Leyla Demirpolat from Gnomon described the production of her amazing environments. A deeper look into composition, material creation and design.
Leyla Demirpolat described the production of her amazing French Pavilion scene. It’s a detailed look into the creation of the environment, composition, materials, sculpting and post-processing.
My name is Leyla Demirpolat. I am Turkish German. From 2007-2012 I studied Computer Science at the University of Applied Sciences in Mannheim, Germany. Shortly before I began writing my Bachelor’s Thesis, I also became interested in Computer Graphics.
The university offered a class called “3D Modeling and Game Development.” When I heard about this class, I immediately decided to take it. I had a lot of fun and learned a great deal about 3D Computer Graphics. When I became more familiar with 3D topics I felt this was an area I wanted to learn more about.
Shortly after graduating I started working in a software company, called KOBIL Systems GmbH. Even though I loved working there, I decided that I couldn’t work in a technology company for the rest of my life. I wanted to get more creative and I knew that there were other options for me. That’s how I began searching for schools and ended up in the best School – Gnomon School of Visual Effects.
My Interest for Environment Creation for Games
Before I start talking about “The French Pavilion” I want to explain how I got interested in Environments for Games. When I first started studying at Gnomon I knew very little about 3D. I didn’t know if I wanted to become a character artist, a vfx artist, animator or a prop artist.
I wasn’t even aware of the differences in the workflow between the film and the game industry. Everyone kept asking me what I wanted to do but I couldn’t answer it until I started taking Nate Stephens‘s “Environment Creation for Games” class two terms ago. Nate Stephens, Lead Environment Artist at Sony Santa Monica, is an amazing artist who knows a lot about the video game industry. His way of teaching and explaining the techniques shows how experienced and talented he is. Taking his class cleared my mind, everything started making sense and I finally knew what I wanted to do.
It was and still is incredible to create environments and props that may not be able to physically exist or create something you have always dreamed about. The feeling of creating something new, something nonexistent, fascinating people with my creations brings me such joy and excitement. I learned a lot from Nate Stephens about asset creation and modular environments for games. I use his workflow for all the environments I work on.
Creating the French Pavilion
I have amazing artists all around me and get inspired everyday. My classmate, Maria Fernandez Hermida was working on a beautiful baroque piece and motivated me to start with this project.
As I was looking for some rococo interiors I found an image of “The Pavillion Frais.” As soon as I saw it I fell in love with this sophisticated building.
In my opinion the most important step by creating an environment is to get good reference and analyze it. That’s what I did, I gathered many reference images and watched a good amount of videos made about the pavilion. I also looked for repetitive objects and similarities in the scene to make it easier for me.
Production of Objects
My next step was blocking in my scene in Maya and building objects that will be further refined and detailed in Zbrush. Then I imported the assets into Zbrush for the detail sculpting.
In Zbrush I ran Dynamesh on the mesh and sculpted in some larger details before I added cracks and surface noise. Once the high-res was done, I went back to Maya, to generate my low-res mesh. I usually use my blockout as the low-res, but sometimes I have to decimate the Zbrush sculpt and bring the decimated version to Maya to clean it up. After the high-res sculpts and the low-res meshes were complete, I baked my normal maps and ambient occlusion maps using xNormal.
Sometimes it is easier for me to go to Substance Painter and bake my maps here. It is way faster and less complicated. You bake all of your maps at the same time and can use them later to generate your maps.
Building the Materials
Speaking of Substance Painter, it is time to talk about building the Materials. I used Substance Designer and Painter to generate the textures. I have my own small material library that contains basic materials such as gold, concrete, marble, brick wall, wood and plaster. One of the main materials I used for this scene is gold. I created several gold materials with different roughness intensities in Designer and blended them together in Painter to get unique looking assets.
Another material that I used a lot in creating “The French Pavilion” was marble. The marble floor with different geometric shapes is one of the highlights in the scene and one of the reasons why I fell in love with it.
I divided the main shapes into groups. There is a unique star in the center part and two different shapes duplicated around it. The main salon is octagonal and is surrounded by four cabinets. Two of the cabinets have wooden flooring while the other two have black and white checkered flooring. I created 4 different tileable marble textures and assigned them using my id-map to the meshes in UE4. I also created one wooden floor and two different marble textures, and duplicated them around the star.
Material setting in Unreal Engine 4 – Example Mirror
My “Unreal Engine Master” instructor, Kyle Mulqueen, at Gnomon helped me a lot with my UE4 questions during the process. I want to share with you one great way creating the mirror material he showed me. The first step is to drag and drop a “Scene Capture Cube” in the scene. It looks like a camera and captures a cube map from its location on every frame. I placed mine right in the center of my mirror mesh. After placing the “Scene Capture Cube” I created a “Cube Render Target” so I can use it within my Material. Then I generated a “Cube Render Target” and set it as the “Target texture” in “Scene Capture Cube”.
The next step was to make a Material Function (or just a Material if you do not want to mask parts out for the aged effect) and plug the “Cube Render Target” to EmissiveColor. I also baked a normal map so my mirror appears assembled from the three mirror pieces, and to give it an aged looked I used an alpha map.
Lighting in the Scene
I am in the “Digital production for Entertainment” program here at Gnomon. There are several lighting classes during the Program, such as “Lighting and Rendering with Mental Ray” or “Lighting and Rendering with V-Ray.” I learned how to light in different situations in Maya, although lighting in Unreal Engine is much easier. Of course it takes some time and practice, but is less complicated in my opinion. I always use a directional light as my main light source and place spotlights and point lights wherever it is necessary.
Indian Temple Scene (compared to the French Pavilion).
I also want to talk a little bit about my first environment for games project – “Indian Temple”. It’s a project I created in Nate Stephens‘s “Environment Creation for Games” class. As I mentioned, I use Nate’s workflow for all the environments I work on. There were no major differences between both projects, despite that one is an interior and the other one is an exterior. In my opinion, closed areas are always easier to handle than open ones because dealing with lighting is easier, you don’t care what is outside, you don’t have moving objects such as birds, and it is manageable.
The modeling, sculpting, baking and texturing part was the same. I modeled in Maya, sculpted in Zbrush, textured in Substance Designer and Painter and lastly arranged both of them in Unreal Engine 4. For the Indian temple I also used World Machine to create the landscape and Speedtree.
How Do I Know That it’s Done?
For me time always flies when I am sitting in front of my computer and when I am creating. My desire is to find enjoyment by what I am doing and to spend my life becoming one of the most successful in this field. The French Environment scene took me about four weeks. I could have spent way more time on it to make it perfect. But sometimes we have to move on, start with a new project and make it better, or see another concept or image, get inspired, and move on to the next one. I am still in my learning phase and I know that there is so much to learn, which I am very excited about. It was an interesting and fun project! Thank you for checking it out!