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Jody Sargent, senior environment artist at Rocksteady Studios took some time to write a post regarding the production of her awesome UE4 scene. An old Jeep sits abandoned after the war. Left to rust in the snow it is a sad and sombre reminder of the past. But just as the seasons change, shifting from the cold and bleak and blooming in to something beautiful we can also change. We can take our own journey to create a better place. We get to change. We get to wake up. Ckeck out the amazing breakdown below. This post was originally published at Jody Sargent’s website.
First Step – Reference
I hope you like my new Unreal 4 project! I had a really strong idea in my head for this one, I wanted to create something serene and reflective using the old World War two jeep and the changing seasons to create a sense of positive change and growth. My first step after my initial idea as always was reference. I knew that I wanted my scene to be really beautiful and to change from a cold wintry landscape to a blooming spring sunset full of poppy’s and greenery. I had a large folder of inspiration but some of my main ones are below.
After creating a very basic blockout of the scene my next step was the terrain. Initially the terrain was a simple field but I ended up going for something a little more elaborate and setting the shed at the foot of a mountain. I felt that it added to the scene and gave more of a sense of scale and interest. I used World Machine to create the terrain, this was a combination of steep snowy mountains and snowy/grassy flats. I created a splat map to blend between the rock, thick snow and settled snow(or later grass) and I used landscape layers in unreal to blend these materials together in the correct places.
I made a shader that used distance based tessellation and vertex painting in the near ground to blend between the snow and dirt. I could paint in the green channel to remove the snow and the height map of the snow influenced the blend meaning that thicker areas of raised snow would be the last to melt away. The snow was made in Substance Designer whilst the ground was from a photogrammetry shoot and used Agisoft Photoscan.
I wanted some really think evergreen trees for the scene so I made two versions of a blue spruce using 3dmax and speedtree. I baked my frond textures and created four different sized branches and took these in to speedree to create the full tree. I then baked out a separate texture set for the same tree with heavy snow on the branches that could be used in the winter version of the scene.
For the smaller foliage I made two variants on the grass, a large sparse patch for the snow and smaller thicker patches for variation. I also created the poppys, a cheap version with lots of flowers for populating the field and also a single rigged version for the final video animation. I created a short animation using timelapse flowers as reference to get that lovely part where the flower pops open in spring!
I created the Jeep and textured it in Substance Painter giving it a really rusty look with parts missing and old peeling layers of paint. I also modelled a thick coating of snow for the jeep and the shed.
I was determined to create the whole video using one cut. Because of this I had to do a lot in matinee and blueprints. I set up all of my cameras with their separate post process settings and did multiple revisions in order to really tell the story I wanted to go for. The timing, slow fades and music also helped to create that slow and serene look and feel that I was going for. I created very rough storyboards for the video to set up each shot.
It was also really important for a lot of forward planning for the video, not only did it need to have a lovely cinematic feel and tell the story I also needed to plan for what parts of the scene would change dynamically and which parts would need to cleverly switch off screen. I wanted to show as much as possible dynamically but also had to budget my time carefully and realistically plan what I could do in the time limit of the competition. Here is a snapshot of my matinee for hiding/showing, material changes, poppy animations and particle effect triggers. Material transitions were made using material collections to “melt” the snow away.
I had movement in the sky and the foliage but I wanted to make a few simple particle effects to compliment the scene. I used cascade to make a some simple snow and mist effects for the winter scene and an ambient floating dust for the spring scene.
The lighting also changes throughout the video as does the sky. I set up a blueprint to update my sky by a small amount as the matinee triggered so that the sun and clouds could transition. There were actually three different lighting set-ups across the shots. Each one was a simple skylight, directional light and fog. I found this gave me more precise control than just scrubbing through a time of day as I could set-up each shot depending on the angle and get the best results. All of the lighting was dynamic and also used distance field soft shadows and global illumination. One or two small subtle spotlights were used in the screenshots just to give the edge of the Jeep an accent and make it pop slightly against the background.
Most of the tiling materials were created in Substance Designer including the two snow textures and the shed wood grain. All of the scene props were textured in Substance Designer of Photoshop (foliage) and all were using the Metal/Roughness PBR set-up. I was careful to keep my diffuse values quite neutral so as to let the lighting really do its job!