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Ringling College of Art + Design student Jose F. Mundo Mendoza gave a little talk about his upcoming thesis project “Sweet Lord Jesus, It’s Bango”. He describes the production process, talks about his choice of tools and the way he created the materials for this production.
My name is Jose F. Mundo Mendoza. I live in Sarasota, Florida and I’m a senior game art student at Ringling College of Art + Design. The Game Art BFA program at Ringling College brings our feature film aesthetic to games and is focused on providing students with the professional artistic skills necessary to create compelling and believable interactive experiences. I’m currently working on my thesis called “Sweet Lord Jesus, It’s Bango”. I’ve always wanted to make Environments, for as long as I can remember. It goes back to the age of 6 when my father decided to buy me a Sony Playstation with Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot.
I remember letting Crash die all the time, just so that I could look at the environment and try to figure out how they did it. After years of going through an art education in my art- specialized high school, Central High, and trying to polish my skills in color theory, drawing and lighting, I decided that I wanted to continue art, but more importantly focus my whole future career on it. Ringling College has been a great place for me to learn, polish and grow as an artist, while constantly being inspired by my peers and teachers alike.
The skills that I’ve learned and polished at Ringling will truly help in the challenges I will be facing in my career as an environment artist. It’s been a tough 4 years, but ultimately it’s all be worth it and i’m grateful for it.
“Sweet Lord Jesus, It’s Bango” is a single person project, set in the 1970’s. An older detective must stop a serial killer before he strikes again. This project, which is a short film as much as a game, takes place in two environments. First, a dark, gritty alleyway set in Brooklyn New york, where a chase scenes happens, as well as most of the shooting. The second environment is the hero’s office, a Film Noir inspired office with saturated orange lighting to create shapes and give the Noir mood. Both of the environments took about a semester to finish.
Environment Production Process
The most important part of the environment production process, is the pre production. Reference is key in making a successful environment, even for fantasy environments or environments that rely on imagination. They require some sort of understanding or reference of the real world, to obtain believability.
Another important term that forms part of the pre production process is the block out. It’s good because it shows you your idea quickly roughed out in 3d and you can solve the little problems with scale issues, or a certain object that doesn’t look good in 3d. If you are modeling based on shots, you will be able to change your shot or adjust it before you start adding too much detail. Block-out also helps with getting a sort of direction with the lighting and the mood, before you are completely committed to it. When It comes to block out, you want to stay loose and flexible. Don’t get too attached to a certain shot, just keep changing it until you get a general feel for the piece. It’s the same with lighting, it’s the time to be experimenting with your environment from a very pivotal point, it’s the bones of your environment. Start planning while in this stage on how the gameplay, modeling and lighting are going to affect how your environment will start forming.
I personally work in Maya for my block-out and then from a rough block-out, I start to do a modular block-out to see how many pieces I can make and keep modular. I think it’s important for an artist to be modular with their assets, it saves a lot of time and gives you time to really geek out with central assets and address the mood or storytelling in your piece.
I use Maya for most of the modeling in my scenes, I think that it’s an extremely useful tool for modeling as well as animation and lighting. But I also think that the tools should be what each artist finds comfortable for their timeline of how they’re getting their end product done, faster and with better results. Maya also has amazing new plug-ins that keep making part of the actual thing, like the modeling toolbox. Another great tool is Zbrush. To get really nice small and big details so that I can bake it into a low model. I also think Photoshop is extremely helpful with texturing, especially with the inclusion of Quixel Suite 2 and for post production.
I mostly used Quixel Suite for the materials used in my scenes, but I also use Bitmap2Material, for the normal maps when using photo based textures. Most assets in my scenes are modular, so I used Quixel Suite to work with masks to do wear and tear. After baking my normal maps out of my high poly sculpts, I generate Specular, Roughness, AO, Cavity Map and small detailed normal maps out of Quixel. Then I set up my materials in Unreal, using the material editor, usually it takes time to edit my stuff to look as good as it does with quixel, but it’s all about trial and error.
Texturing was one of, or even the biggest, challenge that I faced while working on these scenes. It was my first time using Quixel, and I had to do a lot of research, and a lot of trial and error before I got it. Constantly asking peers and teachers for feedback made it a lot easier. I think it’s important to even if you know the software or how the workflow to always keep up to date by researching the things that every update brings and have talk with peers about new software and how they like it.
Jose F. Mundo Mendoza, Environment Artist