The Bus Stop in Nowhere

Post.PNG

 

The main point of this project was to learn more about Substance Painter and Environment Design in UE4. I wanted to do a very basic scene and for some reason I chose a bus-stop checkpoint sort of thing. My main inspiration for this is that eventually I wanted to try out Vertex Painting in UE4 to create puddles on the ground, as seen here:

 

 

I also wanted to experiment with new Volumetric Fog features and lighting in UE4 as showcased in this GDC video from Epic Game’s Sjoerd De Jong:

 

 

I was aiming for “Something you would see in the background music video of a lo-fi synth playlist”, which is oddly specific but gave me the colour palette I was going for.

 

Aesthetic.PNG

 

I found a reference of a London Bus Stop I wanted to use, and using a base mesh a got an idea of the size the bus-stop needed to be in relation to a standard human:

 

SizeRef.png

 

I went on to model and UV the bus stop and then bring it in to Substance Painter for texturing. Here is a turnaround of the base level of detail:

 

 

Michael showed me how to paint hard surface normal details in substance painter and I used this to add detail to the power brick under the seat:

 

screenshot016.png

 

I then took to UE4 to create some VFX for the scene. I wanted to create a “savepoint” for the centre of the bus stop and also an ambient field of magical particles to surround the area. At the moment I am using a placeholder ground which uses a brick material I made in Substance Designer. I haven’t fully decided whether I want to use a more forest-type environment or go with a more urban style.

 

 

I tinkered around with post-processing in UE4 to add some Depth of Field, Chromatic Abberation and slight bloom to add to the scene. This is the current version of the scene:

 

 

After adding the puddles and things I hope to simulate rainfall in the scene a little using a mixture of techniques I’ve come across. The first is from a 80-Level blog post from Callum Tweedie-Walker on setting up a hard-surface sci-fi scene. In this he illustrates his methods for creating rain patterns using a series of maps and animated shaders in UE4, as shown briefly below:

 

Rain Maps

 

Rain Normals.png

 

Animated rain in UE4 by Callum Tweedie-Walker

 

Animated rain in UE4 by Callum Tweedie-Walker

 

I also was looking at a blog by Cem Tezcan on how he created a trickling rain shader to apply to surfaces. I hope to study these techniques to capture the same rainy style for my scene. I will also create a particle emitter to create a light shower in the area surrounding the bus stop.

Rain shader by Cem Tezcan

Rain shader by Cem Tezcan

 

Things left to do:

  • Attempt puddles with vertex painting
  • Attempt to simulate rain
  • Decals and unique texturing on Bus Stop
  • Experiment with surrounding background
  • Play with fog
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The Marred Forgotten

 

For this project we’ve been assigned another Personal Project. I wanted to take this opportunity to use what I learned from last semester’s character and create something with a bit more depth. My main goals I set myself were:

  • Create a detailed fantasy character
  • Create armour
  • Learn more about PBR workflow for characters

 

Initially I started just sculpting in ZBrush, and was going in the direction of a goblin-esque character. I was mainly trying to do something similar to Styx: Master of Shadows which Black Shamrock worked on so I can gear my portfolio in to that style of work. Though quickly in to the blocking out stage I wasn’t happy with the simplicity of the character and wanted something more unique.

 

Goblin

Early stages of the Goblin sculpt.

 

I decided to head to pinterest and browse for a little to set up a mood board for a character I wanted to create. I saw a bunch of really cool designs and sculpts and decided I wanted my character to be a little beefier. Click the image for the full Pinterest board:

 

Pinterest.PNG

 

One of my favourite designs is from Styx: Master of Shadows of a large brute-type enemy with awesome stylised armour and a really detailed anatomy sculpt underneath it. These designs were done by Samuel Compain-Eglin and his work on Styx is a huge inspiration for me for this project.

 

 

After seeing Samuel’s work I decided what I wanted to do, and I wanted to incorporate one of my old sketches in to this project. This was a Dark Souls inspired sketch that I did when assembling a portfolio to apply for this course and always liked aspects of the design. I have come up with a basic narrative for this character:

This giant ogre was created to be a new super weapon in an army, a large tank to tear through the battlefield with its strength. Not only was he to be strong, but also intelligent and capable of problem solving. This was the perfect plan, until this specimen decided that the problem he needed to solve was to stop being experimented on in a lab. After being unable to contain him, they decided to use arcane binding spells to secure him within a dungeon under the labs. His creators would continuously hire bands of mercenaries to send in to slaughter their failed creation, but each group perished with their banner being salvaged from their corpses and equipped to the armour of the ogre. These were his trophies.

Eventually the creators grew tired of failure, and decided to extend their budget to hire an armoured giant from the neighbouring region. This giant rivalled the ogre in size, and nearly proved to be a match while taking off the ogre’s left arm and right leg but ultimately he too was defeated. Instead of taking the Giant’s emblem as a trophy the ogre took his long sword, thrusting the blade through the stump on his arm to function as a new bladed appendage. He ripped the huge wooden door from his prison and fashioned it in to both a shield and crutch. But even with the door gone, the spell remained intact and to this day the ogre waits in his prison for the next challenger to come through the doors; marred and forgotten by the world.

 

Concept.PNG

 

From here I began blocking out the basic shape for the ogre by appending Sphere subtools and adjusting their shape:

 

Ogre_1.PNG

 

From here I started sculpting detail with symmetry and dyamesh:

 

Ogre_2

 

Starting with the head, I began sub-dividing and adding further detail. I turned off symmetry to make the sides of the face unique. This is a wounded creature with scarring and asymmetry so the face was key in portraying this. For the brow I tried making him look angry but also slightly sad.

 

Ogre_3

 

From here I went on to sever the hand and leg, as well as add detail all over. I knew that if this was a character that a human player would be fighting then the human would only be approximately as tall as his belly. Because of this, I focused a lot of detail around the belly folds and leg musculature. I posted to the 10 Thousand hours Facebook page to seek feedback and was asked why he has two bellybuttons. I explained this as meaning since he was such a large creature he would need two sources of nutrients to sustain his development. I also modelled a low-poly sword and brought it to ZBrush for detailing. The sword was designed to not have a hilt that would obstruct the ogre’s arm movement too much. Since the sword was a straight sword, I modelled it this way initially and then “bent” the handle to make it look like it had been struck against the ground a good few times during the ogre’s use.

 

Ogre_4

 

Marmoset Render of finished sculpt

 

Here were some RIP in-Zbrush renders I threw together at this stage.

 

 

 

 

Render of the Low Poly Sword Hilt in Marmoset.

 

Once I was happy with the final tweaks on the body I knew my boy needed armour and something to cover his groin. The challenge with this design was to not make the armour look too much like everything on him was fashioned for that purpose. He’ll have armour and accessories yes, but the one’s who are trying to have him killed aren’t going to give him shoulder pads. For this reason, his armour is quite minimalist and scrappy. I started to block out the shapes to figure out how I wanted the armour to hang on him:

 

 

I added noise to the armour pieces and the skin to break up the smooth clay look. I also added some arrows in his shoulder to show some combat experience. I’ll play around with this idea a little later. I also added room for the banners on his armour which I’d go on to sculpt detail on to.

 

ClothWIP.PNG

 

I added further detail to the arm bracer using the ‘extract’ tool and leather seem alphas, as well as adding chains and sculpting the cloth detail. This is the most updated version so far:

 

Ogre_8

 

When it comes to texturing this bad boy I intend on looking in to a technique shared by Jakub Chechelski, a 3D artist at Black Shamrock in Dublin. He has a blog post on using XYZ textures and alphas to achieve realistic skin for his models which I’m going to follow along as best as I can to see if I can achieve similar results.

 

Step-by-step for Jakub Chechelski’s character

 

Here is some of Jakub’s awesome work:

 

Vampire Girl by Jakub Chechelski

Jakub

A WIP of a ginger woman Jakub posted to 10K Hours

 

I’ll be texturing the ogre in Substance Painter after retopology.

Enter Yes – Worn

The Set-up

So this was the beginning of the Client-based Industry projects. I’d asked Alec if he could place me within a game-engine oriented studio and thankfully I had been set up with Enter Yes, who are making some of the nicest looking real-time stuff coming out of Belfast and working in Unity. The teams had been assigned this time and I was in a team with Dermott Burns, Erin Morrow, Ruxandra Popescu and Leon Weir. This was a great team with all around good quality work coming from every body with strengths in a bunch of different areas.

 

The Task

So when we arrived at the studio for our first meeting we got to meet the team. The two main people we’d be working with were Ross Morrison, the studio Producer, and James Dalton, a recent graduate now working there full-time. Excitingly, this was a project that James had conceived and he was the main director and source of feedback on the project. The project is titled “Worn”, a short animated film rendered in Unity. The plot centres around the relationship of a young boy and his older brother who live in a war-torn city placed vaguely in the middle-east. The project is still in the very early stages so for the most part our team was concepting and creating assets for environment building.

 

The Style

We were at a sort of crossroads when it came to the style, so we experimented with a few different techniques to help the studio better understand which visual direction they wanted to go in for this short. Initially, James was talking about possibly a more stylized approach. He linked us this short to show us what style he was thinking:

 

 

 

The style looked really nice and heavily reminded me of the Borderlands style shaders. I got to work creating a key-frame concept from a scene in the storyboards where the young boy is throwing bullet shells in to an old helmet. I used hand-painted techniques in Photoshop to create a few assets to emulate the same style:

Stylized_Room_Concept

Stylized asset test rendered in Marmoset

 

After experimenting with this style, Ross and James both believed that handpainting textures would take far too long, and James almost seemed happy as I believe he wanted to explore a more realistic look for the short. Around this time, I started learning Substance Designer and used it to create the wall pattern seen above. When James had said to go in a more realistic direction, I started to look at Designer more in-depth.

 

Interior

I purchased a tutorial bundle which included a tutorial for creating a damaged wall with paint that would have been perfectly suited to the interior scenes of the short. After sitting through the tutorial I learned a lot of cool techniques for Substance Designer. I’m yet to look through the other two tutorials that came in the bundle but I am really pleased with how the material turned out in the end. Here are some spheres with the material applied, rendered in Marmoset:

 

 

 

After showing these to James he seemed really happy with the quality and the variation. He had asked me if it was possible to make options that he could tinker with inside Unity to change the material on the fly. I knew I had seen something similar to that before so I told him I would look in to it, and thankfully I was able to work it out and I am really pleased with the variation this brings to the tool.

 

Material inside Unity. A list of parameters I created on the right to allow a large range of textures to be made from this one tool.

 

With how nice this material turned out, I wanted to make more. I’ve really started to love Substance Designer and how powerful it is. I decided I would take everything I’d learned from this tutorial and two others I had followed and try to create my own material from scratch with no help from tutorials as a test to see what I had learned so far. I decided a ceramic tile material would be cool and useful for more interior scenes and so I set to work on it.

 

Final Tiles Draft material and Missing Tiles alt

 

On a side note and also as a bit of experimentation, James Dalton came in to give a workshop on Unity and building a scene. During this, he had supplied us with materials and textures, but I decided to try my own out. Here was the result (Very rough, but cool to see):

 

I also modelled an old bed and attempted a mattress material while using my rusty metal material I made when first learning Substance Designer. Both can be improved but I hope the bed fits the style and narrative they were going for:

 

Bed_Marm.PNG

 

Exterior

During the short, the young boy ventures outside in to the war-torn streets of the city. When moving on to this section the team started thinking of ways we could populate the environment with assets to suit the narrative. I decided I wanted to try creating a run-down vehicle. James had said he’d like a “boxy” style vehicle and I started doing research in to what kind of cars would be common in a vaguely middle east city. I discovered that Toyota was a very popular brand and started getting up lists of old Toyota models to find one that suited the style. I happened upon the Toyota 1000, an early style Toyota with a boxy shape that would sit nicely in the background of the scenes.

 

Toyota 1000

1979 Toyota 1000

 

I started by scrapping together what little references I could find of this particular model, and drew up orthographic views of the Side and Front views:

 

Ref_Sheet

 

From here I began modelling. I knew I wanted to be able to adjust the doors, boot and hood of the car at the end, and so I kept them seperate from the main body. This would allow me to adjust the amount of destruction I could apply to the car. Pretty soon I had my first draft of the vehicle finished:

 

Car_1

 

I tried to keep the vehicle as low poly as I could without sacrificing too much detail. This combined with the basic flat colours gave the car quite a toony look. It also didn’t help that I copied Mr. Bean’s car colour scheme. But pretty soon I had finished modelling and assigning textures. Here was the final model, in all it’s cartoony glory:

 

Car_6

 

I tried to stay true to the car’s original design, and overall I think I was about 95% successful aside from a few details at the back. Also, I’m sure the Toyota logo couldn’t appear in the short so I wanted to sneak in a little of my own branding:

 

Car_Logo.png

 

After all the UV mapping it was time to bring it in to Substance Painter. This was my first time using Painter and I was fairly lost. I also found the tutorials I watched to be fairly dull initially so I actually got most of my help from Erin, Becca and Matthew. After a few pointers from them and some toying around I started to get the hang of it. Here was my first attempt at badly flailing around in the software:

 

Rust_Test.PNG

 

And then here is my re-attempt after learning a few tricks:

 

 

I feel like learning Substance Designer and the functions of various maps really helped me further understand the PBR workflow and how to achieve the looks I was going for. I played around with things like the door and grill etc. and their positioning to further achieve the dilapidated look I was going for. I also flattened one of the tyres and tilted the car’s body in that wheel’s direction to show that this is definitely not a functioning vehicle. James seemed happy with the outcome and asked me to produce a variation of colour palettes for it so he could vary it throughout the scenes:

 

 

Overall I’m really pleased with the outcome of the car and the project as a whole. I’ve learned a lot about the Substance Suite and PBR workflow, and further developed my understanding of game engines and their requirements. Now that I have all of these new tools at my disposal I would love to be able to redo the project and use my new skills to create more assets but instead I will use them for my future projects.

 

Rendered in Marmoset

:Click image below for Portfolio:

The Scientist – Animated Short

Click this image to view an online 3D-Preview:

Sketchfab.PNG

 

The Task

For this task we were assigned groups and asked to create a short animated film around 40 seconds long with the theme of Bravery. My team consisted of Myself, Viola, Tobias, Molly and Emma.

 

Ideation

At the beginning, we were stuck between deciding between two ideas. The first idea was the tale of a Sci-Fi group of soldiers that were infiltrating an alien base to retrieve their fallen comrade (a teddy bear). In order to escape, one of them had to sacrifice themselves do destroy the base and allow the others to escape. In the end, it would be revealed that they were actually just children playing in a park.

Initially I was against this idea for several reasons. Firstly, having so many characters to create and animate would have been a large workload. Secondly, having such a complicated plot to fit in to roughly 40 seconds would be quite a challenge. And lastly, I’d already made an extremely similar animation during A-Level and didn’t feel like taking on the same idea twice.

Regardless of this, some of the group was for the idea and so we contributed seperate chunks of a storyboard and I edited together a rough animatic, seen below:

 

 

 

After we gave a brief presentation with the class, got some feedback and had another meeting, we had decided that the Scientist idea might have been more viable.

The plot was this:

A lone scientist in a desolate, radioactive city is the only remaining life in the area. It had claimed the lives of all he knew and cherished, and he vowed to dedicate his remaining time to inventing a machine that would bring the area back to a liveable form.

After a large number of failed tests, he is angry; frustrated. He slams his desk and fumbles a picture of a young girl which he then picks up to put back on his desk. Upon placing it back, he discovers a small part on his desk that he believes may be the answer to fixing his machine. But in order to do this, he must venture outdoors in to the wasteland in order to repair the machine. In the end the effort takes its toll as he collapses and dies from the exposure. Beside his still hand, sprouts a small plant; his bravery was not in vain.

 

For visuals and plot devices it fell under influence of films such as Wall-E and I am Legend.

 

Image result for Wall E scenery

Screenshot of Wall-E

 

Here was the initial animatic I had done. This animatic served several functions; it helped us iron out the story, gave us a sense of timing and my scribbles functioned as a rough concept for locations within the scene. Here was the result:

 

 

 

My Role – Creating the Character

Modelling/Sculpting

 

 

 

 

 

This character was sculpted by 3D Character Artist Josh Singh. He hosted a panel at the ZBrush summit one year and performed a demonstration of how he makes these characters which I found to be extremely helpful:

 

 

I had previously purchased a tutorial from Marc Brunet about modelling a 3D character and the pipeline he follows, however he begins by using a humanoid template with retopology he’d already made so rather than beginning in Maya I wanted to start in Zbrush to allow myself more freedom while sculpting. The only downside to this would be having to spend time retopologizing later on, but oh well.

 

Marc

 

 

I started by stretching some clay in to a rough body shape, even though it looked lumpy. I then kept adding subtools and sculpting further details until I got to a stage I was happy with. Here was the step-by-step:

 

 

 

Sculpting the moustache was fun, and I tried a few different versions with varying degrees of bushiness. We had decided the plainer looking one to be the most effective.

 

 

 

So here’s a closeup of the finished sculpt:

 

Scientist_Sculpt

 

 

Next stage was the topology. I tried looking at a bunch of references to see how it should be done properly.

 

 

 

As with most of my projects I wanted to shoot for as low poly as I could, and rely heavily on texture for the detail. I used ZRemesher for the head and boots since they would not be moving much, and Jack had informed me of the “curve” tool you could use to define some sort of structure of ZRemesher to follow. The main body and hands were done manually. Here’s a look at the finished version:

Retopo

Curves in ZBrush

 

Topo

 

 

Obviously I had an unnecessary volume of mesh in the boots, which would have been fixed had I done it manually, but I wanted to get the character finished at this stage. Also, even though I prefer to work for real-time rendering, since this would be done in Arnold I had to add supporting edge loops for harsh edges where I had some more excess. In spite of this, I still kept the character at roughly 7k polys which I am pretty happy with.

Here is a comparison between the Sculpt (right) and the Low Poly (Left):

LP to HP.PNG

 

The Texturing

 

So the next stage involved using a few steps from the tutorial I had mentioned earlier. This also served as practice for when I was making my Deer Project where I use similar techniques. I hope to keep practicing this pipeline and making it my regular workflow.

I’m not gonna go in to detail about the process since I already discussed this in the Deer project post so check that out if you’re interested. I learned from John Hannon about a program called xNormals which was good for baking maps and decided to get it. Although it looks like it was made in the 1980s, it does a pretty damn efficient job. Here was the tutorial I checked out on how to use it:

 

 

Here was the Ambient Occlusion bake I created as well as a look in to my UV Map layout:

 

Diffuse4.png

 

I also had a Bent Normals bake but I lost it.. it was used for top-down lighting.

 

Blue

There was some problem with the texture leaking and so that needed to be fixed, as well as a bunch of areas where the shadows crunched due to mesh collisions in the baking.

Here was my first stab at creating the texture which went through a ton of drafts before the final version.

 

Diffuse1.png

 

So obviously this was just some flat colours and some minor shading on top, after a bunch of edits, changes and paintovers, this was the final texture:

 

Diffuse6f.png

 

There were a lot of things to clean up, smooth and correct. I tried to bring out the colours in the jumpsuit and accent the wrinkles. I actually learned a bit more about colour theory from doing this and feel like these exercises have improved my knowledge of colour.

There are still somethings that require cleaning up, and I would have liked to add a few more details to add complexity to the design but for now this functioned as I wanted it to.

Here is a turntable of the finished character:

 

giphy (7).gif

 

 

Other Assets

 

I also did his Geiger Counter in a similar way, only I started in Maya.

 

giphy (2).gif

 

 

Geiger_Diffuse3.png

 

I was very pleased with the Geiger Counter in particular, as it had a very stylized vibe to it, similar to Blizzard’s aesthetic.

Now, it wouldn’t have been a project I’d worked on unless I tried my hand at some VFX. I kept it simple, just a little radioactive barrel with a glowy green cloud emanating from it. The pose was done using the rig Viola had done which worked very well. I’ll just post a screenshot as I’m sure you’ll get the jist of the movement just from it:

UE4.png

 

Barrel_Diffuse2

 

I had also created some land for the surrounding exterior, just something rough in ZBrush to simulate terrain. This ended up not getting used in favour of a more built-up background Viola created.

Terrain Land_Diffuse
Terrain2.PNG

Generator modelled by Viola

 

Setting the Mood

After the character and other assets were finished off and finalised, the next stage was to address the issue that our scenes had no textures. I wanted to try and do a few of the main objects in the scene closest to the scientist. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances we were down 3 Team members at this stage of the process. Viola had taken on the task of completing the 3D Previs which she did a fantastic job of with some very interesting VFX.

Viola had arranged the assets provided by the others in to the interior scene which looked good. None of the objects in the scene had been UV Mapped yet so I began to do that so I could apply some textures using the same method from earlier. These maps weren’t done correctly due to time constraints and as a result they only function as I needed them to; they don’t look pretty or organised but they work.

Here was a shot of some of the models I had textured:

 

Interior_1
Interior_2

Room set-up by Viola, assorted models by Team, Textures by me.

 

For the rest of most objects I used simple AiStandard shaders with tweaked values. At this stage I wanted to try a render. We knew we weren’t going to have time to render this animation and so I rendered a frame to replicate the vision of the giant orange monitor from the beginning. I am very pleased with the result:

 

Interior_Render_2.png

Render with Photoshop touch-ups I did to capture the mood of failure

Here is a side by side comparison of before and after photoshop (Is this what compositing is?):

 

 

And here was the finished Pre-Vis by Viola:

 

Link to my ArtStation

Reflection on this module:

 

This module was surely a step up from last year’s work. I feel like I’ve really found the area I enjoy and hope to continue to develop this over the next semester while I begin to search for a placement. I’ll do this in order of projects:

 

3D Environment Task – Space Vikings:

For this Task were allowed to choose our own teams. I was in a team with Dermott, Jack and Glenn and they were great to work with. This project in general is a very fun assignment as we don’t have to worry about several stages of pipeline and can focus mainly on concept and modelling. It’s also great to have complete creative freedom over our choice, and although I would say I specialise more in characters, this task was still enjoyable for me since I was a part of a good team with good workers.

 

Walk Cycle/Body Mechanics Task:

This task was personally less enjoyable for me since it was a little more technical than creative. I don’t dislike animation, and if I’d placed more of a focus on the task I feel my results would have turned out a little better but I would say I was more focused on the environment task at this stage. I still believe it is a good project and teaches key skills, but it was probably more beneficial to others than myself.

 

Personal Project – Mythical Deer Sculpt:

This was by far my favourite part of the semester, and I’m just sad I didn’t get to spend longer on it. I feel like I learned so much by getting to explore something I was passionate about and it was of great benefit to me. I’m going to try and put some of my passion from this project in to future projects and also produce other works like it in order to bolster my portfolio.

 

Animated Short – The Scientist:

The good part about this project is that I was able to work on the main character and help develop the plot and idea. And I know this assignment would have been very enjoyable under different circumstances, however due to circumstances with different team members we ended up with a larger workload dispersed over a smaller team so ultimately the final result suffered blows to quality. In saying this, I feel like I learned what I needed from the project and to bring it to a more polished stage would be more of a nuisance than productive and so I’m satisfied with the work I have done and will possibly find the time to polish a shot or two for showreel purposes. In short; Good Assignment – Unfortunate circumstances.

 

Really excited for Semester Two!

 

Personal Project – Deer Sculpt

Click the Image for online 3D Preview:


Sketchfab.png

 

The Beginning

Insta

Drawings by Mehdiaouichaoui on Instagram

 

Originally, I had intended for this project to be of a human character for the Riot Games creative contest 2017 which I will hopefully get time to do after deadlines. But for this submission due to time constraints I decided to run with a Deer sculpt I had already began. Above is the image I used as inspiration for my project by Mehdiaouichaoui on Instagram which I got permission to use. This would be my first full stylized creature sculpt and I am fairly happy with how the ZBrush sculpt turned out. I started to learn some new tools and got to practice a little more with the software which is always a good thing. I took some design liberties and changed a few aspects while also being influenced by a Pokemon sort of style. Here is a turntable of the finished sculpt:

 

 

I knew from the beginning of this project that I wanted to achieve four key things:

  • An appealing, stylized creature sculpt
  • An animation and game-ready topology (6k polys or Below)
  • Create a hand-painted style texture, similar in style to League of Legends
  • Have some element of real-time VFX added to the creature

These were the goals I had set myself for this task. In this post I hope to describe the areas where I succeeded and those where I could have done better, and highlight what I learned from each experience.

 

The Sculpt

This will be a fairly short section as there’s not much to say. This sculpt is my first proper go at a full character and I’m very pleased with the result. After a brief chat with Michael Lilley I began playing with the hPolish and Flatten brushes to get those sharp stylized edges I wanted. I utilised different subtools to create the assorted pieces of the deer, utilising asymmetry when appropriate to create a more appealing design while staying true to the concept.

 

Subtools

 

Creating base geometry to work off of is still overall my hurdle to get over at this stage and I hope to try the “ZSpheres” approach next time. For now I’m satisfied with this sculpt.

 

Sculpt

 

Retopology for Real-Time Rendering

This part of the project proved to be exceptionally more difficult than I had initially anticipated. I ended up redoing most of the retopology 3 times to get to a point I was happy with. Below are my first and final versions:

 

 

As you can see from the re-do, I tried a lot harder to greatly reduce the polycount. I had to use seperate objects for the points on the fur due to different density requirements however I hope to find a better way to cope with this in future as the seam can appear quite obvious when the light hits it. I hope that texturing can remedy some aspect of this flaw. The final polycount ended up being 4280.

A main reference I used was the official in-game model of ‘Xayah’ from League of Legends as well as a fan art of Sejuani. Here are the real-time previews of both references (Click the images for the previews):

 

Xayah

Xayah.PNG

 

 

Sejuani

 

Sejuani

 

I also looked at this Baron Nashor skin in League of Legends to understand more complex geometry. I was initially perplexed by the amount of triangles in these works as we were always taught to avoid them when possible. I asked my lecturer about this and he advised me that they are ok to use when not in the path of distorting mesh and that I should avoid long tris as they often distort textures.

 

Worlds Baron Nashor

 

Baron

 

I would say that while I consider 4k polycount to be a success, I worry about the lack of defined loops around the limbs and how this would affect movement. I already mentioned the clipping of separate objects and I would also say I could have saved a punch of polys by deleting hidden faces behind the fur that aren’t seen. This would also save on UV space which I’ll talk about in a bit. Other than these flaws I’m fairly happy with the result of the topology and I’m happy with the low-res.

On a side note, I was wondering why when I imported the model to Unreal/3D Coat that all of the edges were very hard and this gave the mesh a low quality look. Apparently pressing ‘3’ in Maya only gives a smooth PREVIEW and doesn’t actually smooth the mesh, so I had to smooth the mesh before exporting to fix this.

 

Creating a Hand-Painted Texture

Again, this goal was inspired by League of Legends. Really, I’m just using this project as a warm-up for attempting my entry to the Riot Games contest on Polycount. Hoping to enter both the Character Art and VFX categories. Anyways back to the texture. I’ll start with the UV Mapping. Here was my layout for the deer (everything combined to one object):

 

Deer_bent_normals.png

 

Immediately I can point out a few flaws. My major regret is not keeping the limbs attached to the main body as this created very harsh seems in the final render. There are also several loose “bits” of some of the mesh and this was because they were causing a lot of tension and distortion on the parts they were attached too. Overall this doesn’t affect the texture that much but it’s still workaround I hope not to rely on in future. Finally you can see from my bakes that some parts of the texture contain duplicates (such as the mask being on the fur UV as well as having its own standalone). This is due to the objects overlapping and I hope to find a fix/workaround for this in future.

A while ago I purchased a tutorial from Marc Brunet on CubeBrush.com about creating a game-ready model with hand-painted textures. In this tutorial he overlays aspects of Ambient Occlusion, Bent Normals and Normal maps to create a greyscale texture to add to. He also uses 3D Coat for touch-ups.

The Bent Normals green channel is used for an easy fake top-down light. The Ambient Occlusion is used for general shadows and detail definition and the green channel of the normal map is used for highlights on creases and such.

I also looked at his tutorial on Youtube about colouring from greyscale using Gradient Maps in Photoshop and used this to play around with colour palettes for my Deer.

 

 

Here is a look at my combined greyscale bakes:

 

Raw_Shade.jpg

 

There are some cleanups to be done to this before it is finalised. Here is also a view of my layers where I’ve set up my gradient masks so I can mix and match colour schemes on my deer:

 

Gradients

 

Gradients2

The Gradient Editor for the ‘Twisted Purple’ colour I tried

 

Below I’m gonna post a gallery of the different colour schemes I tried. Some worked better than others, but the overall theme I was going for was Ethereal/Celestial:

 

 

Initially I had started with a Deer coloured hide, but this realistic colour took away from the mysticism of the creature, so I started looking at more divine colours. That’s where the rich mixes of reds, whites and golds came from; but these felt too Christmassy. My girlfriend also pointed out that it would be better to have the large antlers as a dark bold colour to stick out better. When trying to dodge the Christmas look, I stumbled on to an ethereal palette that made the deer look ghostly. My flatmate James also suggested I give the deer an underbelly colour which is where the gradient came from on the last palette. In the end my favourite two were the last two but overall I went with the blue one as the red felt too overpowering. This meant I also needed to tweak the vfx I had done from the original golden yellow to a cyan effect which you’ll see soon.

One thing I love about this method of texturing is the amount of detail you can preserve with a low mesh. This is a 4K Texture since it’s to be featured as a main piece however if I was adding it to a game as a background character a 2k map would probably work better (I Think?). Here’s what I mean with the detail on the Deer’s back muscle being preserved:

 

 

The next stage would be to go on and paint detail, refine highlights and add colours until it feels like a more finished texture, however right now I’m putting that on pause due to time constraints. I’ll hopefully get the time/motivation to finish the texture at some point but for now that’s where I’ll leave it. Calling the texture a semi-success for now, however the UV seems from earlier still bother me immensely.

 

Texture_UV

Greyscale shading with Gradient Maps colouring

 

Real-Time VFX (I LOVE this part)

So since beginning this project I knew I wanted the orb between the antlers to emanate some form of mystical aura. I kind of just made it up as I went along, using some techniques I had learned before as well as teaching myself some newer ones.

 

Orb and Glow

 

 

The first part is fairly basic. I have a mesh emitter that spawns the orb (which is just a duplicate of the orb from the model) and another that spawns the glowy orb that pulses and changes colour over its lifetime. There is also a scrolling texture over the orb but its very difficult to make out with this colour so I may delete it.

 

Rings

 

 

This emitter is another mesh emitter that has a comet shape that surrounds the orb and is rotated to tilt up. The mesh then has a scrolling material with a fading alpha that gives the ring effect. When UVing the model I only UVd a quarter of the mesh and then duplicated and rotated to make up the other quadrants. This allows them all to project the same material which is key to getting the simple ring. Below is the node connections and texture used for the material. Stacking the textures in different channels saves memory space.

 

 

Sprite-Sheet Embers

 

 

This was one of the parts that I learned the most, for two reasons which I’ll get in to. The first reason is learning to make an animated spritesheet and play it as a particle. This was done in Photoshop with random chunks I made with the lasso tool. I saved each as a separate image and then used a program called GlueIt to merge them in to a 2×2 spritesheet. This could then be plugged in to a flipbook node in Cascade (UE4s FX engine) which animated it. However, there was a problem that arose after this step which led to the second thing I learned. Every particle being spawned was changing frame at the same time and they were all showing the same frames. This made the particles look rigid and less random so I wanted to fix it. After some hunting, I discovered my solution lay in plugging a ‘Particle Random Value’ in to the timer that changed the frames order and start times. These are helpful little bits that I’ll definitely be using again. Partly blogging them so I can look at this if I ever forget how to use it.

 

Particle_Random

Material Node Editor

 

Sprite_Sheet

Spritesheet

 

The Particle

 

 

And there’s the final particle to rest above the boy’s head. Pretty happy with how it turned out and definitely learned some new things. Also learned how to spawn a new burst of particles after the death of another, but it wasn’t applicable to this particle. So yeah, learned a lot.

 

Bonus: Destructible

 

Last thing I learned out of curiosity and no real relevance was how to make a destructible mesh. It’s actually really easy; like clicking a checkbox more or less. Here’s a quick clip of the boy shattering after I smash my face in to him:

 

 

[Add Render of Deer with VFX]

Click here for my ArtStation

Black Shamrock Research Task

Applying to Black Shamrock

The Company

A local studio I hope to apply to for my placement year is Black Shamrock; a Dublin based company in Video Game Production with a focus on the RPG genre. The company is backed by and does work for Cyanide Studios, a French company founded by 7 ex-ubisoft employees. The projects they’ve worked on (and shipped on Steam and other platforms) include Of Orcs and Men, Blood Bowl II and Styx: Master of Shadows, as well as one currently classified project in the RPG genre. All of their projects so far involve orcs, fantasy and interesting beasts and characters so I am very keen to intern with this company and hopefully be a strong asset to the team.

Meeting the Team

Back in October I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the CEO of Black Shamrock, Olivier Masclef, on his visit to our campus. I was able to chat to him about my skills and a potential internship for next year. When I had mentioned my interest in VFX he mentioned that it was a valued skill to have, and so I made sure to include some in my Showreel for this assignment. Hopefully I can create a few more projects before I apply to add to my reel. Olivier gave me his card and told me that when I’m applying to mention that we talked. I also connected with him on LinkedIn the following week and he had said to me that to contact him if I’m going to Dublin at any point and he would see about getting a tour of the studio arranged, so I definitely hope to find time for that soon and get to meet some of the people I would hopefully be working with.

The Opportunity

Very recently, the studio has updated their job listings page to include a line mentioning that they are in the process of creating an internship application form and that it will be finished by the end of January. Olivier had mentioned that they had hoped to grow their team vastly by the end of 2018. As well as this, they also have listings for a concept artist, environment artist and character artist, and so hopefully I can showcase my strengths in these areas and be able to assist in filling those gaps.

 

Quest for Knowledge

NI Games at Queens University

Me and a few classmates had attended an event at Queens where we were able to chat with a few members of the games community in NI about various topics covering different aspects of animation and 3D art production for games. This was a good opportunity to hear some stories and advice from people in our desired field. We met with Kevin Beimers of Italic Pig who I had previously chatted with at a Toody Threedy in October who talked to us about his award winning Indie game, Mona Lisa. We also were able to chat to a fella from SONY based in London who was working on an impressive looking VR shooter. Getting to chat with these guys and find out a thing or two about pipelines, and also discussing freelancing, was a great insight in to how things work.

Industry Talks in Conor Lecture Theatre

A bunch of us attended some talks from Industry professionals from different backgrounds the other Friday. Some of these talks were overwhelmingly inspirational. Some of the projects these people had worked on, and some of the innovations they were attempting were fantastic. It was amazing to be able to hear these people and their advice for us as developing artists. The talks lasted around 6 hours and sadly due to time constraints we were unable to hear a speaker from Billygoat Entertainment which was who I was looking forward to hearing the most unfortunately. However, Alec said he would attempt to reorganise to get him back in to do a talk in the future, so hopefully we can have even more time to hear what he has to say. One of the major pieces of advice I want to take from those talks is: Yes, study well and work hard to achieve good grades and do well in your degree. But, have fun! Do your own projects, learn new things. Teach yourself things that will broaden your toolkit and make you more than a cookie-cutter animation student. 80% of my showreel is made up from my own projects and teachings and that is a number I hope to maintain and expand upon.

I would love to have more events like this in future if possible.

 

Space Vikings

The Task

So this is the first meaty project of 2nd Year; hitting the ground running. Our task is to create, model and UV unwrap a 3D scene of our choosing. We have complete creative freedom, so we needed to settle on an idea quickly to begin the pipeline. Our main goals were to try to be unique, choose something the team will enjoy and create a narrative to go with our scene.

Our team and their blogs can be found here: [Update Blog links to posts when available*]

Dermott *              Glenn               Michael *              Jack

Below you can see our brainstorm of idea generation. We began with listing all of the fun environments we could think of. When this was done, we all chose a few examples we liked and went off to do some sketching and research to pitch ideas the following day.

Whiteboard

[Insert Pic of Sketchbook Drawings]

Eventually, we had narrowed it down to either a space station interior, or a viking longhouse interior. In the end, we picked both.

The narrative we decided to keep simple. These vikings were blessed with the knowledge of intergalactic travel (but not much other knowledge), and had set off to pillage the stars. However, the sea serpents they thought they’d left behind had suddenly become very real.

This meant we wanted to show our interior hull breached by a large space kraken’s tentacle, meaning there would be a vacuum created and things would be floating/violently flying out in to space. To illustrate this ironically within the scene, Glenn suggested a tapestry foretelling the events up to this point, and did a fantastic job creating it using reference from real viking tapestries:

 

 

The Ship

Below are some moodboards gathered by the team of various inspirations and theme directions to grip a feel for the designs we would create.

 

 

We looked at various reference images of replica viking longhouses, concept art of viking homes, themes of rustic futures as well as fantasy and sci-fi explorations of viking origins.

Two of the main artists I have looked at for this project are Adam Adamowicz (Late concept artist for Bethesda’s ‘Fallout’ and ‘Elder Scrolls’ franchises), and Ian McQue who has a great way of making industrial machinery look used and lived with; improvised by those who only know about 60% of what they’re doing and that’s what we needed.

Here are some of Adam Adamowicz’ environment sketches for Skyrim, a very nordic themed videogame:

 

And here is a link to a flickr album containing a vast quantity of his concepts.

Here are some relevant examples of Ian McQue’s work where he’s managed to capture a sort of “improvised junkyard” look while still retaining the precision required to build such machines:

 

 

Jack created two great, solid concepts for the ship’s exterior as seen below, influenced by Dermott’s designs which you can see belowerer.

Jack_ShipJack_Ship_2 Dermott_Ext_1

The general idea was that the ship was gonna be like a viking longship, but the bottom was duplicated and flipped upside down to seal it from the vacuum of space. Inside, the hull would replicate a lot of the key features of a longhouse.

The Crew

To get an idea of the look of the kinds of props and the environment we were gonna be crafting,  we needed to know who lived there. What size are they? Are they intelligent? What kind of clothing do they wear? (If any?) Below are some sketches I did to explore these ideas and see which direction we were going with this. I explored different exaggerated features to accentuate the bulkiness of the barbarian brutes, and looked at the idea of crude armour being fashioned (Stop sign embedded in helmet). And I know what you’re thinking and yes, we know vikings don’t have horns. We’re doing it anyway.

 

Initial_Sketches Character_Concepts

Exploration of colour, looking at rougher fabrics vs. more refined cloth and plate.

Shield_Concepts.png

An exploration of holo-shield designs, incorporating traditional shield designs with sci-fi materials and function.

[GIF of Shield Spin]

[Render of Shield?]

The Hull

Interior_Concept_2

Tradtionally, vikings had a lot of key traits when it came to their architecture. One of these traits was their use of pillars and arches to build their structures, and so we felt that this would be necessary when creating an authentic environment. Above is a concept I put together of the interior hull, but I don’t feel it had a very viking feel to it. The large window is something we want to include as a way to let the viewer know that this environment is in space. Initially when proposing this, I had mentioned that vikings didn’t use windows in their buildings but I was then informed that “yeah, but they didn’t fly spaceships either.” Fair point.

Isometric_Layout

Above I’d thrown together a rough isometric layout map of the hull, so we could get a rough idea of the kind of areas we would have and the sorts of things in them.

 

 

The Breach

So a main part of the narrative of our scene is that the hull has been breached by some tentacled, cosmic horror; causing the props around the environment to begin to move toward the vacuum. Dermott has done a few illustrations to show a few concepts of this event:

Dermott_Hull_1Dermott_Hull_2Dermott_Hull_3

I have modelled a tentacle, initially to be part of the scene as perhaps a food source in a kitchen/prep area, but we may use it for the purpose above. Tentacle was sculpted in ZBrush, ZRemeshed and then imported to Maya for UV Unwrapping.

Tentacle_Sculpt_1Tentacle_Sculpt_2

Experimented with texturing also:

[Insert Picture of Textured Tentacle.]

 

The Hearth

In my research, I discovered that a key part of the viking longhouse was the large hearth they placed in the centre of the structure. This hearth was mainly for heating and cooking, and a large hole was left open in the roof for smoke to escape. We wanted to adapt this idea, but firstly a fire pit seems very primitive for these starbarians and secondly would surely burn up more oxygen that the crew would rather have in their lungs. So how could we incorporate this design without losing functionality and/or necessity? I suggested we create a sort of “plasma exhaust port” that jets excess heat through the ceiling. Below are a few concept sketches to visualise this idea.

Interior_Concept

 

Exhaust.png

Below is some experimenting in Unreal Engine 4 where I made a rough prototype to simulate the motion of the exhaust that a drawing couldn’t capture.

UE4_MaterialUE4_Particle

Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Here is a finished model of the Hearth done in Maya. Below that you can see the detail sculpt I added in ZBrush and then implemented with a Normal Map in the final scene.

Hearth_1 Hearth_Sculpt

Plugins, Scripts and Tools

[Nightshade UV Editor]

[UV Transfer etc.]

 

The Props

The props are gonna be the key to making our scene look alive. Most of them will be flying through the air or lifting off tables. Others will be hanging on walls, or bolted down. Below is the list of props I’ve worked on concepts for or modelled.

Tools and Utensils – Concepts and Modelling

Cutlery Cutlery_Mesh

UV Unwrapping

Cleaver_UV

Cleaver Detail sculpted in ZBrush

Cleaver_Sculpt

 

Metal Bowl – Modelling

 

UV Texture Testing – Right bowl has obvious seam on the underside (right).

 

UV Map – 1st Attempt on the right, second corrections on the left.

Chains and Sconces

Chains Jack_Torch Torch

[Insert Gif of Fireball Test]

Table

Table

 

Final Renders

360 – VR Experience

 

Interior Fly-through

 

Reflection on Task

So as this project draws to an end, I can say I’m quite happy with what we’ve accomplished. I knew when we put this team together that we were all going to try to make an ‘outside-the-box’ project, and that’s exactly what we did. Through redos and refinement through constant feedback and inspiration from each other we managed to construct a scene that stayed true to our original vision and stay fairly coherent in terms of style. I also went in to this project with the hopes of getting to practice a little more VFX I’ve been learning and was able to get an opportunity to display some and practice this new tool.

Ranging from basic Maya Modelling and some fun ZBrush sculpting, to learning UV Mapping, Texturing/Normal Mapping and being able to implement VFX and 360 degree cams; I would definitely say this project has taught me quite a lot. If I could redo it, I would try to pull the style back more to a viking theme as I feel like we slightly lost the original vision slightly in the sci-fi. The Space Vikings was definitely my favourite team to be on so far in the course, both for the project and the team mates I had. I look forward to more.