Andrew Averkin tells us about the workflow behind the Storyteller project, shares the story that was written for the project, and talks about working in Omniverse Create.
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Hello, my name is Andrew Averkin, and I am a Lead Environment Artist of the creative team at NVIDIA. A few words about my background. I was born and grew up in Ukraine, in Odessa, in a family of artists, sculptors, writers, and musicians. When I was a child, I liked drawing, writing poetry, and music. I remember a huge amount of paper on my table, full of adventure stories and pictures, filled with fantasy worlds, fairy tale creatures, and characters, their adventures and travels! That’s how the journey of my art began.
At that time, my TV was full of Hollywood movies which influenced my becoming an artist as well! A little later, when I had my first consoles – Dendy and Sega – and then my first PC, I began to dive deeper and deeper into the world of computer games. I remember these amazing days when I would meet with my brother and our friends every weekend, and we played our favorite board and computer games. And that’s how my journey to the world of CG began.
I worked for quite a long time in the advertising and architectural visualization industry where I got really good experience and basics of CG. Then I was super lucky to meet amazing people from Blur Studio where I started my career as a 3D Environment Artist. I worked on a number of game cinematics, such as The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor, PUBG, Love, Death & Robots Season 1 and 2, Destiny 2 Rally The Troops, Destiny 2 Last Call, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4 and 5, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo Wars 2, Dark Souls 2, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, League of Gods Movie, King of Glory, Honor of Kings, Arena of Valor, and many more.
I was also very lucky to work with great people from Axis as a Props Artist where I also took part in several game cinematics, such as New World, Avowed, Deathloop, Magic The Gathering: Zendikar Rising, Magic The Gathering: Throne of Eldraine, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset, Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 3, Destiny: Rise of Iron. For a few years, I worked on a personal game project called Utopia Syndrome. It is a point-and-click adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world.
All these projects gave me huge experience and a lot of knowledge in the CG industry and brought me to the point where I am now. Currently, I am working as a Lead Environment Artist of the creative team at NVIDIA where we are working with the Omniverse platform on a number of great projects.
I would like to take you behind the Storyteller project which I did with 3ds Max and Omniverse Create. This was another fun and quick project for me that I was able to complete in a week or so.
I started this project by writing a short story about a writer and his daughter. The story helped me to visualize the idea in my head and gave me good ideas in what direction I should move.
"Once upon a time, there lived an unknown writer and his daughter. The writer loved to write stories, but his works did not have great success. However, the writer did not despair and continued to do his favorite work. Every evening, he told his beloved daughter wonderful and magical fairy tales, which he then wrote down on paper. The daughter loved when her father read her favorite fairy tales repeatedly. Father's tales gave true joy and laughter to the writer's daughter, and this inspired the writer to continue writing and make up more tales.
As the years passed, the writer was still not successful with his writing, but he still loved to tell his already grown-up daughter fairy tales. Over time, there were so many fairy tales written on paper that there was no place to put them, and sheets of paper literally fell out of the windows of the house where the writer and his daughter lived.
One day, grief came to the writer's house. Having fallen ill with an incurable disease, the writer died suddenly. New fairy tales were no longer born, the windows of the house faded, and the daughter's joyful laughter was no longer heard from them.
The heartbroken daughter decided to gift her father's fairy tales to other parents so that they could read them to their children and give them joy, just as her father did. There were so many fairy tales that many children and their parents began to call the writer a real storyteller who brings happiness to children!
Over time, the girl's pain went away. She realized how magical her father was. After reading his fairy tales, in every child's laugh, in every cheerful look and smile, the daughter saw her father, who gave joy not only to her but now also to other children. Since then, an unknown writer became a famous storyteller.
People say the storyteller's daughter is still alive and she still lives in that house. She writes fairy tales to her son, just like her father did..."
I always use references which help me to come up with ideas and moods for my projects. So, I started looking for interior images made in retro styles, like a New York apartment filled with retro furniture, retro toys, a desk, a bookshelf, and all these nice things from the past that can tell a story. After gathering references, I usually place them into one sheet that guides me throughout the entire creation process.
The next step was to search for some good 3D models that would bring the mood, atmosphere, and feelings of the writer’s room to life. I didn't want to make every single piece of this project from scratch, otherwise, it would have taken me months to complete on my own. The main goal of this project was to tell the story, and it was another great chance to practice with lighting, composition, storytelling, and, of course, get more practice with Omniverse Create as well. So I bought a collection of 3D models that allowed me to complete this project and tell my story in about one week. Since the writer’s table is one of the key elements, I decided to pay more attention to details. My friend Andrey Protsenko helped me with texturing of the wooden desk in Substance 3D Painter.
I used 3ds Max as the main software to create this 3D scene. The best part was that while I was able to use all the tools in 3ds Max to quickly assemble the scene, I was then able to augment it with NVIDIA technologies and do the rest of the magic with Omniverse Create.
A few words about Omniverse – “NVIDIA Omniverse is a powerful multi-GPU real-time simulation and collaboration platform for 3D production pipelines based on Pixar's Universal Scene Description and NVIDIA RTX technology. Omniverse enables universal interoperability across different applications and 3D ecosystem vendors. It provides efficient real-time scene updates and is based on open standards and protocols. The Omniverse Platform is designed to act as a hub, enabling new capabilities to be exposed as microservices to any connected clients and applications.”
Omniverse Create is a very powerful software that can handle 3D objects and complex 3D scenes in RTX mode as well as produce stunning renders with Path Trace mode and help you to get amazing quality and realism. You can check more information about Omniverse Platform and Omniverse Create on the website.
I used Omniverse Connector for 3ds Max to export my 3D scene to the Omniverse Create app. The connector is basically a plug-in that allows you to quickly and easily convert your 3D content to USD and your materials to MDLs. NVIDIA has connectors for different software, such as 3ds Max, Maya, Blender, Cinema4D, Unreal, etc. Most of the third-party 3D models that I got had V-Ray materials assigned. But this is not a big deal because Omniverse 3ds Max Connector can handle these materials. However, if you want to get the whole control over your materials in Omniverse Create, it is better to use 3ds Max Standard or Physical materials. So first, I used a 3ds Max script called “Universal Material Converter” to convert all V-Ray materials to Standard, and then with Connector, I converted the whole project to Create. You can find more info about Omniverse Connectors here.
NVIDIA updates all connectors and improves them to make the conversion process even smoother. However, due to some limitations, you may sometimes get an incorrect view of materials and textures, especially when you’re dealing with complex material structures full of procedural maps. To avoid this, I suggest keeping material structures as simple as possible and trying to use a PBR material workflow with a minimum set of textures. This will ensure that you will not get any weird materials in Create. However, if you face such a problem, this is not the end. You can still use a variety of built-in materials in Create with flexible and easy-to-use settings. That being said, I decided not to go back to 3ds Max to make changes there but instead, to fix the incorrectly imported materials in Create by creating new materials there from scratch. You can find more info about Omniverse Create materials here.
Omniverse Create has everything you need to make stunning and realistic lighting. It has a variety of different light sources with simple and easy controls. I wanted to make white solid lighting, the one you can see after the rain or when it's cloudy. For the ambient light, I used a Dome with one of the built-in HDRI Maps that you can find in the Sky library. I also used rectangular light behind the window to act as a light portal to brighten the indoor part of the room and provide some nice shadows. You can find more info about Omniverse Create lighting here.
Compositions and Cameras
In order to present the scene and tell the story, I decided to show it from different angles. For this, I set up around 30 cameras and paid enough attention to staging the compositions to completely immerse the viewers into the story. Doing this, I felt as though people could now feel the atmosphere I was creating from various perspectives. You can find more about Omniverse Create cameras here.
Before rendering my final scene, I decided to add Chromatic Aberration in rendering settings and a little bit of fog to help read the depth.
One of the significant advantages of Omniverse Create is its rendering capabilities, which in my opinion are absolutely astounding! I appreciate the quality, speed, and ease of use. For the final render, I used the path-traced method to get the most realistic result. I didn’t tweak rendering settings too much, I just used 1024 samples and Denoiser that helped to make the image cleaner. Some shots I rendered on my home machine which has 2 RTX A6000. However, Chase Telegin helped me to set up the rendering farm, Omniverse Farm Agent, and Omniverse Farm Agent Queue, which significantly accelerated the rendering process and let me quickly start working on the compositing process. More info about rendering is here and here.
Chase Telegin helped me to make dust particles which he did right inside Omniverse Create. He rendered particles separately from the beauty pass and then I added them to the composing stage in After Effect. The compositing process was very simple, I just added particles, black lines and camera shake effect to imitate the film look and some nice music, that’s pretty much it.
I want to say thank you to Andrey Protsenko and Chase Telegin who helped me with this project. Thank you, my team, Gavriil Klimov, Madison Huang, and Rev Lebaredian for your support, thank you, everybody, for reading this article! I hope it gave you a basic understanding of how I created The Storyteller project and how it was easy to bring it to life with the help of Omniverse Create.
Andrew Averkin, Lead Environment Artists at NVIDIA
Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin
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