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A detailed breakdown of the Halliwel Manor (Charmed) from 3d artist Brent Jason Woll.
My name is Brent Jason Woll I am 27 years old and I am from the Illawarra, in New South Wales, Australia. I have a background in Graphic Design having completed a Diploma of Commercial Arts as well as a Diploma of Screen & Media (3D Animation). I am currently studying an Advanced Diploma in Game Art at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE). I have worked on several design projects including developing promotional material for businesses and theatre companies around the Illawarra. I often incorporate aspects of 3D modeling into my projects to create innovative and captivating designs for my clients. I am currently working as a freelance Graphic Designer and 3D generalist.
I have been using 3D programs for over 10 years designing high poly environments and assets. Since video games have advanced over time and have enabled us to create higher detailed models that can run in real-time, this has allowed me to create levels and environments that I’ve always dreamed of making. Games such as ‘Uncharted’ and ‘The Last of Us’ has sparked my love for this industry. I adore the feeling of being able to create something fantastic that you can walk around and interact with. Halliwell Manor is my first major real-time video game environment.
Halliwell Manor is a 3D house interior recreation based off the hit television series ‘Charmed‘. This project was worked on everyday for the past 2 years including time watching the series and taking notes to final completion. It incorporated mostly modeling, texturing and lighting. The final house was rendered from Unreal Engine 4 in real-time.
I decided to create the Halliwell Manor from ‘Charmed’ as it was a huge part of my teenage life. I have loved ‘Charmed’ since it aired back in 1998 and I have always wanted to create an interactive version of the stunning victorian interior.
The main goal in creating the house was to further my abilities in modeling, texturing and lighting and to be able to create the feeling the original set gave me.
The project started by watching all 8 seasons from the show so I could take notes and screenshots to make the 3D version as accurate as possible (This alone took quite a few weeks!). The original house took a few months to create in 3D but I felt this did not reflect the same look of its television counterpart, so I recreated elements until I was happy with the final product. Being a student, I started to learn faster and more efficient workflows for the creation of assets, therefore the house started to become more refined and accurate.
The set contains many unique assets which were all modeled in 3ds Max and then if needed, further details were added in ZBrush then retopologised and baked. To start the house I worked from a quick cube blockout based over a blueprint I drew. I then detailed the walls and any other foundations of the house like the stairs. To get the scale accurate I worked from human sized cube in Max with real world measurements as a base for most assets. Working this way allowed me to create an accurate sense of scale. Being a Victorian manor, the furniture was a key part in the environment. I’d begin by using a screenshot from the show and then researching the particular asset further in google images to get a better sense of how the asset looks, especially assets that aren’t completely shown or are only visible from one side.
The house creation was split up into 3 main phases (foundations, large furniture, and then set details), and after each phase I’d take the assets into Unreal 4 to make sure everything was fitting together well and didn’t look out of place.
Each room had a few hero assets seen in the show, like the grandfather clock in the sitting room or the plants in the sun room. I also created the ‘Book of Shadows’ which is a major part of the show.
As previously said, most of the assets in the house are unique, and the foundations itself are not too modular as each wall is different. Certain foundation assets such as wooden archways and doors were modular.
Furniture is the main part of the house and this is the part I wanted to spend most of my time on. I would start from a scale accurate blockout of each furniture piece and then further model and detail the object. Each object was either then optimized for game engines or taken into ZBrush for further detailing and the baked down to low poly. Larger pieces of furniture came first and then I added smaller assets, and then finally small objects to dress the environment. After each stage the assets were imported into Unreal 4 just to make sure everything looked right and there were no errors.
Materials were another major part of the environment. Most of the wood areas actually used the same tileable wood texture which had its colour changed in Unreal material settings. To further detail the wooden areas I created scratch masks in Substance Painter using smart masks, this was then taken into Unreal to make each asset more unique. I also added some dirt and grime to various materials to create higher realism. I followed the same formula for all fabric and metal parts. Baking of high poly to low poly assets was also done in Substance Painter.
All UV mapping was done in 3ds Max. I hand placed most of the UVs myself, rarely using any automated features. This was incredibly time consuming, but allowed for easier creation of textures. Each type of material was assigned to its own UV map, whether it be all the wooden chairs, or all fabric pillows. Being a student, I’m still working out faster methods of UV mapping.
The house was put together piece by piece as each stage was finished. At the beginning the house did feel off and was remade, keeping assets that looked right and adjusting certain things to make it more accurate. I broke up the modeling into phases and passes, starting with large furniture I’d work from the blockout and then further detail over more passes until I was satisfied. I also added lighting to the original blockout to get an overall sense of balance on the level.
All lights in the house are pretty basic. I’m completely new to lighting in game engines. Each globe was lit with a point light and then I had spot lights coming from both sides of the shade. I then applied IES profiles to these lights. I created variance in the lighting colour to create a more realistic feel. Originally the lighting was very neutral, so I added warmer tones to the lights to create a cosier feel which the set from the show had. This stage was very experimental and took quite some time to reach the point I was happy with.
The first time I built the house it only took a few months, but felt it lacked the look of the set from the show. Over the later months I kept revisiting the house and adding more details and changing assets and texture as I learned better ways and workflows of doing things. The 2 years also included watching the show and any planning phases.