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Tomas Ibar talked a bit about the things he learned during the “Intro to Environment art” course from Andres Rodriguez.
If you’re interested in the course do check out the description and options on CGMA.
My name is Tomas Ibar. I’m from Chile and I moved to Canada back in 2008. I am currently working as a VFX/motion graphics artist at Java Post production located in Regina, Canada. I studied Digital animation at Universidad Mayor (Chile) and Media Communications at SIAST(Canada). While I was studying at SIAST, I got my work experience at Java Post Production, where I was able to land a full-time job upon graduation.
I have always been interested in video games. This led me to enroll in a CGMA class, “Intro to Environment art” taught by Andres Rodriguez. This was the perfect fit for me as I was able to manage my full-time job and work on assignments. The classes helped me to clarify the pipeline for assets creation from beginning to end. At the same time, I learned some useful tips and techniques that apply today in my daily work.
At the beginning of the class, we were asked to define a theme for our scene. In this case, my main inspiration was Dark Souls 3. I started searching ideas and references for the Gothic architecture using Google. I put together a reference sheet breaking down how I would tackle the different parts. I enumerated the different parts to visualize how many objects I need to create.
The instructor recommended to include a character or basic cube around 2 meters tall. In that way, all the elements could be related to the scale of the character. I started from a block mesh, at the same time keeping in mind what elements could be utilized again. A good example of this is the towers located on each side. At this point, I knew that I needed to make the textures slightly different on each side of the towers and used the foliage to hide/break the symmetry of the scene.
Modeling & Texturing
I used a mix of Maya, Cinema 4D, and ZBrush for modeling. A really important tip is when you export the models from Maya/C4D try to make an even mesh. This helps in the sculpting process because it provides an even topology helping to keep uniform details on the sculpt with an even resolution. I will illustrate that with the creation of one of the columns. (The same process is applied to the other parts of the scene, sometimes starting from a low poly mesh, subdividing them for the sculpt and then baking the high poly mesh down to the low poly mesh. Other times I started from high poly and created the low poly/retopology inside Maya).
In this case, I created a low poly column inside Maya, then I duplicated the low poly column and subdivided it to create an even mesh which later will be exported to ZBrush to add some extra details.
Inside ZBrush, I used the mallet brush in conjunction with the morph brush and clay build up to create sharper broken areas and some alphas to create the detail of the stone column.
Then, back to Maya, where I used the UV map tools. I started with automatic mapping and then used “move and sew edges”. Once I was happy with the UVs I used “Layout UV” to reorganize the elements inside the UV editor but always kept an eye on the texel density. The checkerboard material is really useful to visualize texel density.
For the different materials, I used Substance Designer and Substance Painter which I had some previous experience with. The class challenged me to try new techniques in both programs. I used Substance Designer mainly for the bricks, vegetations and ground texture.
The rest was textured in Substance Painter using the default materials from the program and some that I created previously in Substance Designer. I did all the baking inside Substance Painter. Here are some examples.
I’m going to use the vines to illustrate the process. The vegetation was created between ZBrush/Maya and Substance Designer. First I created a high poly model between Maya and ZBrush. Then in Substance Designer, I baked the high poly model to a plane. Then I cropped the plane creating the different kind of planes you see on the second image. Later I placed the vegetation around the scene.
The tree trunk was created in ZBrush using ZSpheres. For me, this was the easiest way to create the organic looks of the roots and branches. Then I created a low poly model of the tree inside Maya. In Substance Painter, I baked the high poly model to the lower poly model and painted their respective textures.
Lighting & Composition
In this case, the intent of the class was to get the models into Marmoset Toolbag. So I relied on the HDR maps that come with the package for the main light. In terms of composition, I decided to go simple but effective. I placed a spotlight behind the door and cranking up the brightness to make this area my main focus. Finally, I used Photoshop to tweak the scene a little bit.
Building the scene was a real challenge, especially in just 10 weeks. The timeline forced me to push my technical skills and to problem solve at a new level. At the same time, I learned the pipeline of game art production. I don’t work in the video game industry but the class helped me to explore new techniques and programs that I use every day in my work.