Setting Up a Photorealistic Forest Scene With Megascans

William Fiorentini shared a breakdown for the X-Wing Daily sketch project, highlighting the steps for rendering, lighting and texturing plants, grass, and moss.


Hi, I am William Fiorentini and I'm currently an Environment Generalist TD at DNEG London. I got into 3D because I used to binge-watch the Transformers movies and I was stunned by the CG at the time, still is, but maybe there was something childish about me liking good old robots fighting and transforming into whatever machine they could be, I guess that's what made want to like 3D the most. I also was a big fan of old Call of Duty montages on YouTube with cheap 3D intro and texts. I started there, and it was really fun.

I improve my skills by looking at references and asking for feedback, something an artist should always be looking for when doing a project. I think that's the key to achieve what you want to have. By gathering references, you can then choose what kind of look you want to bring your projects to.

X-Wing Daily Sketch Project

I was gathering references from different types of forest biomes, I never did a kind of swamp environment and there are so many different ones, but I also got inspired by the Star Wars scene where Luke meets Yoda, that's not the same at all but the mood was there. I started blocking things out quickly using a few cubes and a rough lighting setup that ended up being my latest setup. My goal was to have to frame one subject only, and that was the ship using the Sun. Then I started placing the trees first. They are a big part of the composition, if not the most important part, so I placed them to tighten the frame more.

For the scatter workflow, it's pretty straightforward. I used Adrien Lambert's tool to scatter all the plants, grasses, and moss. I treated the scatters just like a cake, layer by layer, the ground with ground texture being the first layer, the second one was to scatter the moss on the ground, then came the tiny flowers, the wet/dead grasses, 2/3 types of ferns and that was it, I did some paint to scatter the plants manually because I wanted to avoid the 'too much procedural' look.

The lighting here is pretty straightforward, I used V-Ray Sun light to drive the direction of my light, then a sky HDRI to soften the shadows and drive them more toward the blue grade, then I moved some of the trees to break up the lighting and reframe the composition to isolate the ship more.

During compositing I knew something was missing, and that was atmosphere, so here are some of the steps during composition:

My advice would be to always look for reference, whether it is for environmental biome, nature look, type of ground or grass, or a tree, how lighting impacts your shaders. Always look for photographs as your main references and you can take CG and concept arts for mood and color grade. Also, ask for feedback when you feel like you don't see your project the same way you did before. Take a step back and refresh your eyes.

William Fiorentini, Environment Generalist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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