Creating Fantasy Forest with UE4 and Substance
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Creating Fantasy Forest with UE4 and Substance
1 November, 2017
Interview

Junmin Bang talked about his Magna Silya project, a beautiful scene created with the help of UE4, Substance, 3ds Max and ZBrush. 

Intro

Hello. My name is Junmin Bang. I was born in Seoul, and now residing in the Jeju aka Hawaii of Asia. People come here for their honeymoon so I guess I am pretty lucky to be working here. I am working at a Korean game company Neople as a 3D Environment Artist, primarily working on prop,textures and modeling.  I have been fascinated by game since young as my favourite hobby so went to learn drawings for game at academies.

I have started working 6 years ago in the gaming industry. I got into 3D by a sheer chance – as I started working in the industry, I realised my strength lies with not only drawing but also being able to build a world with an engineering focus which I only got around to doing by my seniors’ advice. I also liked the worlds I could create in 3D than 2D.  My most recent project is Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex – First Assault Online.

Magna Silya

Working in a company project means that you don’t necessary get the chance to explore and express your own touches always or fully.  Having been frequenting the Artstation recently and watching the TV series Outlander and GoT, I was inspired to create something mythical, fantastical and whimsical as a process of expressing and advancing my skill sets.

I wanted to study the tools (Substance Designer and Substance Painter) and UE4 that I had not used before, and to create an Environment Scene with fantastic natural objects that I had not tried. I tried to go for Blizzard art concept feel for the first concept, but I viewed for a lot of reference images and eventually and settled on the concept that was fantastic and realistic.

(Inspirational references)

It’s kind of a personal story – my girlfriend lives in London and just in the process of exploring about other countries where we could venture out to, I was keen to build my network with people outside of my social circle in Korea and engage with global community.

Modeling

Modeling was done with 3Ds Max and Zbrush, and Texture part was done in Substance Designer and Painter. I didn’t use the photo source or Megascans , only the source I made through the inspirations above.

I wanted to express the vegetation of the forest rather than the jungle, and I thought about the fantastic forest in the fog.

Rune carved stone pillars, nonrealistic and fantastic trees, fireflies, dust, grass, flowers, the leaves swaying in the wind, etc..

I know it is a bad habit but I do not really do a Blockout – but rather imagine the big picture in my head, think about necessary props, Textures, vfx and do reference search. After that, I make prop and textures, and when it think finished, i make additional props which are more necessary in scene.

Vegetation

One important point in this work was the silhouette of the tree (including the shadows of the leaves). For Trees that usually enter the landscape, I work with SpeedTree to save time.

But unique trees do direct modeling, of which i will introduce work flow as an example of main tree.

First, start with ZSphere. We make a tree trunk, and form main tree branches, roots and the like.

Press the A key to see the actual modeling. When the large shape is completed, press Make Polymesh3D to transform it into polymesh, and then DynaMesh or ZRemesher will arrange the density or flow of the poly and you will have fun sculpting.

If you are sculling with a Move Brush or a Standard Brush at Low Poly, you will notice that the density and flow of Poly are disturbed and distorted. You can clean it with DynaMesh once in the middle.

When sculpting is finished, I need to create LowMesh. There are many ways to do it, but I use Decimation Master or ZRemesher to create LowMesh, and export it to 3Ds Max to organize Poly, add Unwrap and add some branches or roots.

In Substance Designer, you can create the necessary mask textures, create tile textures, and create materials for use in Painter.

There is a good tutorial for creating Bark Texture.

I really liked Artist Ben Wilson at Artstation and he was very helpful with his tutorial.

Importing SD Materials into SP

Once the material you need is complete, add some detail including Dirt,Moss between the tree based on the Bark Material. My favorite Smart Masks are Edges Scratched, Occlusion Strong, and Moss. I try to use this and try to make it similar to the reference image as much as possible.

Leaves are also modeled with 3Ds Max and ZBrush. In the case of leaves, I thought that silhouette was more important than detail when I entered a scene, so I did not model very detailed. Make a basic leaf, and make it in various forms(used FFD,Twitst,Band tool).

Then divide the RGB Channel Mask into stem and leaf and texturing in S.D.

Material work

I think that one of the most visible in the game background is the bottom.

I think I really had a lot to think about how to represent the floor in this production. (I was learning S.D,and I think I spent one week more time than other Props.)

I wanted stones buried in the muddy ground, On grasses, leaves are piled up, wanted to express the plants that growed among them. I wanted to use this data as a single piece of data, but I needed too many nodes, I split them into four parts: Muddy, Fall Leaves, Grass, and Leaf, and synthesized them using each Mask.

I wanted to make these materials as one material, but I needed too many nodes, so I divided them into four parts: Muddy, Fall Leaves, Grass, and Leaves.

If you are a tip, it is important to create Instance Parameters that will allow you to change each texture when you do this.

(Related Documentation on Instance Parameters)

Grass and flowers

When I make grass, flowers, and plants, I have a feature called FiberMesh in ZBrush. This is one of the useful tools in this work. Export Mesh created in ZBrush to 3Ds Max and bake it.

Another important point is how to adjust the subsurface color in UE4.

In simple terms, the principle of operation of the Subsurface Color is that white portion passes through Light, but don’t passes through black portion.(SubAmount_1 is the intensity of the Subsurface Color Texture)

(Subsurface Color Texture)

The following is the UE4 Material Node. These nodes are not explained because there are already many tutors. When I don’t work all the time, I meet tutors, gather information, combine, and recreate them on Google or YouTube.

Visual effects

I think visual effects bring a feeling of life. Time-lapse scenes of moving plants, falling leaves, fireflies floating around the runes, floating dust in the forest … Adding these things is always fun and exciting.

 

I have never learnt VFX professionally. However, if I see many references and tutorias when I need in my work.

One of the important visual effects is the Post Process Volume.

Every environment artist dealing with UE4 thinks it will be most fun to setting the last post process volume.

Among them, I will show you the Lens part. You can create a much more realistic and effective scene using only the effects of the lens.

(Related document)

Lighting

When I started my first work, I tried to do evening lighting. But my work “Canal Town” is evening lighting, so I tried morning  lighting. Important points in the outdoor scene are Directional Light, SkyLight, ExponentialHeightFog, skybox and the post process volume.

The Volumetric Fog function of UE4’s ExponentialHeightFog was the best feature to stand out the image of the sun coming through the leaves in my work.

Time costs

One of the hardest parts about this project was time management – I worked 2-5 hours everyday in my free time after work. In the process, I learned a great deal and believe that it was totally worth it. I don’t believe that this project is my best or that I am perfectly satisfied. I believe artists, and environment artist in particular, perspective, analytical skills are vital. In game, the environment needs to take into consideration that quality is great yet complementing the game and characters itself in harmony. Therefore, whether it be real life movie or games, I do believe that having an eye for details, remembering and analytical skills help create better projects and work.

I also believe that the flaws I see are also visible by others. It’s often the people who do not work in the industry that can i present my biggest problem. If you are satisfied with it, so others will feel satisfied.

I would like to thank you for reading this information. I hope please get the information you want. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Artstation or email. I will reply within the limit of knowing.

Junmin Bang, 3D Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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