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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!
Check out Richard Trouve talk about the way he creates amazing cloth for the cinematic character using Texturing.xyz and Substance tools.
My name is Richard Trouve, I am french CG artist and I currently live and work in Luxembourg. I started out as a self-taught freelance motion designer mostly working on institutional videos, after discovering the work of companies such as Blur and Unit-Image I started moving towards more conventional 3D projects as a character and props artist. I’ve had the occasion to work for Renault, Dassault Aviation, and Zodiac Aerospace. Recently I finished working on a kids series and a feature-length produced here in Luxembourg.
The story about this project started two years ago when I decided to take the “character for a cinematic workshop” with Gilberto Magno. Because of my job, I couldn’t finish it, but what Gilberto taught me at that time allowed me to lay solid foundations for the shading process.
Here we are two years later, I decided to get back into it and share a little more of the stuff I do in my free time. Jeremy Celeste from Texturing.xyz saw a few shots of my work in progress and kindly offered access to the library to showcase the quality of their latest set of textures coupled with Substance software.
I wanted to give a try at procedural texturing and shading, Texturing.xyz materials have highly detailed raw scan data but what I liked most about their latest release was seamless variants which make the creation of Substance Designer materials painless.
The biggest tweaks were actually outside of the materials, the heavy work was setting the mask generators to blend the materials in a natural way.
The visual imperfections and organic look of the scanned data allowed me to focus mostly on the color tint and reflection roughness of each material.
Substance Designer’s nodes have proven to be reliable and can lead to the creation of high-quality materials but mainly at the expense of time and extended knowledge of the software. As a first time user of Substance’s package the biggest advantages building material with XYZ products are speed and simplicity, once I figured the workflow it roughly takes 5 minutes to make high quality and modular materials.
I am a long time V-Ray user and I really like how each major update tends to make the life of the artists easier, having more time to focus on the visuals instead of the technical aspect especially in the lookdev phase is always a good thing to go for.
Substance Painter does a great job exporting the specific maps required for different engines either offline or real-time while retaining the material properties.
Thanks to that, if I wanted to make the materials for real-time rendering, the creation process would have been identical.
The major differences with my workflow would be to export baked low poly meshes and lower textures resolutions(for optimization purposes) with the preset of the corresponding real-time engine.
I used to overlook how complex cloths and fabrics actually are. For this project I spent a great amount of time studying macro shots and started listing some elements I should replicate: get the correct scale for the correct fabric pattern, subtle color variations due to light conditions and inconsistent dyeing results, fresnels highlights which can be very different from one material to another.
I remember having headaches because I couldn’t figure out why my materials were never working on my models at first. I came to the conclusion that my problem was their actual shape. Good cloth materials will not necessarily work if the model itself isn’t good.
There is an unconscious part of our minds that immediately identifies those kinds of discrepancies: you know there is something wrong but you don’t know what. This is why relying on references as much as possible is very important to me.
Making things realistic
Well, sadly there is no magic button to make things pretty. I reached a place where I couldn’t figure out how to make better shaders so I tweaked the things that could positively impact them.
I spent days searching for good shot compositions and placing the lights.
In a satisfying way, trying out some color grading to see if I could get more appealing colors and mood, I was basically thinking like a director of photography.
The effects of the fibers breaking-up from the fabric coupled with Depth of field greatly enhanced the sense of scale and realism.