Great work Gabe!
Incredible job, love the breakdown and can't wait to see what you make next!
Wiktor Öhman from Quixel talked about the production of his newest Unreal Engine 4 environment, which has some incredible materials and simple but incredible lighting. In our exclusive interview Wiktor shared some information about the development of the project.
My name is Wiktor Öhman and I’m the Art Lead at Quixel, the developers of the Quixel SUITE. My work mainly consists of creating promotional material such as this scene and learning material.
This project was created both as a promotional artwork and also as learning material, as I’ll be using this environment as a base for upcoming tutorials. I wanted to create a scene that was rather clean but still had a lot of assets and different surface types going on both to challenge myself and to try and speed up my workflow with the SUITE. Creating clean or semi-clean textures is always more challenging than surfaces with a lot of wear and tear. At least to me, so this was a great challenge.
I started off the project by creating some key elements of the scene, such as the chair, the observation window and the main module along with the door. This let me set the style of the materials early on and also allowed me to block out the environment using nice-looking assets quickly. Most of the work was the modeling and baking, really. The texturing of each asset was less than or around an hour, thanks to NDO and DDO. I used NDO heavily when it came to bolts, holes, panels and so on. It saved me a lot of time from modeling. Some of the assets, such as the railings etc. are simple meshes with tiling materials from DDO.
My goal was to create materials that look clean far away, but close up they have a lot of interesting features going on. The balance here was tricky as they could look bland and boring if I only focused on the macro details, so I spent some time figuring out how strong and prominent the larger details should be. Generally I ended up using large details at a low intensity and smaller details at a higher opacity. The smaller details generally consist of highly tiled materials broken up by using the Dynamask Editor to make it look more dynamic.
Lighting and Texturing
The scene’s lighting is really very simple. The main light source is the sun, shining through the observation window. This serves as a nice focal point. I then went ahead and places spotlights aiming towards the areas I wanted focus on, such as the doors and airlocks. I set the intensity of these to a very high value, almost like a camera flash. I found that this created a very nice, contrast-rich and realistic look, and it felt very fitting for a space station. Once I had the lighting blocked out I added actual light assets for the lighting to make sense. There are still some light sources without geometrical representation. At first the lighting was more ambient, which gave it a much more sterile look, but as I moved towards a more contrast-rich approach the sterility decreased and gave room for a bit more gritty look, which I really enjoyed. For the materials, I used a lot of references from SpaceX designs as well as NASA. White and metals are very prominent there, so I knew it was going to work well, as it’s a well-tested concept.
When I created the material for the doors I created the DDO projects as UE4 projects. This set me up with Albedo, Roughness, Normal, AO and Metalness. All I had to do once done with the texturing was to import them and plug them in. In certain cases I did some minor adjustments in the materials, such as contrast or adjustments to the roughness. But overall the compatibility between the SUITE and UE4 worked extremely well and there was minimal amount of turnaround. The doors are based on an existing design by NASA, and are also featured in the movie Interstellar.
Generally when I want to create realistic-looking lighting I tend to exhaggerate the intensity of the lights and then slowly back down until I reach a comfortable intensity. It’s very difficuly to give an answer that works for all projects, but that’s generally what I do.
When texturing I previewed my materials in 3DO, the renderer that comes with the Quixel SUITE. The results I got there were very close to what I got in Unreal Engine 4.