Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
The Vineyard Challenge was a great architectural visualization competition, that featured works from various acknowledged artists. One of them was out old friend Rafael Reis (UE4Arch). In this little interview Rafael talked about the way he managed to create an incredible cheerful scene with cars, flowers, awesome lighting and amazing materials, created with the modern tools.
The Vineyard Challenge
The Vineyard Challenge was, well, a real challenge. The biggest problem actually was the lack of time. I started in the middle of the contest and we had many projects in progress on UE4Arch – It was not possible for me to finish within the schedule of the contest.
But the major goal of the project was to make an experimental work, where I could test the limits of UE4 and create a scene more artistic.
As the deadline was very short and I had little free time, I planned the camera tours and created an outline of each scene based on the cameras: thus needed only to model what would appear on each camera. To model the road for example, I used Mudbox to create the ground. The difficulty of creating a natural ground is to reproduce the external noise without appearing exaggerated. I used a wide range of colors, designs and sizes to create vegetation.
To speed the process, I’ve merged the background with a planned and blurred image. The positioning of these elements is essential to create an optical illusion.
The car is the main element of the scene and leads the tour through the vineyard to arrive at its final destination. I modeled this car a long time ago and only had the job of re-texturize it. I used Substance Painter to create the noise caused by the weather.
Again, as my time was short, I did not create any complex system for the car movement. It was basically animated by hand within the Matinee. The cameras that come with the car are just grouped with the car movement.
Adding the Floral Beauty
Since the goal was to test the limits of UE4, some plants and trees were models that i created in 3DS Max – I just optimized them to export to UE4. But at this point I started to have some problems to compile the light with these models and then had to move to SpeedTree and also to model some new trees. The main Vines, I downloaded from the example provided by the competition.
The vegetation was very important for the composition of the scene, where for several times I hid empty seats and not modeled spaces with vegetation. For the pergola, used the 3dsmax Ivy Generator: I had already created a configuration for the bouganvilles.
Architecture and Lighting
I modeled only parts that would be shown. Everything was modeled by me and also I created various materials within the Substance Painter. The creation of the diversification of noise, dirt and irregularities caused by the external environment was the biggest challenge and Substance Painter helped a lot.
The lighting was a big problem and perhaps the most complex thing, because the models had many polygons and several times my computer crashed when it was compiling the light. Then had to create alternative solutions to reduce the number of polygons. On the road scene, the tall growing vines back are only plans with a rendered image of the foreground models. As the scene has a lot of movement, it is hard to realize that the objects behind are lowpoly models.
Also I had to created maps for each scene: The Road, Entrance of the house, outside of the house, pergola, main interior and upstairs. Thus it was feasible to calculate the illumination without losing the quality of the models. The external illumination is a mix of static and dynamic lighting. Inside the house all lighting is static.
To achieve the result I wanted, I spent a long time optimizing BaseLightmass.ini.
Illusion of Open World
Since the project’s beginning the storyboard was already pre-defined. Modeled just what would appear in takes. Also I used optical illusion to compensate the lack of time and models in the scenes. I spent a lot of time filling empty holes in the scenes with vegetation and cameras cuts, but this time was infinitely less than if it were to model everything perfectly. The scene was not created for a walkthrough.