Mohamed Amine Belcaid shared the workflow behind Project R4 and explained how the foliage was made.
My name is Mohamed Amine Belcaid, I'm a 30-year-old CG Artist with a good graphic design background. For over 12 years, I have been in the field mixing multiple disciplines from working with multiple local creative agencies, TV stations, and multiple industries delivering branding, motion, and sometimes CG content.
The brands I worked with
In early 2020, I decided to go full CG and build a new portfolio containing high cinematic CG projects. It started with the same workflow but with more attention to adding details and making the environments bigger.
It all started back in 2019, my friend and concept artist Tarik Raiss made a piece that I couldn’t forget: a flying Renault R4 with a cool cyber twist and a dystopian vibe that I liked very much since I had childhood memories of this type of car or as Tarik said, "I didn't grow up seeing a DeLorean in this part of the world but instead, I saw this one a lot. I always chilled in the back seat of a Renault R4 when my parents took me with them on their journeys, traveling and exploring wild places in Morocco. That's why you find me using this car in my illustrations often."
He did the concept, the design art for the main parts, a set of stickers, and a full sign pack in a Moroccan theme.
The Asset Production
It was the first time I did a project using MoI 3D to make the main models and used free models to stack random objects and add more details. I also used Cinema4D and Redshift 2.6 to render, I wasn't happy with the render at all but managed to make the 3D car look good, at least for Tarik, it was his vision for the car.
Fast forward to last July, I got a new machine with a nice RTX 3060 and good CG performance. Unreal Engine 5 launched, which became more artist-friendly, at least enough for me to go and open a new project called Project R4, RTX ON, and that was it from there.
Just kidding, everything was wrong: from the topology of my model to UVs, also, UE likes double-faced models, and mine was thin as paper. That meant one thing: I had to start from scratch.
I used hard surface modeling inside MoI 3D to make the car body and all the parts connected with wires, cables, and tubes, as I wanted from the beginning. The process was hard and slow, but with every section completed, I would look at the full thing, and that kept me going.
My advice to everyone who wants to make good CG art is to spend as much time preparing your model correctly, the way the engine likes.
After this step, the nightmare of UVing started, but with the help of Cinema4D and Substance 3D Painter's new UV algorithms, I manage to pass this long-time barrier.
And somehow from here on the fun begins, soon you are done with these two steps ready to unleash the creative side, starting with Substance 3D Painter for texturing. I wanted to avoid the flying car concept because that was too advanced for my UE level but at the same time, I wanted to see this in motion. Here is when I went back to Tarik's direction, but first, the car must look abandoned, broken, and the most important factor is aging, the full frame has to give that sense of the car being here for a long time.
"This car has been here for a long time" – this must be applied to every type of content there is in the frame. Rusty metal and glass should follow along the time frame, so we need heavy dust and plastic, it all should be worn. Also, take into account that rust, for example, is different depending if the car has been close to the sea or in the forest, the sea salt in the air will make the metal react differently. All these factors are important to know before you start.
With all this in mind, it is now up to texturing to add details to the geometry.
It's fairly simple with Quixel Megascans' assets, for the ground, I first used multiple mossy assets to form the environment and cover it with forest vegetation: from trees to small dead grass around the rocks.
I used a second vegetation layer to mix between the car and the forest, usually, it was shrubs. I used the forest pack with a mossy decal as a base layer first, covering both the car and the environment, then I added shrubs as spots, after that, it's a matter of an artistic choice to connect the spots with lines of shrubs, and if you follow the car edge as nature would, you will have an interesting and more realistic look.
I used Unreal Engine's Lumen for rendering but I overrode the reflection to ray tracing in the render setting because the car is made of a lot of metal surfaces, and everything else is UE standard lighting.
I managed to understand how the engine works from amazing William Faucher's YouTube channel along with UE educational content, and the finale cut and music were done outside of the engine.
I have to say, I'm very impressed with the engine's power. It's difficult to get around it in the beginning because of all the options provided, but with time, you start to develop a workflow that works for you. All I wanted is to make a cinematic motion like the ones I used to see in games. Letting go and going deep into the story was my favorite part.
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