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Lovely work ! You mentioned "When lighting the scene, I used Light Functions to create the illusion of light passing through clouds, thus lighting the environment unevenly" do you think you could show what is the setup to get such a precise result ?(meaning highlight the area you want?)
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.
Iestyn Lloyd is a very interesting man. When we first saw a glimpse of his work, we thought that he was a professional environmental artist. However, that was not the case. Iestin is actually an accomplished programmer (Technical Director) specializing in interactive 3D content for iOS, Android, Web, and other platforms. In his spare time he enjoys photography and building fantastic visual experiences with the help of Unity 5. In fact, during the Unite Europe 2015 conference he gave a presentation on the production of some of the amazing scenes he created with Unity 5.
In our exclusive interview from Unite Europe 2015, Iestyn was kind enough to talk about some of the tools he uses and he also let us in on some his secrets for making these beautiful scenes in Unity.
Making Everything Look Awesome
The way that I do my scenes is by turning everything up to eleven and basically not caring about older machines. I don’t really care about old mobiles and old PCs. I only care about cutting-edge. I want to show people that when you abandon those kind of constraints of your day job, the stuff that you make in your spare time can look absolutely awesome and not like what most people would say Unity looks like.
I want to show people that Unity can look like whatever you want it to look like, if you buy a load of assets off the Asset Store and turn everything up to eleven. I mean there are other ways to doing that, but it will take longer. My stuff takes a few hours.
I’m a programmer and I have this background in photography. I like doing effectively what I like to call, “virtual photography” inside Unity. When I do photography, I might lay out a scene and put things in certain places, take photos from various different angles, and then take that into the light room and process the image. Instead, what I’m doing is I’m laying out stuff in Unity, and finding interesting camera angles and taking photos of stuff like I would with a real camera.
Furthermore, instead of going to the light room, I can do all the post-processing in Unity in real-time. That’s kind of my idea behind it. My own weird virtual photography I guess.
My day job I do a lot of VR and a lot of mobile. I like doing that as my work, but my own stuff I don’t want to have constraints. I don’t want to spend ages tweaking a level. I just want to make shit look cool.
Learning Lighting in Unity 5
I would suggest, first of all, learning about how the new lighting in Unity works because it’s changed so much. Playing around with that is going to take you down different routes. For example, you might need to instruct your artists to create things differently so that it works better in Unity, there’s now different work flows for PBS texturing and so on. Artists have to learn new ways of doing things to get them looking great.
In my professional work, I generally don’t use real-time lighting. Most of the time everything is baked in because it’s running on slow hardware. For my personal stuff I go for real-time lighting, real-time GI (global illumination), and soft shadows on everything and make everything look as good as it possibly can. If you’re doing it properly, you don’t want too many real-time lights casting shadows, because that’s going to cripple the frame rate.
I know that some people are just combining them. You do have to have dynamic lights somewhere because it’s more in gaming. They combine it and add some baked textures or whatever, and they get additional lights as well.
The Future of Unity 5 as a Graphical Powerhouse
I think that we’re going to see that happening very soon. I think that people are getting a handle on Unity 5 and what it can do. I think that people are going to start realizing that they can make things look amazing. Before, you had to use a lot of different plugins for Unity 3 and 4 to look great. Now, a lot of it is built in. Umbra is built in, other stuff is built in.
Unity has gotten some new image effects coming out at some point. It would be interesting to see what is coming up. It’s good to see that Unity hasn’t just stopped and they’re continuing to improve and release tools coming up in the next releases that will make everything even quicker and easier.
Realistic Visuals for Mobile Platforms
A lot depends on your target devices. With the stuff that I do you can turn it down for lower devices and just enable everything for the highest most powerful graphics cards.
The realism in videogame visuals depends on how long people want to support lower-end mobiles for.
The Galaxy Note 4 I use a lot for gear VR. If you’re just using the Note 4 without the VR, it’s really powerful. It’s a fantastic device! The stuff that Qualcomm has got coming up is just incredibly powerful. It’s properly approaching PS4 and Xbox One. So if people could only stop supporting all these boring devices, which might not make financial sense [laughs]. I guess it’s just going to be a natural thing as people get new phones, we’ll see better graphics. I think it’ll be a good couple of years, but I think in the next few years we’ll see amazing looking things on mobile.
Photography Rules for Environmental Design
It’s basically following the rule of thirds and when you’ve got your head around it, it’s relatively simple. It takes a while to kind of get it working well, but over time you will naturally start composing things with the rule of thirds in mind. Pretty much everything in mind follows the rule of the thirds to a degree, and I think that really helps when you’re showing an image. Due to all of the photography I’ve done, I’m able to tell what looks good because I’ve got an eye for composition anyway.
I think that drawing from other disciplines like photography, cinematography, and etcetera can really help your work with making games. In particular, I would say with cutscenes. If you just want to show off your work, don’t just take a screenshot. You should pose the camera angle and tweak things to get it just right to look good.
It’s all about composition and often less can be more. You don’t want to overload the viewer with tons and tons of assets in a scene. First of all it would take ages to render and it would hurt the frame rate if you have loads of stuff. It would take forever to bake with GI and so on.
I would suggest for people that are just getting into it to just start with 3 or 4 different things in a scene and just play about with the camera angle and the composition off that. I think that’s a great place to start. Then you can play with the visual effects on the camera with just a few things and see what kind of emotions you can invoke from just a few assets by changing the colors whether it’s daylight to nighttime, or color grading (making everything warm and pleasant, or cold).
It’s just playing around with a few things and seeing what you can do with that.
The Advantages of Stylized Visuals
Stylized development can certainly give your work an edge over others, Firewatch being a great example. It looks so different and it can help you stand out from everything else that might be pushing low-poly or it might be going for that flat-shaded look. Personally, I’m more interested in a sort of photorealistic type thing. I think to help work stand out is to see what other people are doing and don’t do exactly the same thing [laughs].
Best Tools for Building Environments in Unity 5
If you’re doing anything with vegetation, you pretty much have to check out Speedtree. It’s incredibly good. They’ve got tons and tons of assets in the Asset Store and they price it reasonably. The way they support wind is just amazing! You can watch it move about, and part of your brain thinks it’s real. Speedtree is essential.
There is also Allegorithmic Substance Designer/Painter. It’s pretty much critical to get a good workflow in place and get textures that look fantastic. Allegorithmic Substance Painter is great as well. I’m a technical artist, but Substance Painter is such a revolutionary tool. It made me feel like an artist, the way I can take a model in and start adding in rust to it and oil spills and get it to look weathered by simulating something similar to sand being blasted on it. It’s absolutely stunning software, I love it.
Quixel is worth checking out for creating PBS textures and some kind of color grading solution. There’s quite a few things for color grading like Chromatica, Amplified Color, and the one built into Unity (but it’s not as good). Those are the most essential ones.
If you’re running on PC then SE Natural Bloom & Dirty Lens is the one I put on all of my work because it’s so good.