Setting Up Interior Scenes in UE4

Setting Up Interior Scenes in UE4

Mike Peterson shared some details on the way he’s built his interior scene with the help of UE4, 3ds Max, ZBrush.

Mike Peterson shared some details on the way he’s built his interior scene with the help of UE4, 3ds Max, ZBrush. 


My name is Mike Peterson. I have a background in film and went to art school. At that time, it was before computers and my first experience was on the Commodore Amiga with Lightwave and Photoshop v1. on the Mac. I didn’t come back to 3D until recently. My main experience is in filmmaking and photography. In 2014 I had to learn 3D for my movie Insectula! and I just did work in E-on Vue, Poser and a tiny bit in 3ds Max. Poser is pretty hard to get anything acceptable, but I pushed it to the limit as I didn’t have time to learn anything else. I learned a lot of VFX with After Effects for the movie and tried to mix it with practical FX as much as possible. I had been doing practical FX for years, and combining it with VFX was a great enhancement for it. After the movie, I got much deeper into 3ds Max, but always trying to combine that with practical footage, trying to be seamless.

When I saw what Unreal was capable of I was blown away, and recently changed to that, because I’m approaching this from a VFX point of view, and having a real-time environment frees me to really open possibilities. My method is like a photographer, not a modeler or designer. I look at it like I approached sets and lighting, and really just light it like I would in the real world. It’s easy once you have a good understanding of light, and being a photographer and painter gave me that background.

UE4 interior

Usually, I just have a basic idea in my head and build from there. It really is just three walls, a ceiling, and a floor. I’ve got these premade wall elements and just start with those. Sometimes I’ll see other’s works and think it’s cool so I’ll kind of copy it as a starting point, or if I see a cool photograph and just make the basic structure. I’ve been using DataSmith a lot and since I have so many Max assets I’ll use those partially to rebuild those assets in UE. At that point, it is more like an interior decorator than a designer, which is how I want it to be for my purpose. I want to have a huge library of assets so I can simply make a quick set and then just drop everything in. I love set design in film, aging things and trying to make them realistic, that is really the fun part.


Since I found ZBrush I hate to model in anything else, I just love that program because it feels like sculpting, and I took to it like a fish to water, but Max is really better for most interior assets. Sometimes I’ll find an asset on the web and just rework it. Of course, any character really has to be designed from scratch because I could never find anything like what’s in my head. I’m still learning Zbrush’s intricacies as well as UE’s so I’m constantly bouncing between them, with Max thrown in. For LODs I just found a method from some tutorial somewhere that helped me out a great deal, but that is mostly me learning as frame rate isn’t as important for Archviz.


I have a huge library of textures that I’ve collected since starting Max, and whenever I see a cool texture I just add it to the library. The same with decals, I make tons of those, I love them. I have Substance Designer, but I don’t use it as much as other tools simply because I am quicker with the tools I’m used to. You know, you can get by with some really crappy stuff if it is textured correctly and lit right. Once a good texture is applied, then I pop over to the material editor and keep tweaking with all the settings until I’m good with the look. So much can be done there. That’s what makes Unreal so great, all the control you have. There are ten ways to do anything.


The window has added God-rays I grabbed from one of Epic’s Particle Effects project. That and using the bloom to hit the right spot, along with fog. It’s kind of tough to work with the bloom and AO sometimes for me simply because there are so many options and ways to do it that it gets overwhelming. Other than that, it’s really just a couple of spots and a few point lights around the area. 

I took a peek at Unity a while ago but I just never say anything that looked as good as Unreal until recently. The stuff Oats Studios is doing is really impressive. That new Book of the Dead demo from Unity looks like they recently really improved their lighting, but Unreal is really going in the direction of courting filmmakers, and some of their new tools are great. I think that really bodes well for Unreal’s future, as VFX are now starting to use real-time engines. BTW, when is Vray for UE coming? Since I saw the announcement I’ve been waiting with bated breath!


The cameras are wonderful! It’s like having this magical camera that can do anything! I’m used to real-world cameras with all their limitations, so in UE it’s like a dream camera, DOF with any field of view, changing sensor size, absolute control. I can sit and tweak with camera settings for hours, that is the most fun part for me. But I think it really helps to know a lot about cameras because ultimately that’s what you’re trying to emulate. Part of it is I suppose knowing the limitations of real-world cameras and knowing how they behave. I love adding a cinema camera onto the regular camera because it’s easier to control the focus point and DOF settings.


To tell the truth, I really didn’t optimize any because the purpose for this is in film, so I don’t need to. It does seem quite zippy, however, I’m not much of a gamer, so I haven’t dealt with that as much as I need to. That will be next on my list, but because we are talking about a film, optimization is counter-productive as we are going to stay fairly static.

I’m waiting with bated breath for Adobe’s Deep Image Matting to become public. That is allowing the software to isolate different elements, which will allow background removal without a green screen. I’m certain that is going to be a huge game-changer, and UE will speedily become the tool of choice for set extension and background replacement. I hope it hits in 2018, and I know by looking at patents on the web that Adobe isn’t the only one working on it.

Mike Peterson, Digital Melies

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    Setting Up Interior Scenes in UE4