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We’ve talked with Moses Saintfleur about the way he created this outstanding environment, inspired by the amazing concept art by Evgeniy Musienko.
Hey, my name’s Moses Saintfleur. I’ll be sharing the process of my latest scene powered by Unreal, Zbrush, Marmoset Toolbag, Marvelous Designer, and the Substance tools.
First Comes The Objectives
I think setting goals is a very important step when starting an environment. They determine what you learn and accomplish in the end. So, with my concept in mind I immediately set two goals. Match the architectural design of the concept and Tell a story.
(Artwork by Evgeniy Musienko).
Prepping the Scene
I start by matching the composition in Unreal using simple BSP shapes to get a sense of scale. I Export the scene to Maya refining things from there and adding more detail in the process.
After blocking out most of the larger shapes and doing a quick light pass I then move onto making an asset list. While a large majority of the props made the cut others were substituted with something else that made more sense to live in the scene.
Now, before I start chipping away at assets I make materials I plan to use throughout the texturing process first. For this project I made 3 main materials that helped me texture most of the scene.
Wood (with variations)
Once I had these finished I separated most of my props into sets and began modeling.
I approach assets by tackling ones that repeat more often than others and work my way down the list in that order. I also used Marmoset Toolbag 3 to bake more than half of the assets. Its super-fast, easy, and precise; which Is why I only bake in Toolbag now. I’ll bake in Painter or Designer on special occasions but that’s not often.
So, starting with the walls (since they repeat the most). I modeled the main shapes in Maya then exported to Zbrush to sculpt the wooden pieces. Zbrush can be a huge time sink so I try to just sculpt the larger details and let my textures do most of the work regarding the medium and smaller details. And since I used a tiling texture for the walls I knew repetition would be very noticeable so I made a few decals later to break up the color and roughness values.
For medium sized assets like the door, I used alphas at first to get some wood grain going but it didn’t look great so I spent a little more time to sculpt detail then exported to Painter for texturing. Knowing that I had more wooden props to texturing later I created a smart material from the door to use for the remaining assets.
If I ever needed more detail or a slightly different look I’d import curvature and AO maps from the wood substances I made earlier to drive smart masks and generators. This method helped with adding extra detail and maintaining consistency throughout the assets.
As for the smaller props; I modeled most of them in sets and shared texture sheets with ones that shared the same materials. Some props did have their own texture sheets
like the lantern for example. I also channel packed assets that contained roughness, metallic, and AO maps. To save memory and reduce the number of files I had to sort through.
For cloth related assets I used Marvelous Designer, Zbrush, and Substance Designer. I’ll be using the stairs I did as an example. When making the staircase I couldn’t figure out how to get the cloth to drape over each step properly. I kept getting weird looking gaps over the steps. Paul Mandegarian helped me on this one. The trick is to pin and simulate each step one by one. After I finished pinning and simulating the cloth I switched to Zbrush to add thickness, smooth, and finalize the look.
I then decimated in Zbrush and unwrapped in Maya. I used Designer to bake and texture this asset. Texturing props in Designer is extremely fun and different. I recommend trying it if you haven’t already.
Lighting was the most challenging part of the project. I went through so many lighting setups before I got the look I wanted. For awhile things were just too dark and I couldn’t figure out how to balance the lighting. The problem was my walls were too bright and the wood assets were too dark in comparison.
When I would increase the intensity of the lights, the walls became too bright just when the wood became clear enough to see. Then I realized it wasn’t the lighting I needed to increase. My textures needed to be tweaked. They were too different in value so they reacted to light differently.
For example, If you take these two colors and desaturate them you’ll see that they’re different in value. And if you take these values and adjust the levels, one will always reach the darkest/brightest value before the other. If your assets are too different in color value then lighting your scene will be very difficult.
Post-Process / Lightmass Settings
For the post-process I use normal color grading techniques in Photoshop. All you do here is take a screenshot of your scene in engine and place the default LUT you can find here on top of your image. I used the adjustment layers to add and subtract certain effects until I got the look I wanted.
Brightness & Contrast
Hue & Saturation