The Baron’s Hangar: Realistic Scene Building
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Latest comments

Amazing art. I'm curious how the rocks manage to be such a natural part of the terrain! It really looks like they have been there for ages.

Great job and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

Frankly I do not understand why we talk about the past of this CEO. As a player I do not care about what he did or not until his games are good. As an Environmental Artist instead I see a game with a shaky graphics. It is completely without personality, emotion and involvement. It can hardly be considered acceptable especially for the 2019 platforms (which I understand will be the target of this game). Well, this is probably an indie group, with no experience facing a first game in the real market. And that's fine. Do the best you can that even if you fail, you will learn and do better. From a technical point of view the method you are using is very old. It can work but not as you are doing it. I bet you're using Unity, it's easy to see that since I see assets from their asset store. Break your landscapes more, they are too monotonous and contact real 3D artists and level designers. One last thing, the last screenshot is worse than all the previous ones. The lights are wrong and everything screams disaster. Avoid similar disasters in the future.

The Baron's Hangar: Realistic Scene Building
16 May, 2016
Interview

Umar Khan gave a detailed breakdown of his most recent personal project, based on the concept by Dan Brown. He talked about the production, creation of assets, materials and the whole composition of the scene in Unreal Engine 4. The final result is extremely good.

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Introduction

Hi! My name is Umar Khan, I am soon to graduate from Staffordshire University. I enjoy creating 3D environments and vehicles. I was working with new programs and discovering different methods to create assets with this project. It was a great learning experience.

The Baron’s Hangar

This environment is based on a CGI scene from Dan Brown. Utilising Unreal Engine 4 because of its capabilities and ease of use. I will be sharing a small breakdown of my workflow and methods.

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I first blocked out the scene using BSP brushes within UE4 and also modelling some of the blockout meshes. This gives me a sense of scale and also tells me how I can make the meshes modular because I export the BSP’s into Autodesk Maya and use that to setup my grid and work forward from there. Setting up the camera early is something I like to do as well, so I can see which assets need higher priority.

Modelling

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All of my meshes were modelled in Maya, some of them are following the concept and others based on using external reference which I start gathering before starting a project. I use pinterest which is great to store references and inspiration for a project. I created the meshes with modularity in mind from the start making them usable in different ways and by making sure it is optimal. Keeping the pivots to the left corner of almost every mesh so they can easily be snapped to each other.

BlockoutStage

To create the mountain in the background I followed a great world machine tutorial by Iri Shinsoj on youtube.

By tweaking some of the parameters in World Machine I was able to get a snowy effect on the mountain. I exported the texture and height map which I then put in UE4 and applied the albedo and repeated it a number of times.

The pipes and wires were made using a spline blueprint which I also followed a simple tutorial from Playful Synapse. By following the steps with my own mesh I was able to place them however I wanted.

Texturing

I started the texturing phase by creating 2 basic master materials which I can use to overlay repeatable maps with any mesh. Using Quixel I created 3 repeatable materials which I can adjust intensity and other parameters. Material ID’s are now used for a number of programs, by exporting a mesh with different material ID’s I can assign them to the mesh, this saves time and creates a high quality asset.

Core_Materials

Substance

Knald was used first to create a lowpoly AO map which uses the same model for high and low to get a basic AO map, this applied to a lot of the meshes but not all. Substance Painter was then used to create normals using alphas. Exporting out of Substance gives a height map and a normal map I then use the height map in Knald to create an AO map, a lot of programs could be used for that. Both of the AO maps are then multiplied in photoshop.

AO_Differences

Quxiel was the main tool for texturing individual assets as I had limited time and a lot of meshes to texture. I create a material ID in Maya then add the maps to Quixel and assign materials to the ID’s. Once the base materials are applied I add more materials which I can paint using 3DO. At the very end I add decals or text to the project in Quixel and using 3DO I create imperfections to get a realistic look.

Assets

Lighting

UE4’s lighting is great and very easy to get realistic results. Static lighting is the better way to go, as I tried both and static gave a sharper look. Lightmaps are the downfall of static lighting but it isn’t impossible to do. The fighter jet in the scene is quite a complex object but I managed to lightmap it perfectly. The way I did this was by splitting the jet up in 7 pieces which created more UV space for each lightmap which was set around 256 to 1024 according to the size of the grouped mesh. The trick to create lightmaps fast is to use selection constraints in your 3D package and split UVs along edges which are weighted at 90° or simply ‘hard’ in Maya. Keep your UV islands straight and add sufficient space between UV islands.

Some lights were set to dynamic and a very small fraction of meshes were not light mapped, this makes some of the lights kick in and out depending on the distance from the camera. Adding a smaller radius reflection sphere near a reflective object also increases the quality of the reflections captured.

Post Process

Without post process the scene would not look as great as it is. By turning down the lens flare and crushing shadows helped a lot. Mainly the post process volume was used to increase the contrast of the scene and add a yellow tint. A LUT colour grading was also used. Increasing AO and limiting some of the indirect lighting added a great atmosphere to the scene. Decals are also one of the last things I use to add the small variation in the scene and help break up any repetitive elements.

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Conclusion

Unreal is a great engine for everyone and along with Substance and Quixel creating environments and assets becomes really easy and also produces very high quality results. Using these programs I will aim to create interesting environments

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Umar Khan, 3d artist

INTERESTING LINKS

LEARNING SUBSTANCE PAINTER 2

3D CONTENT CREATION TIPS FROM INDUSTRY EXPERT

CYBERPUNK ALLEY: AAA-ENVIRONMENT WITH ACCESSIBLE TOOLS

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