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If you go for Unity and Biomes, as you wrote in your article, please do support Vegetation Studio Pro. Your work is awesome, can't wait to see it on the store.
Great breakdown of the process and optimization, thanks for sharing.
We’ve recently published an article on amazing experiments with the limits of real-time rendering by Rens. The thing is that it is actually getting quite difficult to tell the difference between photos and 3D vegetation. One of the keys to realism is photogrammetry, of course. Check out a quick guide from the artist and Allegorithmic to learn how Rens creates his beautiful works with Substance Designer.
Here is a small piece of the guide:
To create the plants in my environments I don’t rely on photogrammetry. Instead, I use top-down photography to build my textures and create the models afterward. By constructing a rig with various light sources, I can take photos that each have a different light direction. These photos are then processed together using Designer’s multi-angle nodes.
You can set the Multi-Angle to Normal node to your preference. In this example, I set it to have four light directions, meaning each image is 360 / 4 = 90 degrees from each other.
Having more images would produce a more accurate result. You could use eight samples, for instance, one photo at every 45 degrees.
The settings in the image are set to Clockwise at 0 degrees with four samples. Looking down, it will start on the left side, followed by top, then right and then bottom.
I prefer to cast shadows at less than a 45-degree angle. This way shadows are neither too long nor too short.
Make sure to check out the full tutorial here.