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Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
Martin Holmström showed a little part of his workflow, explaining the way he builds the amazing interior of the colossal vehicle, inspired by Soviet-era DT-30 and the MAZ-537.
My name is Martin Holmström, I’m from the middle of Sweden and I’m currently working on my portfolio. I studied for three years in Auckland, New Zealand where I met a bunch of wonderful people and learned about game design and 3d modeling. I ended up in New Zealand more or less by chance, I attended a presentation about international study and sent out an application. I’ve been interested in New Zealand ever since the Lord of the Rings movies came out and I thought it would be a good experience to live in an English speaking country so when my application was granted I didn’t hesitate.
Before this vehicle I’ve done smaller projects, can be found on my Artstation page, but I wanted to do something more ambitious for my portfolio.
I started this project with the goal to learn Modo and Substance, during my studies I had learned Maya but I had heard good things about Modo and it looked very user-friendly.
Since I wanted to do something more ambitious and my focus is on hard surface modeling I decided to make a vehicle. I have an interest in military equipment, especially from the second world war or the cold war and my brother shares this interests so I asked him if he had any ideas for what I could make. He had written a bit about a fictional cold war setting which is where the vehicle would be from, he made a rough sketch that I used as inspiration. The vehicle would be operating in Siberia and on the frozen north sea so the DT-30 was a good starting point with its tracks and articulated trailer. I love the rough and utilitarian nature of the old Soviet/Russian vehicles and there are plenty of odd test vehicles with unique shapes and features to get inspiration from.
I used a lot of reference images, mostly Soviet vehicles like the DT-30 and the MAZ-537 but also bits and pieces from German and American vehicles.
The plan was to make it worn down and rusty, I wanted it to look used and abused, the people driving this vehicle didn’t care if it got dirty or scratched but the designers had made it rugged enough to survive the carelessness.
I tried to convey this by the rough floor and lots of scratches and dust in the interior, its meant to look utilitarian with exposed pipes on the walls and wires in the ceiling.
The outside is relatively bare with heavy metal plates to protect against the rough terrain and unforgiving weather. It would be able to transport heavy equipment on its trailer to remote arctic outposts and when equipped with a fifth-wheel it could pull massive cargo wagons.
Using MODO for modeling
I learned a lot about Modo from watching Tor Frick, both his tutorials but also his livestreams, and there are a lot of other good resources on the Luxology forums.
When you come to understand Modo you realise that scripts are your best friend, there are so many and a lot of them are super useful. I’ve mostly been using Senecas1 scripts but also some that I found on the Luxology forums, the scripts made it easy to work with repeating details such as bolts and pipes.
With scripts like quickmirror it’s easy to work with symmetrical details even when they’re rotated and/or not in the centre of the scene. Quickpipe2 is, as you can imagine, wonderful for making pipes, especially multiple pipes next to each other.
Painting & Texturing
This was my first project with Substance Painter/Designer and I made some mistakes in the beginning but Allegorithmic has a lot of good resources for learning the software.
I realised when using the Substance tools that you have to think about how the material would be layered in real life and try to replicate that, with the caveat that the order is sometimes reversed. To use my painted metal as an example, I added the base paint to a lot of the interior and I added masked metal layers on top of that. This way I can have different parts “painted” with the same paint but have different kinds of materials underneath that would show when the paint is worn (masked) away.
It’s the same with dust and dirt, instead of adding weathering to each object I make them all “fresh from the factory” and add a grunge group at the top of the layer stack that affects every object in the texture.
For the exterior I utilized the “user map” feature to do the tiling masks.
I set up a texture mask image inside Painter and painted the different material masks, such as snow and rust, into the R,G,B and A channels. In Unreal I used the lerp node to mask the different tiling materials to the areas that I designated in Painter.
I made the main materials inside Designer, they’re all relatively simple materials but I was impressed by how well Designer, Painter and Unreal mesh together. I could make a material inside Designer and use it in both Unreal and Painter with ease.
Baking hard surfaces materials
I’ve usually baked maps in xNormal but since Modos baker is fast and easy to set up I’ve baked all my maps using it. I’ve made good use of Modos morph maps, they allow you to apply an offset in XYZ to verts/faces, to do exploded bakes. The morph maps are toggleable which allows me to quickly go back and forth from exploded to non-exploded and tweak UVs and cage at any time without issues.
The UVs are handmade inside Modo, I hoped to use IPackThat3 but after looking at forum posts there seemed to be some major problems with the paid version.
The UVs took some time to make by hand but I would get around 20% better resolution than the automatic packing and I used Modos texel density tool to keep the tiling and unique textures at a similar texel density.
The metallic materials were the most difficult to work with, when I got it to look right in Substance Painter it looked weird in Unreal. I played around with the roughness and added “oxidization” to the metal to get it looking the way I wanted.
Lighting the interior
The lighting was a bit tricky but I tried to make the placement believable and that it would make sense in the context of where the vehicle would be used. The long nights during winter and the remote areas it would operate in called for lots of external lighting. When I was working on the highpoly I tested a few different light placements and rendered the scene to figure out good placements for the lights.
The interior is more or less done at this point, I still have to finish the exterior. After that I’ll call the project done. I’d love to see the vehicle moving but rigging and animating it is a bit too ambitious for me at this stage.
I’ve been posting about the project on Polycount and it’s been very motivating to read the comments and its great when people have feedback that I can implement into the project. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to write about my project and I hope you like it.
Martin Holmström, Aspiring 3D Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev