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Camilla Spånberg talked about her experiments with scene creation in Unreal Engine 4.
This project was created during 7 weeks half time as part of a portfolio creation assignment in school. I have wanted to learn more about creating environments and the main goal with this particular project was to explore this part and to make a complete scene in UE4 from blocking out, modeling, texturing to the final lighting.
My idea was to create a rainy night scene of an old back alley in New York with the bar as the main focus point. I started out gathering a lot of reference images. Pictures of streets in New York, old brickbuildings, rusty, old materials, broken ladders, street art, graffiti, hipster bars and lights at night. This helped me to explore what kind of mood I wanted to create.
I made the first blockout with simple shapes in Maya to get an idea of the composition and proportions. I then used Maya to model the different pieces for the scene and took the pieces into UE4, set up a camera and adjusted the placements of the buildings and assets. My first attempt looked very flat and I had a lot of straight edges that I wanted to get rid of. In a second iteration I went through all the meshes and added a few edge loops and bevels and tweeked the vertices slightly to break up the edges and create a more organic feel. I also did some sculpting in ZBrush that I baked on to the corners of some of the buildings as broken bricks and cracks in the concrete walls that further helped me get that organic look.
For the texturing I mainly used Substance Designer and Substance Painter. To create the wet asphalt I made a material in Substance Designer, blended a perlin noise with the roughness map for the water puddles. I exposed the values for this map and could then use the Substance Plugin for UE4 to import the substance and adjust the amount of rain and also the random seed directly in UE4 which was very helpful and timesaving. You can expose any parameter in your graph by right clicking the node in designer and choose expose parameter, it will then show up when you open your graph instance that you automatically get when you import your substance in UE4. I used the same material for the asphalt on the sidewalk only changed the colour slightly.
I made a base material for the bricks which I ended up bringing into substance painter to add dirt, rust and rain where it naturally would be gathered, under the windows and close to the edges. I used Substance Painter for the bar and the concrete walls, where I added layers of colour and roughness with different values to get a mix of rain, rust and paint. To get an urban feel to the image I added stickers, posters and graffiti. The graffiti is based on existing graffiti, someone had made a stick man holding up a roof that looked very cool so I wanted to do something similar, the bird can be seen everywhere on street lights and walls in Malmö where I live and study and therefor was a fun thing to add and the poster is a poster of my friend I created a long time ago that I thought was suitable for this scene. I also added some garbage on the ground, cans, bottles and papers to give the impression of that people use to be around. Finally I added the sofa to break up the scene with a soft material.
The lighting was the hardest part to figure out. Since this was my first project in Unreal I didn’t know very much about how to use lights and there was a lot of trial and error using different sliders and trying out settings. I started out by creating a complete dark scene turning the sun upside down (following this tutorial). I wanted to create a warm welcoming yellow light for the bar and contrast it with the cold moonlight. I ended up with a directional light from the back right acting as my moonlight. Yellow point lights inside the bar and spot lights for lamps on the street. I also added some point lights as fill lights and for highlighting areas on the street where needed. I added blue ExponentialHeightFog in the back and also tweeked PostProcessVolume to get a bloom effect and a slightly blue tint for the final image.
My main instructor during this project was my teacher Stefan Ek who gave me a lot of great feedback that helped me improve the scene. I also got a lot of helpful feedback from my amazing classmates and students from earlier years. Overall this was a very fun project to work with and I’ve learned a lot making this scene.