Wednesday, 14 March 2018

New 3d project - Rusty Springs UE4 Environment

Hi people!

At the start of the week I had a massive urge to start a new 3d project, this came after a discussion with a student about a project idea of theirs based around some ruins. She is doing a level based around some roman ruins, with a tree focal point, with the scene illuminated in moonlight. It sounded pretty interesting, and I managed to get her flicking through the library books in order to make the idea even better. Teaching things!

Anyway, the idea sounded cool, and it made me want to create a similar kind of environment involving ruins, moss and an excuse to include some sparkly, super-jazzy water shaders. So I'm creating a small scene based around some springs.

I plan to include some mechanical elements (because you know I love that shit) which I imagined would end up being the focal point in some way. My thoughts were that I could tie these elements in quite nicely by having them all overgrown and covered in rust. These extra elements would add a nice layer of uniqueness to the level; meaning that it doesn't end up as just an environment with ruins and has a bit more interest and intrigue.

Why am I starting this project now, despite the fact that I had 20 million other projects I have mentioned I am working on?

Good question. I had the art urge so I had to obey it.

No, seriously though, I felt like the little 'mini-projects' I was working on wasn't really working for me. I was having a go at modelling and texturing random assets but I never end up finishing them, I realized that the main reason for this is that there was no artistic drive or want to finish them. I prefer working on actual scenes that give off a nice feeling, that is something I don't think I could communicate by working on little stylized lanterns.

My plan is to fold some of my side projects into this one as part of the process, then it would feel like I am actually doing them for a reason: To develop these processes as part of my style.

This includes things like:

  •  Cel shading (which I was doing a bit on last week or so) This could be good for animated parts of the environment, sort of like old animations where the animated cels can be easily separated from the background. I have seen this called the Scooby Doo effect before, would be a really great thing to capture the feel of traditional animation.
  • Bone driven material animation - could be useful for certain animation effects on the focal point, not sure yet. 
  • Character modelling - Need to relearn a bit for the focal point, which I will go into detail about in a minute. Might need to learn how to pose a character model correctly too, hopefully it shouldn't be too difficult.
  • Handpainted textures - I am trying to work on developing a hand-painted style that is as close to animation quality as possible, might take quite a bit of work to be up to my standard, but this project gives a lot of scope for adding really nice details like one could find in a Studio Ghibli background painting.
  • Water Shader - This is something i have come back to now and again, I love making them, probably one of the things I enjoy tinkering with just so I can get it perfect, in this scene it will be a major focus. The water should look so good that someone would just want to drink it when seeing it. :D
  • Foliage - This will probably take around the most work in the level, and it will be a large part of the scene, I want the foliage to tie into the rest of the scene as seamlessly as possible whilst still retaining the handpainted look. The foliage should flow straight into the forms it is covering, making it feel like the machinery and the nature of the scene are in unison. Using 3dcoat to texture unique pieces of foliage will be key to making this environment seem real.
Overall the plan is to capture the feeling of a Studio Ghibli background painting, but to create a final environment full of life. So by the end I should have a nicely composed final scene, with lighting, FX, sounds and probably a little sequencer animation. :)

Ideas and Research

The process on this project just started by looking through Pinterest, Google and my hard drives to find cool stuff to feed my brain. I gathered a from a lot of different sources; images of rusted old machinery, roman ruins, gardens, pond designs, water animations, master paintings (for colour and style reference) and photography.

I will still continue to research over the course of the project, so I can refine the look even more, this just gives me a good base to work from for initial drawings.

Below is my Pinterest board I created:


My first moodboard included key images which I have been looking at and key things I need to consider whilst creating the scene, like lighting, architecture, focal point, nature, and style reference. I also listed the key things I am looking for in the scene so I can keep checking to see if I am staying focused on the right theme over the course of the project. When I create the 3d blockout I will refine the art direction even more, being more strict with the design decisions I make.

First concepts

The first concepting stage taken the form of just doodling around in my sketchbook, trying out compositions and weird mechanical forms. I wanted a mechanical piece as my focus of the scene, but as I kept drawing I realised I wanted to evoke the feeling of some of the statues on my mood-board, so I gave it a face, before I knew it then centrepiece was more like a statue or monument than a strictly functional piece of machinery. 

Original sketch of focal point statue-monument-thing. The idea with it as the statue 'cries' into a little pool which is collected around the head, this little pool of water spills into the one below, creating a tiny little waterfall. Also, this little pool could also act as a bird bath or something, with plenty of plants growing in it. The staute should appear to be the source of the life in the scene, I think that could be really interesting. This page was great for figuring out the kind of features the focal point should include, and identifying what things I really like. <3
The main catalyst for this design was this image of a crying statue above, which I thought I could utilise quite well within the context of this environment, the fountain could be fed by mechanical pipes going into the statue's head.

Crying Statue Fountain - Second Life -
The main design in my sketchbook I liked enough that I decided to move it forward into the next stage: just plotting some colour onto it. I scanned the page (taken a photo in my case) and painted under the lines in Photoshop, just to show what the piece would look like with some basic colour dropped onto it. I wanted to have the oranges and reds of the rust blend quite nicely with the colours of the foliage, so I tried to work around the colour wheel harmonising the colours with each other where I could. This was a little tricky because of my colour blindness, but I think I'm getting slightly better at it.

WIP Colour pass of the previous sketch, I will be defining this painting a bit more, but the design will change a bit when it comes to blocking it out in 3d and then creating another paintover. This was more to get an idea on how it might look.
More work will be done on this concept before moving to the next stage, which will be a simple 3d blockout so I can then create a more detailed concept image of the scene.

Project Process

For this project I aim to jump between 2d And 3d a lot as I refine the image and make it as visually pleasing as possible. Basically, a lot of paintovers and feedback sessions! This will extend to the texturing stage too, which will involve using 3dcoat to texture the scene, this will feel like more of a natural progression of all the 2d art I have created before, so the concepts should end up translating into 3d quite well. 

  • Sketchbook Doodles
  • Colour image of focal point design
  • 3d blockout of scene
  • Main scene concepting
  • Style Refinement - Defining what the water, mist and other effects look like in the scene
  • Main scene building
  • Base light and colour pass
  • Define major silohuettes
  • Model focal point
  • Rocks
  • Base Water and Foliage
  • Other assets
  • Model and texture polish pass
  • FX - Drips, trickling water, light beams, mist, birds.
  • Colour Correction and detail Post Process Pass
  • OPTIONAL Sounds and ambience
  • OPTIONAL Short Cutscene made in sequencer

Anyway, that is all for now, more in the week after I have done more stuff! Should be a 3d blockout in the next post. :)

See you next time, 

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