Level Artist Julia Maximenko showed us how to create a magical forest using the Megascans/Unreal Engine 4 workflow.
Hi, my name is Julia Maximenko, I'm 23 years old and I'm from Russia. Now I am studying level art in UE4 by myself. Magic Forest is my first and only project.
I was always interested and attracted to different forests and rivers. In the beginning, I wanted to create something near water. My first try of creating a forest around the lake wasn't successful, as the location itself came out very big. Then I went to ArtStation and Pinterest to look for inspiration and after some time of scrolling through these websites, I found this picture that became my only reference.
I built the initial landscape based on the reference.
In the scene composition, I planned to do a small island in the middle, the area around the island filled with water, and big trees to complete the composition. Some changes were made throughout the work.
All the objects on the map, besides the trees, were taken from Megascans. The torches and the altar I created via blueprint in UE4 by using Megascand branches and free fire downloaded from Epic Games. The research of the right assets for the map was the most interesting but at the same time, a hard part of the process as it will affect the creation of the general mood of the composition.
I had to bring all the objects, foliage, and landscape together so it all could chord with each other. The center of everything was supposed to be a stone altar on the island but the stones didn’t fit into the general mood of the forest, so Pinterest helped me to solve this problem by giving me a very interesting idea with branches.
Assembling the Scene
In the beginning, my friends recommended I put cameras around the map so then I could select the scenes and create good detail on them and separate compositions of stones and flowers. As the end result, all the final screenshots were taken from these cameras in UE4.
I tried to make the lighting the same as in the reference and I think it came out very well, however, I couldn't achieve the desired similarity and effect.
Also, I decided to create two classical lightings: day and night, but it was the most difficult part out of other challenges that occurred. At night lighting I realized that my scene didn’t have any story behind it and at that stage, the torches(it was created the same as the altar via blueprint and with the same branches), fireflies, and effect on the altar(my friends helped me with effects by giving me tips on how to make it) were added. As a result, the night lighting created a project inside a completely different one.
The most difficult part of the working process was creating the water, foliage, and the lighting as at these stages I didn’t feel the integrality of my project, and it often seemed that everything was falling apart. The main lesson that I learned during this project was to find the balance between the work and the rest from the work in order to be as productive as possible because when I worked too long on the project, I was doing useless fiddling around the map, the eye was blurred and the work was coming to a dead-end because of that. The breaks gave me a fresh perspective on the work that helped me to continue and finish it. As a result, it took me one month to make it.
I will recommend what my friends recommended to me is not to worry about how the stones and foliage are laying down because it is nature, and it can be different and unpredictable. I think the main focus should be on the references which you have chosen for your project and try to repeat the same composition and lighting, and everything else will progress with the workflow.
Julia Maximenko, 3D Level Artist
Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin
You may find these articles interesting