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Another amazing guide from environment Artist Alireza Khajehali on increasing the quality of your natural environments.
See the pictures in full res to see the differences better.
1. Instead of having a lot of leaves cards on your tree, try to have as much less cards, but larger in size so you can have much more leaves on your cards which ends up filling the trees with much less tris.
2. When creating your leaves cards try to have as less empty space as possible, it’s fine to spend more tris on a card but reduse the transparent spaces because in the end overdraw costs more than trinagle count.
3. When using a directional light for an outdoor environment you can set the dynamic shadow cascades to 1. This will instantly release a lot of frames.
4. Use DFAO with a min occlusion value around 0.15. In case 0.15 makes it too dark for you the problem is with your lighting and/or textures not being calibrated to PBR friendly values. If you see ultra dark spots anywhere on a mesh you need to increase the Distance Field Resolution Scale for that mesh. Don’t tend to increase the Min Occlusion value to make the errors less apparent.
5. In case you’re using a billboard for your trees, try to tile a very rough and noisy normal map on it. At far, that noisy normal map on the billboard will break the flat look. (And don’t forget to increase the Opacity Mask Clip Value for the billboards too. Compare the before/after below (see in full res).
6. If you have noticed, usually your foliages look not so well when you’re not close to them. And that’s because of the mipmapping. What happens is that when the texture is mipmapped you lose the full resolution and thus your alpha or opacity is blurred. That little blur results in losing all those tiny while holes and lines and therefore you don’t get to see anything from behind the mesh. This can be solved by increasing the Opacity Mask Clip Value. As you can see in my pictures the trees look very noisy, full of holes, you can easily see the sky behind the leaves and that’s what makes it look realistic.
Let’s compare the results of Opacity Mask Clip Value of default 0.3 vs. 0.5.
7. Set your SSAO intensity to 1, Quality to 100, Fade out Distance to maximum.
8. Check “Generate Distance Field as if TwoSided” on your foliage meshes and their LODs. This will leave fewer artifacts in DFAO generated on your meshes.
9. Increase your normal map strength on grasses/leaves a lot! This will make your flat planes look directional. Plug the normal map to the A pin of a Multiply node, plug a 3Vector into the B pin, set the 3Vector values to 1,1,0.2 and that should do it.
Here’s a comparison, you clearly feel the flat cards in the first picture.
The guide was originally published on Polycount.