In case you missed it
A few breakdowns of dioramas
Hi, my name is Jasper Tatem. I live and work in Los Angeles, California, as a freelance 3D artist and assistant editor. Currently, I work at The Third Floor as a Junior Asset Artist. I got into Maya in college at film school and have been using it for about 5 years now.
Quiet Island: Idea of the Project
I wanted to design a small imaginative environment and practice props and textures in that super identifiable animated/game look. I really enjoy fantasy environments and I wanted to spend time on one playing with that style.
I haven't really made anything like this before though I had seen a lot of art with a similar feel. After exploring references on Pinterest, ArtStation, and elsewhere on the internet I came up with a good collection of concepts and a pretty clear picture of what I wanted to do. It was important to me to have a clean organized scene and making it enjoyable to look at.
The house is almost entirely made of rectangles. I made one wood board of each size, named/UVed it. After I duplicated the board and moved it into place, I went back and added imperfections, then re-unwrapped the cut UVs. The fact that it was cut and named before duplicating saved a lot of time. I like to scale and organize the UVs as I go and keep sets together. I used the same base/template process for the windows. After completing one full window I duplicated it, scaled and hit a quick re-unwrap. I keep my outliner organized by geometry groups based on texture. I used UDIMs for the house material. I separated each tile based on similar material. The house had 22 UDIM tiles. Finally, I added the doodads like the chimney and water bucket pulley to make the place more interesting and whimsical.
Substance Painter is an amazing program. With resources like Substance Source, you have many ways to generate the look you want. Additionally, I use Illustrator to make text and graphics and Photoshop for custom textures and alphas. In Substance, I created a template material for each element like wood, cloth, and ropes. Starting each shader with similar base materials and texturing items in groups is helpful in maintaining a similar look throughout the scene.
I created the props in playsets, the garden tools, axes, and vegetable garden props were grouped together. The garden plants, for example, were one material. After the modeling/UVing was done, I arranged the items together with enough space to not affect each other when baking maps in Substance. Without having to care for production, constraints I used 2k and 4k textures for most of the materials. The plants were started with the default matte plastic, then I added smart masks on fill layers for variation. Most of the materials I generate start with default or Substance Source materials. I favor the soft damage smart mask for creating contrast on props. Each item in the set gets a folder where I keep its materials and such, these playsets have a lot of layers.
Assembly & Presentation
I blocked the house, dock, and island together in the initial scene. After blocking, each was finalized in its own scene. The dock, for example, was organized and dressed before importing to the final composition. I brought the main pieces back together first. Then I brought the props in their playsets and decorated open sections with specific items. I rendered with Arnold using a skydome and two area lights brightening the underside of the house.
Deciding on the level of detail and how to balance the layout were initial challenges. I also had a tough time with the tree and I wasn’t happy with it in the end. Yet, it was a lot of fun working on this scene and expanding my tool kit.