I thought might be the most labour-intensive part out of the way first: the planks. Because there were alot of them I thought that doing them first would help the model look a lot more closer to completion.



 The hardest part I think was making the texture on the metal parts of the model, it had to be a good balance between PBR metal and handpainted details, at first it was pointed out the metal was too shiny so I dialled it back a little bit. I also added some panel lines as I thought it made the metal look a bit more interesting compared to just a plain dirty surface. 

Emissives were also added to the scene, and I worked on the lighting a little bit (one of my favourite areas) I tried to balance out the lighting and the background colours aswell as adjusting the exposure.

Texture Techniques

I did try out some different techniques for the handpainted textures, I tried a mix of things to help me speed up the process. The biggest one was the use of the mixer brush to create edge highlights on the metal parts and to mix up background values for objects.

For the edge highlights I had my UVW lines at the top of my layer stack in photoshop, I set this to screen layer mode so I just had the white lines. If I wanted a colour I would add a fill layer set to overlay ontop of the lines with a clipping mask.

I would have a layer underneath somewhere that I would use for painting using the mixer brush. I made sure the mixer brush settings were set to 'Sample All Layers'.

With the UV lines still visible and your paint layer selected start to trace over the lines where you need edge highlights, with a little bit of trial and error you will see that you can use this to create painterly lines really quickly on your model exactly where you need them. To tidy them up just switch your UV lines to invisible and carry on smudging where you can see pixelization. 

In the sheet below you can see an example of where this technique has been used on the edges of metal objects:


Final Screens

Here are my final screenshots at the end of texturing and after I have replaced the other parts of the mesh. 




 I'm surprised with how the end result of this project would turn out, It wasn't coming together in my head until the texturing stage, which would pretty much make or break this piece. The metal was hard to  pull off but as you can see in the screenshot above it reacts well to the environment but isn't too overpowering.

For things I would improve, I think I would like to add more clutter to the interior. My tricount was almost maxed out on this project and I didn't have a lot of texture space left but If I were to do somethings differently like texture the letters on the sign rather than model I could save on tris and texture space allowing for other things. Some posters and hanging receipts in the interior could help come character and interest to the walls.

Another thing I would do is add more definition of details to the RV on the top, the texture looks a bit too simple to me and lacks edge details like the bottom food truck, just a few things like some lines and areas of implied lighting could help make the texture pop more.

Next Project

My next project is something I have had stewing in my head for a while but I've been waiting for an opportunity to do it, it's a location from my own fictional universe. The basic premise is a hollow-earth kind of environment where it's effectively a massive cave that houses a fake sun, with the environment being one of the structures that suspend from the cave ceiling.

I'm going to be doing this for the Sci-Fi through-the-gate project so I'm really excited about it, more details next time. :)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Shop Front 2 - Unprecedented Struggles

This whole week was pretty dedicated to modelling the shack, and it was a lot more of a struggle than I thought. I didn't really think about the fact that I was attempting to model two vehicles as part of the shack, so most of the time was spent trying to make sure the topology was really good on those. 

I started by taking my kitbashed model and remodelling parts to save myself work; mainly this consisted of modelling and unwrapping sections and then duplicating it later on, I did this whenever practically possible with the plus side being I get lot more texture space to play with.

I received some feedback from Stas at this stage advising me on the form and colour of the piece; he advised me to break up the silohuette more on the left side as looked too off balance, so I will add some waste pipes and air con units to break up the shapes.

Another point I brought up to him was colour (an area I'm always a little unsure on) and how I didn't like any of my current colour compositions. He pointed out that a design like this might be better using more muted colours, the scene with the blue sky will get picked up by the chrome of the food truck and the lighting will help create contrast under the awning. I kept this noted for when I got to the texturing stage.

This was fun, the interior of the foodtruck. I just modelled random pieces of kitchenware from reference and exaggerated the size and shape slightly. The plan is to model a few pots and plates and then duplicate them around the interior when to flesh it out when the model is close to completion.

 I kept modelling parts from the concept and continuing to add detail, the next couple of screenshots just show some modelling progression.


 It was at this stage I tested out the model in UE4 and tried to set up a bit of basic lighting, you can see in this image that the awning does create some nice lighting variation, I can make this even better in the final image by adding a skylight to the scene to create a bit of colour in the shadows as well as point lights by the lanterns.

 In the next post I will get onto texturing and presenting, Not far off now. :)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Shop Front - Beach shack concepting

For something a bit different I am doing the stylized shop front project, and most of this first week was spent trying to concept, I had a couple of ideas floating around I wanted to try out so I made a list, some images I liked and did a bit of brainstorming.


 As you can see I have decided to create a beach shack! I am attempting to combine a couple of my ideas I had in my brainstorm, I wanted to make a food truck at one point but mixing it with a tropical/beach theme could be quite interesting.

I started gathering all sorts of imagery, from architecture reference, to signs to stylization reference. I even added some song names to my brainstorming board, anything that could feed into this project. A lot of Bob Marley was listened to this week...



 I tried doing some basic concept sketches in my book but I found that this process of trying to sketch more didn't quite work for this project. I created some basic thumbnail sketches in my book to establish a few ideas then went to try out these in 3d form.

I played around with trying to stack the caravans in different ways, including how they are positioned on the wooden platforms. I quite liked the bottom caravan extending into some kind of bar so I tried to incorporate the angled bar from some of the earlier designs. Cutting the bar shape into the caravan seemed to make a bit more design sense, as it added to the put-together look of the building.


Next I painted over the blockout I liked the shape of (which happened to be the last one I did in this case!) I did these designs in greyscale so i could go over and iterate colour later on. 

 A lot more time this week was spent on concepting than I wanted but I think to a degree it was better as I end up with a design I like more. The only issue is I need to get onto modelling soon before it starts to eat into my texturing time. (My main concern on this project.) As I might have possibly said before handpainted textures aren't my strongest area so I will have to put in quite a large section of the project towards it.