Creative Director at NVIDIA Gabriele Leone has shared a look at the working process behind NVIDIA's Racer RTX tech demo, explained how the cars and the interiors were made, and discussed the lighting setup.
80.lv: Please introduce yourself to those who still don't know you. How did you join the NVIDIA team?
Gabriele Leone, Creative Director at NVIDIA: Hello, my name is Gabriele, also known online as HEXERACT, and I have been working at NVIDIA for seven years now. I am a Creative Director and lead a team of artists covering many roles spread across the whole world. I joined the company a long time ago to help NVIDIA create high-end technical demos when they were just forming a team to do so.
80.lv: How and when did you start working on the Racer RTX project?
Gabriele Leone: Roughly three months before the keynote announcement, we had begun the project; the main source of inspiration was a game called Re-Volt, which the whole team loved, and it's a favorite game from our childhood. It’s a game that makes you race at the scale of an RC car around various interiors and exteriors.
We sent our Technical Artist Chase to go and take pictures of actual alleys from all different angles and perspectives, we used drone mapping, and we recreated a few of the scene locations from that. The game and recreating this demo brought this great nostalgia back to our team and took us back to our childhood throughout creating it all. The loft was the true playground of it all, and that is where you can see even more of the team's creativity flourish throughout – since it's an original design.
We hid plenty of easter eggs, had so many cool features, a great combination of art and technology, and overall, the project came out exciting and fun.
80.lv: What tools did you use to develop the project? How did you combine traditional workflow with procedural/AI-powered tools?
Gabriele Leone: We used the whole suite of tools available, including Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya, Blender, Foundry Modo, Maxon ZBrush, Adobe Substance 3D Painter, Adobe Substance 3D Designer, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Rizom UV, SideFX Houdini, and Omniverse Create.
Some highlights include the extensive usage of Designer to create amazing smart materials with incredibly powerful textures, and Painter, in which most of the individual assets were executed. At the same time, Houdini was used for creating some of the outdoor street terrains and helped scatter litter and vegetation.
We created other custom tools internal to Omniverse Create, which we loaded as extensions that helped with placement, scattering, alignment, and file management. We also generated an AI tool that allowed us to drive the car by controlling its PhysX properties. By placing "guide spheres" around the level, the car would drive following the path in between these points; at each sphere, you can assign specific attributes that the car is able to read by tweaking its driving accordingly.
80.lv: What part did Omniverse play in this project? Could you explain the importance of this ecosystem to beginners?
Gabriele Leone: A huge part, especially when we’re talking about 30 artists working across various timezones and over a dozen 3D tools. In the simplest explanation, Omniverse is a central hub to connect all our tools and artists. That’s important when we have artists who all work within different software and specialize in different areas working on one project.
It’s like looking back at how Word and Excel files were used before cloud collaboration happened on Google Drive and saving, emailing, revising, then repeating that back and forth with .doc files. Now, you can have ten people writing and editing a document at once – from anywhere, on most devices, and this is the ultimate goal of Omniverse and what we’re already working toward with the platform.
Setting Up Cars and the Interior
80.lv: Could you share some details on how you set up toy cars and their rigs?
Gabriele Leone: So every piece of the car, down to the suspension and shocks and all of that, are accurate and manipulate one another with actual physics and the responsiveness of how these parts would respond in real life. Each car has over 70 individual pieces, all with attributes such as the center of mass, weight, and so on. Omniverse is built on this whole concept of being a simulation engine, and Racer RTX is showing us a glimpse of how games will be developed in the future. The world we’re playing within, the smoke, the dust, the props – they all respond as they would in the real world, vs. having a pre-determined action or in-accurate reaction to an action.
80.lv: How much time did it take to set up and populate the interior part? What were the challenges? What helped you boost the production?
Gabriele Leone: We spent about three months on the interior, producing all the assets. It took roughly a few weeks to populate it all. We used some of the custom tools we built within our team in Omniverse to help us populate the scene, as I had mentioned in the previous answer, which helped us execute the work faster.
Working on Lighting
80.lv: How did you work on lighting? How did the new GPUs help you test your setups and tweak them?
Gabriele Leone: We use Omniverse layers to generate as many lighting scenarios as we need, and we bound them to specific hotkeys which is something that people will be able to do when they can test it themselves. So the lighting is all real-time, and of course, nothing is baked, so it's possible to tweak the time of day with just a button. The new GPUs, as mentioned before, combined with DLSS 3, gave us a considerable performance boost so we could visualize everything at final quality while working all the time. The glow sticks are all emissive materials and, like everything else, reflect in real-time. We already showcased hundreds of lights in real-time two years ago with Marbles at Night RTX.
The Camera Animations
80.lv: You also did a fantastic job with the camera. How did you set up action here and achieve the desired result?
Gabriele Leone: We spent a lot of time sketching a cohesive storyboard that would go around all the locations we built for the tech demo. The camera animations were all done in Maya and brought into Omniverse using the Maya to Omniverse Connector. You can even export settings such as the DOF from Maya directly into Omniverse, thanks to USD.
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 40 Series
80.lv: What were your thoughts when you got your hands on the new RTX 40 series? How did you test the new GPUs?
Gabriele Leone: The performance increase from the RT cores and the 4090s power overall is what ultimately allowed us to work as fast as we did in the 2nd half of the project. The sheer performance gain in the 40 series vs. the 30 series, especially in the viewport looking at extremely high-quality 4K 60 FPS previews while working, made project productivity drastically increase.
Honestly, a game changer; I would have never imagined we could reach such levels of performance; combined with the DLSS3, the real-time quality is just outstanding. You are working at 100% quality as you are seeing the end result and doing all the edits live. Mind-blowing! We stress-tested the new GPUs immediately across all our projects, from Racer RTX to Portal RTX.
80.lv: Let’s say you had to do it in a more traditional way using older GPUs. How much more time would it take? How did the new tech help you reduce time costs?
Gabriele Leone: I genuinely don’t think it would have been possible before the 40 series, at least in the timeline we were working toward and the quality and fidelity that we were working with. With the 40 series, we can preview in the viewport at 4k 60 FPS final render quality and iterate and pivot extremely fast on looks, lighting, scene layout, and anything else extremely quickly.
The ultra-quality ray tracing ability is where the new tech shines and where even with the 30 series, the improvement that occurred was insane – much more than the 20 series to the 30 series jump. I was personally shocked to see it in action on my PC. I understand this is coming from an NVIDIA employee, but I promise the jump between 20 and 30 wasn't as big as what we have here. The 40 is an absolute monster. Ray tracing's performance with the 40 series is up to 4 times what was previously possible. That should tell you everything you need to know. Racer RTX runs nearly four times slower on the 3090.
I want to thank the team who worked on this project. The leads, the supervisors, the physics engineers, the rendering engineers, the gameplay engineer, and everyone else who contributed went above and beyond what was possible to do, not just delivering a fantastic result but over-delivering what we did not even know was possible before doing it. In particular, I want to thank a large part of our team who are located in Ukraine and contributed to this project in significant ways while living in an incredibly difficult situation against their will. They are heroes in my book. Thank you so much. You guys are all amazing. I am lucky to lead this team of extraordinary talent.