Shashwat Patkar has shared the working process behind the KL-7/T SEC ADONIS project, explained how modeling, texturing, and lighting were done, and shared some tips on creating appealing props.
I am Shashwat Patkar, a student studying Game Graphics Production at Howest DAE. My interest in art and creativity started early, inspired by my father who is a painter and art professor. I became fascinated with 3D graphics and animation and spent much of my time learning and experimenting with new techniques on online forums. I was inspired by the generosity and willingness of the 3D art community to share their knowledge and experience, and I found myself constantly learning and challenging myself through the work of my peers.
The KL-7/T SEC ADONIS Project
I had to create a complex asset for my final assignment in Game Asset Production and to achieve this I required the perfect reference, design, and concept. However, I soon discovered that making the right decision was arduous. When I was really interested in the prospect of modeling radio equipment, I stumbled upon Cryptic equipment from the cold-war era.
It was quite fascinating and strikingly sci-fi even though it belonged to a much older time. I was going through websites for cryptographic equipment when I found the KL-7 which immediately caught my eye. I went ahead and downloaded all possible references for the model, every close-up, every camera angle, lighting condition, age, and anything that would help me understand the model better. To me, reference is always key to a high-quality outcome.
Modeling the device became much easier since I had an enormous amount of references set up that would make it exceptionally simple to understand the shape and structure of the object. For high poly, I usually follow a fairly non-destructive workflow, while still being flexible in order to achieve the best result.
For example, the base of the machine was modeled with SubD modeling where I had a Subdivision stacked on top of another Catmull-Clark SubD.
The knobs had a bevel modifier on top which made it incredibly flexible in tweaking at any point in the project.
The platform for the cipher drum and the printer were modeled with a remesh workflow that works with booleans and the remesh modifier (similar to Proboolean + Dynamesh workflow).
Additionally, I would leave a lot of detail to add later using a Normal map and Height map in Substance 3D Painter.
Topology and Unwrapping the Model for Texturing
Since most of my geometry was cubes and cylinders with modifiers, all I had to do was remove the modifiers and optimize the geometry a little bit on top and voilà, we have our low poly version the same.
Unwrapping is a rigorous process. I like using 3ds Max’s UV Toolset for straightening and rectifying my UVs quickly. During this process, I tried to reuse most of my texture space, especially for things like bolts, the bottom of the keys, duplicates, etc.
The way I always see texturing is by trying to comprehend and lay out the literal definition of layers.
Looking at the reference and asking myself questions through the process like, would this have a paint-over? Is there metal visible through the chipped paint? If it's carried using these handles should there be build-up and scratches on this side of the surface? What kind of life has the prop been through? What parts of this prop should be worn down the most with usage? Every layer is an answer to one of those questions. Doing that until it looks as close to the reference as possible is how I approach it.
I try my best to work with fill layers and masks instead of paint layers because of the amount of flexibility it provides. I would then try to hand paint most of my masks instead of just using a generator to get rid of the soulless feel and add more variety to the result.
I also try to add as much detail as I can in each individual channel, for example, I threw a random Perlin noise height with a small scale to fake dents. Dust and Scratches are always present in the roughness channel. Color variation between paint in the albedo channel. Tiny things like that break consistency and that are exactly how real life is, inconsistent.
Setting Up the Final Model and Rendering
I set it all up in Unreal Engine 5 with Lumen where I would try to light the silhouette while highlighting my specular detail using rect lights, point lights and a skylight with a basic HDRI slapped on top of it. I try to emphasize the focal point, which in this case is the drum, by making it brighter than the rest of the scene using a spot light. I don't use any fancy post-production techniques other than maybe sharpening it a tad bit in Photoshop.
Consistency, functionality, and attention to detail are the three main components of appealing prop creation. Props should be created with the narrative and setting in mind, and they should complement the project's overall aesthetic. In order for them to be used in the way that is intended in the story, they must also be usable and believable.
Budget and time restrictions, as well as ensuring that the props are credible and in keeping with the project's overall aesthetic, are the main challenges when creating props.
Advice for beginners: start small and concentrate on perfecting the details. Do your research on various tools and methods, and don't be afraid to try new things.
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