Forest Lighting by Alexander Dracott: The Marriage of SpeedTree & Unreal Engine 4
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Forest Lighting by Alexander Dracott: The Marriage of SpeedTree & Unreal Engine 4
17 April, 2015

Watch a hand-modeled forest environment made rendered in Unreal Engine 4 and set on fire. The scene was created by Alexander Dracott (LinkedIn profile).

A talented artist Alexander Dracott from Seattle recently shared with the world some of his experiments with lighting in Unreal Engine 4. In a post at Polycount he published an extensive look on the whole development process.  Alexander also set the whole scene on fire and, boy, it looked absolutely amazing.

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The artist was kind enough to provide some comments for the people on the forum. He said that terrain and tree/rock textures were all built with displacement via tessellation and vert blending in mind.

I was insanely limited on texture space so every material had to fit a large amount of masks in only 3 textures. I also discovered that height for blending did NOT make good height for displacement and had to separate those 2 out. Every material except for foliage had an option to use world space blended textures instead of traditional UVs and could be tweaked, tinted, and adjusted in quite a few different ways.

Alexander Dracott (via Polycount)

There’s also a bunch of screenshots, showing the work with textures, grass, tree bark and foliage. All the trees in the scene were created using the variety of leaf cards from SpeedTree. The assets were additionally optimized in Maya.

Alexander worked on a number of big projects. He was at Sucker Punch Production during the development of Infamous: Second Son and Infamous: First Light and contributed to Sony Online Entertainment’s Planetside 2. He also did contract work for Liquid Development on Tribes Ascend. His internship was at Sony Online Entertainment.

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The whole scene had been lit dynamically. Light maps proved to be not that foliage friendly. Alexander also needed a way to change light angles.

The trees were a mix of all kinds of techniques. The original leaf cards were made with renders of 3D branches which I then tested in SpeedTree to see what kind of coverage I would get with different techniques. I found that procedurally placing them caused too many weird dark spots due to light not traveling properly through super dense areas of leaf (which is to be expected because even with ambient light, and foliage or SSS rendering, it is still a game engine). I ended up doing most of the placement by hand, sometimes fudging accuracy quite a bit in the name of final visibility and lighting quality from ground level.

Alexander Dracott (via Polycount)

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  • Alexander_Dracott_forest_ligh_80lv
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All in all it is a great project that just goes to show the rendering power of Unreal Engine. It is also an incredible demonstration of patience and dedication that some artists show while making such incredible dynamic scenes.

Alexander is a part of the GameMentorOnline program. He helps various artists striving to develop their skills in creating 3d content for games.



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