Michał Baca talked about the production of his amazing cyberpunk environment. Deep dive into the lighting, color, geometry and city building.
Hi, I’m Michał Baca, and I’m an environment artist from Poland, where I’m currently in my first year, studying Visual Art at The University of Computer Sciences and Skills. I don’t have any professional experience yet, I’m working on my portfolio projects all time to get that job in the industry in future.
So, after I decided that my next project will be in cyberpunk theme, I started to collect photos and concepts from various artist to get inspired. Because concept art isn’t my strong side, I made simple photobashing in Photoshop to plan my scene. Next step was level blockout in unreal engine, where I planned verticality, basic lights and level structure. To get inspired about some of architecture elements I just enter street view in Google maps and walking through the streets of New York and other cities.
Scene was built mainly with modular assets, everything was planned in 3ds Max to work perfectly together. Modular environments are great thing, because I can use already created elements to create new pieces.
Set dressing of that scene was created using modular pieces, some of them designed by me and some inspired from collected concepts and photos. Workflow was typical: modeling in 3ds max and ZBrush then baking normal maps and materials in Substance Painter. Finally everything combined in Unreal Engine. For pipes and wires I was using blueprint spline mesh components, best technique for things like that. There are also decals for graffiti and micro details.
All materials was made in Substance Painter like I said earlier. In unreal engine material editor I’m using detail texturing technique to get realistic details. For roughness maps and nice reflections I added second texture to get effect of wet surfaces.
Sidewalk material was made with photo scanned texture from textures.com, I used mesh paint tool to blend it with puddles and also used Parallax Occlusion Mapping to get realistic effect.
For the neons I used simple trick, I created blueprint with neon-shaped cylinder mesh with emissive material and point light with specific source radius and source length settings to simulate neon light.
For neon billboards I created translucent material with emissive and panner parameter to animate emissive map, everything was build with fill lights to simulate realistic lighting and create specific atmosphere.
Building the lights in scene was most difficult and most important part because I decided to make dynamic lighting, so there is many fill lights to simulate GI. For detail shadowing, I used Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows in some places.
May 24th, unreal engine 4.16 version was released with awesome volumetric fog feature, but it was too late to switch engine version for my project. So by simple trick I decided to create volumetric fog effect with translucent material and cone-shaped mesh.
I’m learning something new all time and during the creation process of this scene I learned a lot, I’m polishing my skills all time to be a better artist and get job in game dev industry.