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Lucien Gillonnier talked about his atmospheric relighting project of the scene inspired by The Last of Us: reworking a readymade environment, setting volumetric fog and baking in UE4.
Hi! My name is Lucien Gillonnier. I’m a 24 and I’m a Lighting Artist from Lyon, France.
My interest in digital arts started soon after a short internship at Magnum Photos in Paris. I studied a bit of Visual Arts before focusing on 3D, and I quickly specialized in Lighting.
I graduated from Bellecour School in 2017 and worked at RyseUp Studios as main Lighting Artist. I worked on different projects there, including a VR action-driven game and organized a small Lighting workshop at Bellecour School.
I’m currently taking some time off, working on a more traditional and universal approach to Lighting rather than focusing on Real-Time. I think it’s a good way to sharpen your eye in order to be more efficient.
First Approach to the Project
At first, this project was kind of a personal homage to The Last of Us. I just finished the game and really wanted to do something with it. I had this scene from Kimmo Kaunela for quite a while, and it was just perfect.
With a scene, I always inspect what was done before, analyzing the intentions behind it and trying to anticipate most of the problems I can expect for a different lighting scenario.
I get rid of the initial bake, every lighting, fog or post-processing object. Then I look at the objects’ behaviors and their materials testing them in different conditions of lighting. It always gives me a really good idea of the potential of the scene, both technically and artistically. A lot of early compositions are emerging from this process too.
This composition is based on an intuitive framing of the cars and a bit of the station, very similar to the final one but with a standard focal length. I just gave it a lot more attention to the details and reframed it to a custom ratio insisting on a very linear reading of the image.
I first intended to make a warmer lighting, more like in The Last of Us exterior day scenes. But it was pretty much already the intention of the author of the scene and I wanted something more “alive”. Paradoxically, one way to achieve this was to make a colder lighting and then give it a touch of life with a warmer spot.
Working with the Assets
The credits of these assets and set dressing really goes to Kimmo Kaunela. I always try to keep the scene as close as possible to the original artist’s environment. But when you work on a composition like this there are some tiny things you want to change like moving the Parking sign a bit, deleting some assets not matching with the composition, painting grass where the ground is attracting too much unnecessary attention, using vertex paint if possible, etc.
Same goes for the vegetation, I tried to make the fog and lighting respond to it in a good way more than trying to adapt the vegetation to the lighting, but I re-arranged some of the grass and trees just a little. The real change here is the vegetation materials, they were clearly made for the original lighting. There was a bit of emissive material and a green color that wasn’t really matching what I wanted to achieve, so I mostly changed that. The ivy got some change of roughness too, and I tried to give it more attention.
In a lot of cases, I think the simpler setup is the better. I used a directional light and a skylight at a really low intensity to get rid of darker areas. The station is lighted with only three-point lights: one inside and two outside for the windows. And that’s it.
The volumetric fog here is a big thing, almost every light is interacting with it at some point. I like to play with the scattering distribution as it breaks the rigidity of the fog’s behavior. It gives a much softer aspect to the scene and a better legibility of the composition. I used a 0,72 scattering distribution and a 2,2 extinction scale.
To get more shape I used the original scene’s fog cards in the background, It also helps to detach the station from the forest and get a more interesting look on the trees. I also used a light touch of blue with these fog cards, which I think really adds something to the whole scene without being very noticeable.
On the post-processing side I always like to work without any effect, even the standard ones like vignetting and bloom. Adding post-processing is pretty much the last step in my workflow but I always try not to relate on it. I really consider it as a bonus and the last time correction but not something to think about before the end.
I also like to take a screenshot of the scene and correct it with Photoshop first, it usually gives me a good step back and I often make a LUT with it before applying any other modification. In this case, I just used the post-processing tools without a LUT, to get something close to my Photoshop correction but a bit different.
I tend to bake most of the lighting in a scene, but in this case, it wasn’t a really big addition. I still baked it but the scene really could have been entirely dynamic and look pretty close to the result.
I used dynamic shadows for the directional light and a few contact shadows. The gas station is baked but with a really low Indirect Lighting Intensity.
I was also planning to use the “Static Lighting Scattering Intensity” feature of the Volumetric Fog but I was happy without it and I felt it would have been too much in this case.
I think the biggest challenges here were the vegetation and some other materials, but nothing insurmountable really. The scene was fun to play with, and I had a good time.
Thank you for the attention!
Lucien Gillonnier, Lighting Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev