I really like how you've articulated your entire process. This was a very enriching read. A Well deserved feature!
Great article! Thanks for the awesome read.
Wow, this is so cool! Nice job!
Rodrigo Lloret showed the way he achieved that cool realistic look in his recent UE4 study.
My name is Rodrigo Lloret and I’m senior environment artist living in Malmö, currently working at Massive Entertainment as senior prop artist. I’ve been working in video games since 2005 when I started to work at PyroStudios, but I was, most of my years as game artist, at MercurySteam in Castlevania Lords of Shadow series.
I wanted to take a deeper look into UE, learn more stuff, play with lighting and color. I was looking in my Pinterest moodboard and I found my main ref. So, I decided to try to recreate it in UE. but I had something really clear, I didn’t want to focus in every detail of every texture or every piece of the scene, as in my others projects. I wanted to focus in the big picture and get the feeling from the whole scene.
On the other hand I challenged myself to make all the tiles in Substance Designer, because I never made textures in Designer for a project and it was time for that.
Blockout and breaking the symmetry
The first thing that you can realize when you take a look to the main ref, is that the composition is mostly symmetric and the symmetric is quite interesting but in the end is mostly boring, so I had to break it with broken shapes, stuff and details… and finally with the lighting.
After that, I took my ref-poly-man, that I usually use to get a good feel of proportions and started the block-out of the scene. When I had few things, like main walls, the doors holes, and simple stairs, I continued with adding the camera in Maya and trying to get the perspective and exporting the scene in order to check that everything was working well. After that, I started to place more stuff in the scene like the carpets of the sides, to get the felling of depth, also rough stairs, the window…
The scene is really small and the goal of the project was to take some pictures from the scene, so I didn’t need to work with modular pieces. I decided to make it with big meshes but keeping in mind the materials and lightmaps, because I didn’t want meshes with a lot of materials and on another hand, I wanted to have the possibility of defining the quality of the lightmaps to optimize the scene. In the end, I had meshes like the main walls with the ceiling, second floor, the walls of the rooms, the stairs, the frames and skirting boards, the window… But the other things, like doors, props, the ivy, debris… were placed in UE to play with them.
Block-out, main meshes and separated meshes by materials and lightmaps (white meshes placed in UE)
Elements and debris scatter
For scattering the debris, I knew that I will need to have a bunch of props that let me work flexible and easy, because I wanted a natural scattering feeling.
So, for ceramic vases, plates and bottles debris, I made some test with simple volumes, shatter and physics. It worked well and I finally decided to make the different status of debris with physics. After that, I polished and reduced the meshes. Of course, I tried it few times to have a spreaded, closed and aligned effect to work with them more flexible.
The tiny debris was made by textures with alpha and planes from some broken pieces, and for woods debris, I made four different states of the crossbar stairs and a bunch of broken wood pieces that I could use to fill some spaces and break the uniformity.
Gifs of debris
The debris was placed manually in UE and always trying to get a natural feeling, like placing debris close to the walls or placing the big pieces and the tiny debris beneath them. Simulating the natural regrouping of the things in the corners or beneath objects, for example.
I made the ivy with a few branches, with and without 3d planes leaves. For the dried leaves, I took them from an old project that I never used… but finally I’m using them.
Some people asked me about how I made the carpet of the stairs. I made the first model by cloth simulation in Maya, but I started with a quad mesh instead the typical triangulate one used for cloth programs, so was easy to refine, fix and reduce the mesh after the simulation.
Carpet stages and Carpet Gif
Materials and Textures
As I comment before I wanted to get into Designer, so I made the tiles with Designer and the other stuff in Painter. But this time the materials are not very defined with tons of details, like in my other projects. So, I made the textures, keeping in mind the big picture and not the tiny details.
When you have a well color variation you have an interesting texture in areas without enough reflection, also with an interesting roughness, the shiny areas look great. I always try to have few well-defined levels of roughness in the textures, as well as in the scenes, so you obtain more interesting contrast between flat and shiny areas.
To get variation in tiles I usually use 2 different status of the same texture, one standard and the other one more dirty, dusty, wet… and mix them with vertex color and mask texture. With this workflow, you get more roughness and color variations and in the end, more detailed and interesting areas.
For the carpet, I used 3 variations of the texture, the first was a standard old carpet, second, with stains and dirt and the third, the wet effect, was made by the shader in UE.
I dived into UE forums looking for a good way to achieve a realistic lighting and I found something to start and play around. They use bounce cards, like this huge white panels or reflectors that you can see in photograph studios or when movies are filmed. These panels were the key to the lighting setup because you get a nice diffusion lighting for interiors but when you use them, the time to calculate the light grows exponentially.
In the end, I had 6 lights. One skylight, one light for each room, one for the window and another light in the window for the fog. I tried to balance the levels of the lights, keeping the most bright light in the window and, in decreasing order, side rooms, the door, and the farthest room.
Finally I played with the color of the lights to break a little more the symmetry and create a more interesting and warm look. Like the levels of the lights, I kept an order with the color as well. In increasing order by color saturation, the light of the window and the door, the farthest room, the left room and the right room.
Detail Lightning and Sphere Reflections