FMP - Week 11 and 12

General / 27 March 2020

As the Corona virus situation escalated, I decided to stay at home one week before the lock down. My partner has asthma and I was very anxious about him getting ill. At home my set up was far from ideal. My graphics card was broken and I simply could not use Unreal Engine. My laptop could run it very slowly (it took a full hour to compile shaders alone). I did what I could during the past two weeks. There was a lot of disruption. I was also talking to work about my start date, trying to start working before a full lock down, but alas I was too late. Since I will not start work anytime soon, I took the money I was saving to put down a deposit on a car, plus some my partner kindly offered me, and bought a new graphics card yesterday. I am not very computer savvy to say the least, so I wasted a good half day trying to sort my graphics card (I wish I had asked Craig, our course's IT guy, for help sooner. His advice helped me sort it in a fraction of the time). Now my computer feels much more capable of dealing with my FMP, but I already spent 2 weeks working in the previous condition, and work became very slow.

I modelled a few props to fill the environment. I started out with bollards:

I thought it would be nice to keep them in the Art Deco style, but I did not particularly like any I could find, so I made my own (inspired by the one on the right of the moodboard).

They are not yet textured, having a place holder tiling texture on at the moment. I certainly want to add some grime to the corners of the mesh, and some general grime.

Next I made a bin, and I found a real life one I was happy with:

Modelling after my previously modelled underpass, I fashioned a newsstand. This saved time with modelling and texturing, and made things match.

I am using the same meshes but applying different magazine covers to them.

I still had to model the curved bridge at the top of the concept:

So as to not waste more time, I used the same mesh as the train bridge. I gave it a bit more geometry and then used the FFD modifier to curve it.

Another thing I thought could give life to the scene was having theatre and hotel signs. In the 50's, time in which Dieselpunk is inspired, neon signs were extremely popular, and I thought these signs would add to the feeling of the city being alive.

For the theatre sign I made a base material. I am still deciding if I will bring that into Substance Painter and texture it more uniquely or if I will use the tiling texture on UE4 and add the text as planes with transparency. This will be an emissive material.

Another material I made for the scene is brass, as lots of Art Deco details are made from brass.

I started a trim sheet with lights for the theatre and some other bits and bobs, but it is not ready yet.

The buildings still don't have materials because Sophie is working on the shaders. She also had a busy week with her own private problems related to the current situation so I don't expect to have the shaders soon. Also, on our last day in labs we did not know if we would have access to Houdini out of uni, so I hurriedly turned all the buildings into blueprints. I forgot I needed to change something whilst turning them into blueprints and there are lots of things to fix with the modular kit instances that I do not quite remember how to, so I need to have a Discord meeting with Sophie at some point when she is settled back home in order to sort it. I'm sure the scene will transform quite a bit once the correct materials are assigned. At the moment I am using my old master material for the props and pavement, which does not contain a lot of the features we want for the buildings. I will probably start the lighting this week. This is what the scene looks like now:

I did the most I could these past 2 weeks, but I appreciate it is not a lot. Hopefully I will be able to speed up again now that I have a functioning graphics card. Working from home has definitely been an adjustment, as it is easier to get distracted doing other stuff (went to the kitchen to make coffee and ended up cleaning everything, for instance). I have been trying to keep a routine, waking up at the same time I did to go to uni, and sticking to a 9 to 5 schedule with a 1h lunch break. I have been improving at not getting distracted but I am still adjusting.

FMP - Weeks 8, 9 and 10

General / 13 March 2020

When I last spoke about the underpass, I had modelled it but it still did not have any textures.  This is what it looks like in the engine at the moment (it is still missing a glass material).

I will certainly use some decals later to make it look less repetitive, dirtier, and to add some rusted metal streaks.

I have decided to keep most parts of it mid poly and to use a tiling material with vertex painting for variation. These are the 2 variations of the painted metal material I made for it:

I made an extra normal and AO maps for the roof texture:

For the detailed decorations, I decided to bake the details into a normal map. They have a separate material ID with the tiling material + baked normal and AO:

While I was still working on the underpass, the building generator was finalised! I promptly jumped into making the buildings for the scene as I was excited to see it populated. Sophie gave me instructions on how to use the tool and I spent a few days placing the buildings and deciding between the modular pieces. At this point I made the scene brighter again, because I needed to be able to see how it would look like. I will be starting on the lighting on week 13. Here are some of the buildings at the moment:

After adding the buildings we realised our camera placement for the main shot was too far back. We moved the camera and some of the buildings to make the scene tighter. I also changed the elevated train track at this point to resemble the concept more closely.

Now that I had the buildings and decided their exact placing, I could start on the pavement. I decided to make it mainly modular, except for the areas that were more uniquely shaped. I made a render of the scene from the top and realised the layout we had chosen was a bit strange and the roads that would result from it did not make sense. We were lacking a flow of traffic. This is what I had at first:

So Sophie made a paint over of how the road could be:

Now we had decided the main road would be diagonal, and the other roads were either joining it or coming out of it. It made more sense, but it meant we would have to change the concept a little bit. It also meant I had to change the elevated train tracks again, otherwise they would have pillars in the middle of the road, and I slightly changed some buildings.

I also planned the non modular pieces to be the following:

One of the challenges with this is that we had chosen to use large pavement slabs. That meant that if we tried to make the pavement with splines, the texture would deform and look strange. This could have worked if we were using small pavement slabs as deformation would not be as obvious, but with large slabs it would definitely look strange. I did some research on how pavement slabs are dealt with in corners  in real life.

I observed that usually the pattern is simply broken where needed, on continued regardless of the curve. If we only had 90 degrees corners, I could just continue the pattern without worries as it would match both ends to the modular straight pavement. However, we have many 45 degree corners and a couple of 24 degrees corners, so we needed to break the pattern where need. I did not want it to look accidental, or badly unwrapped, so I decided to add a trim to the interruption. As we chose the Art Deco style for our main style, I thought brass trims would suit it quite well and break a little bit of the grey concrete look. This also facilitated some other transitions. This was the inspiration for it:

I spent quite a long time unwrapping and making sure all the pieces met properly. This is what they look like:



I have also started making street lamps, again inspired by the Art Deco style.

It is still not completed but this is what I have at the moment:

This is what the scene is currently looking like:


FMP - Week 6 and 7

General / 27 February 2020

These past weeks I have spent a considerable amount of time fixing some things with the modular kit. Since both Sophie and I are learning as we go, some things are hard to predict, hence having to fix them often. I had quite a few issues with the vertex normals, and I added some more loops for vertex painting to the pieces... Only to find out we will not be able to use vertex painting with the building generator. According to Sophie, the technical artist, this is the reason why:

"Instanced Meshes each have their own transformation information (scale, rotation, location), but share information like materials, vertex paint data, etc. We could vertex paint them in 3Ds Max, but then they would share the vertex paint data as well"

We both did not realise this before, and this unfortunately wasted a lot of time and removal of the extra loops will happen at a later time. Instead of vertex painting, we will use splat maps and macro textures to create variaty, as well as several different decals.

I have also started making the first level of LOD for the pieces, and Sophie and I are still deciding how to make the next level of LODs.

After some discussion on how closely are we following the original concept, we have decided that the neoclassical building right at the front of the concept required its own set of modular pieces (that can be repeated elsewhere too).

I was able to locate the real building used for this concept and got better reference for it:

To facilitate our lives and move on, we changed the rounded window slightly. This was a lengthy discussion as we did not want to use a texture map with normals for the modular pieces as the buildings will already be heavy on the FPS. For this reason (and the fact we are using world positioned textures) we decided against having the brick pattern change shape around the windows, and made the frame chunkier and extruded.

In order to fill the ground with information (as we are not modelling the people and cars in the scene), I have been looking for props that could take space. This research took a bit of time. One of the ideas was to make a newsstand, and I accidently stumbled upon this beautiful subway entrance:

I fell in love with it and since we already have elevated tracks, I thought this could simply be an underpass. Modelling, unwrapping and fixing vertex normals, as well as deciding to bake some details in, took a few days. I will be also using trim sheets for this, and tiling textures for the main body.


This was divided into 6 different meshes to facilitate the light baking, using several smaller maps instead of having to use a really big unique one.

I made the scene darker but I still have not started the proper lighting of it. I added some emissive obloids to the train tracks to get a feel for them, but these will certainly be altered in the future. After we include the actual buildings to the scene and decided which windows are lit, I will start actually making the lighting for it.


FMP - Week 4 and 5

General / 07 February 2020

I spent a couple of days trying to figure out the elevated train tracks in the scene. I made half the bridge so I can just mirror it and propagate it, to save on the tri count. For this bridge I read a technical document on steel structures, which gave me the right key words to find more technical drawings of how steel bits are joined to each other.

Technical drawings reference

I also used pictures of the elevated train tracks in Chicago and the old New York ones for real life reference.

Chicago and New York elevated train tracks

Since the bridge is elevated and away from the camera, I decided not to chamfer it. The bolts will be baked into the texture of the joinery, while the rest of the bridge will be textured with a tiling texture (we will use macro noise and decals to make it less repetitive).

Train tracks in UE4

Train track parts in 3Ds Max

Train track in 3Ds Max

Train track in 3Ds Max

The other element modelled this week was the skybridge. I was able to find pictures of the original skybridge in the concept. Modelling it did not take long as I divided it into modular pieces and just repeated the same geometry across. Again, as they are really far away from the viewer, I did not chamfer the edges and they will be textured with tiling textures.

Skybridge references

Skybridge in UE4

Skybridge in 3Ds Max

The last thing I modelled was a tunnel and gate for the train to enter the building. It is really hard to see what is going on with that in the original concept, so I found an Art Deco archway to base my gate on.

Archway reference

I simplified it a bit so it is readable from afar, where the player will be. I kept the stripey details, but made them chunkier.

Archway in UE4

Archway in 3Ds Max

During these past two weeks, I also made some of the tiling materials for the walls. These were made completely with Substance Designer. To choose which materials I would make, I got many pictures of older New York buildings, and had a stroll on Google Street view. I noticed most of the older buildings facades were made of limestone, but also red brick and cream brick. Our main building (the one with the Atlas on top) has a limestone facade on the ground floor, and cream bricks on the rest. I kept the materials pretty clean so they will not be very obviously tiling, and intend on adding variation with decals.

Limestone references

Buildings with limestone facades

I already made two versions of limestone in order to vertex paint it, and a brick mask that will be used on top of the original material

Limestone material 1

Limestone material 2

Limestone material with brick normals, AO and height

Cream bricks reference

Cream bricks material

Red brick references

 Red brick material

One thing I noticed on the reference images is that New York has a very boring and ugly pavement, made of very large concrete slabs. But we are not necessarily making New York, just getting inspired by it. So we decided it would be nice to add some jazz to it. We are going to have part of the pavement being plain slabs, and a part of it having a subtle Art Deco pattern.

Pavement references

Plain Pavement Material

Art Deco pavement material

Pavement in UE4

The building generator Sophie is making is getting really nice! I cannot wait to use it and fill the scene with buildings, but it still not ready. So the scene still looks like an early blockout. This is how it is at at the moment:

Final Major Project - Week 2 and 3

Work In Progress / 27 January 2020

I'm writing the post for week 2 and 3 together because we spent some time this week fixing our portfolios, writing CVS and cover letters, applying for jobs and having an interview. The project is a little late but I think we can recover.

I finished modelling the base modular kit for the buildings. This is sufficient for Sophie to continue testing the building generator she is creating. This kit is still missing balcony pieces and maybe a roof variation piece (still have not decided). This is what the kit is looking like right now:

Modular kit

Modular kit detail 1

Modular kit detail 2

We decided to have 90° and 45° angles for the corners of the buildings, as there is probably not going to be enough time for Sophie to work out another way of doing it (she has quite a lot on her list). Modelling the 45° angles was very tricky, especially for more complicated pieces like the roof separation. It may seem like using symmetry instantly solves all problems, but it does not. To know where to place the symmetry mirror, and make sure the pivot is in the right place (so the generator can place it correctly and aligned with other pieces), I had to use a whole bunch of maths I had not touched since middle school (and I am a mature student, so that was something like 13 years ago). Fortunately, there is a triangle calculator that was very helpful, suggested by Sophie. I will not bore you with the details of how the 45° pieces came to be, but they took a long time to get sorted.

On top of that, we also had to change the pivot points of all the pieces once, and rename all of them a couple of times, but I think now we're on track.

Every little variation created to, well, add variation to the scene, was a new can of worms to solve. This has also delayed the creating of the kit quite a bit. I am constantly bringing the pieces into Unreal Engine to test them, and that is when I catch most problems. For instance, the Ground Floor pieces are taller than the mid building pieces. So corner pieces and pillars had to be made especially for the ground floor. One of the ground floor varieties include a "skirting board" (not really, it's more of a concrete detailing, anyway). This meant I had to now make pillars and corner pieces for that variation (a plain 90° corner piece, a decorated 90° corner piece, a plain 45° corner piece, a decorated 45° corner piece, a plain pillar, a decorated pillar, and a plain wall. For this reason we will probably not add any more variation to the geometry, and try to differentiate the buildings with materials, pillar placing, and decorated pieces.

Pieces and corners that were too short for the ground floor

Pieces without skirting not matching

I got a bit bored from modelling and decided to start with the materials for the scene. The first one I chose was asphalt. Here are my references (however I also looked out the window at the road by the university building):

Asphalt reference

We decided to make 3 asphalt variations, and later on we will use a splat map to distribute it around the floor plane. This shader might become more complicated later on, as we intend on adding puddles of water to it. I made the materials quite pristine, without cracks, as to not tile too much. I will add cracks as decals later on. We will also have a macro roughness on top of the smaller tiling roughness, to add more roughness variation.  I used a tutorial as a base for the material, but I have changed it quite a bit, eliminating the cracks and stains from the original to avoid tiling issues.

Graph with all 3 variations

Variation 1

Variation 2

Variation 3

On week 3 I also spent a long time researching existing buildings in New York and the material on the facades. I went into Google Street view for screenshots, and also read many articles about famous New York buildings. After that I plan on making the following materials for building facades: red brick, cream brick, plain limestone, limestone bricks, limestone squares and limestone stripes (the plain limestone will be the base for all other limestone materials, how these are going to be constructed is still uncertain as we have a few options to consider).

Final Major Project - Week 1

General / 13 January 2020

Week one started with the hand in of the previous project, plus a couple os days preparing CV, portfolio and applying to some jobs, so it was not particularly productive towards the FMP. We ended up only working 2.5 days on it. This is the chosen concept art we'll base the project on, made by Eddie Mendoza:

I am making my FMP with technical artist Sophie Pette, and because it is a group project we started by organising a Trello board with a break down of tasks so we know we are on the same page.

Next we gathered references. We can see the concept was heavily inspired by New Work buildings so we gathered both current photos of buildings and 1950's images of the city:


We also looked into the Chicago train tracks for inspiration and reference:

We have also set up PerForce so we can both work on the project at the same time.

I have started the blockout but it is not ready yet. I needed a break from it and went to do some of the modular pieces.

We are not actually modelling the cars, however I am using them for reference on the scale of the city. It is particularly challenging to understand the scale without windows, doors, people, etc. So I will use some of the modular pieces I am making to keep blocking out.

One of the challenges we know we will bump into is the fact that the original concept looks like a busy city, with all its people and vehicles. We don't have a character or vehicle artist, nor do we have time to model those things, so the city will be empty. We decided to embrace that and we are working on a narrative that will explain why the city doesn't have anyone in it. More details to come later.

Garage - Week 5

General / 06 January 2020

In week 5 I finished some small props and textured the oil drum and tires, as well as finishing baking and adding texture to the tool box. This was done in Substance Painter and Photoshop for the labels. I tried to loosely recreate some vintage labels I found online with free fonts downloaded from DaFont and 1001Fonts.

I used some posters and metal signs found on the internet to give the place a little life. All of them were brought into Substance Painter where they were altered to give them ageing marks, and roughness and metal information. 

The poster about safe winter driving was taken from this website, and the Goodyear metal sign was taken from this website.

The Goodyear sign in this picture was taken from this website. The pin up was taken from this website

To give the place some atmosphere, I have made god rays with the same technique used in the Captain's Cabin, but I made a new texture for it with animated "smoke" and particles. On top of that I added some particle effects that were made mashing together these 2 tutorials: 

The scene was still lacking the sci fi element the brief demanded. I made a sci fi wheel with glowing emissives and cables and placed them on the workbench. For the glowing emissive and light, I made a blueprint and followed and altered the following tutorials: 

This is what my own light function and pulsing emissive material look like:

Light function

Pulsing emissive material

The sci fi wheels where based on this concept by Jomar Machado (but I changed it a bit):

This is the final outcome:

For the cables I used splines utilising the same method I did for the fairy lights on my previous project, and just changed the colour within Unreal Engine by multiplying a colour by the albedo. The cables helped to fill the scene and make the sci fi wheels look more sci fi.

I have also added some decals to make the scene dirtier:

The stain decals were made in Substance Painter with a range of the software's own brushes and alphas. The tire marks were initially made in 3Ds Max with the geometry I used to make the highpoly tires. I copied it over many times, then used the bend  modifier to make it less straight. I then proceeded to bake maps within 3Ds Max, and used them in Substance Painter to finalise the decal.

I also wanted to make a video to present my environment, and followed this great tutorial in order to do so: 

I made the video into a gif using 

The final main render:

  And gifs of the process:


Garage - Week 4

Work In Progress / 10 December 2019

I made more materials for the garage, starting with metal:

Metal material

Next I made cast iron:

Cast Iron material 


And for the floor, I made 2 variations of concrete (to vertex paint), damaged and undamaged:

Damaged Concrete material

Undamaged Concrete Material


For the formative hand in last week, since I was very late with everything, I just applied a world aligned material to most things that had not been textured yet. This week I will be baking and texturing any remaining props.

The scene was still looking very empty (it was also missing a car, but that was a problem for later). I asked my peers for advice and my colleague Ashley Brocklebank, who is a concept artist, was extremely helpful. He suggested getting some mid size props to fill the space, which resulted in modelling oil drums and tires, then scattering them around the scene. They really helped to fill the environment:

Environment as it was at the time of formative the hand in

I finally finished texturing the hero prop, which felt like a brief of its own. I used this prop to learn more about texturing in Substance Painter. I had not used smart masks before, and had a shallow understanding of generators and using the baked masks in fill layers to get different effects. For this prop I used a little bit of everything and made sure to avoid destructive workflows as much as possible. To match it to the original piece, I had to make all logos and written and drawn bits on Photoshop (except for the bottom one in the body, I was able to find a great image of it online which only needed some warping to work. I also changed it in Substance Painter by adding grime and dust). The prop is missing some buttons and wheels, because I will use the same meshes across it to save on texture space.

Final texture in Substance Painter

Final texture in Substance Painter

Final texture in Substance Painter

Final texture in Substance Painter

Final texture in Substance Painter

This is what it looks like in Unreal Engine for now. I definitely need to improve the lighting to show it off better:

The prop in Unreal Engine

The prop in Unreal Engine

The prop in Unreal Engine

This week I finally sort of finished the car, enough to throw a blanked on top of it. The base cloth was made in Marvelous Designer, then brought into Zbrush to add some more detailing, like random smaller creases. For this I used the free Poliigon fabric brushes, which saved me a lot of time. I then baked the fabric with Marmoset and brought it into the scene. It still needs to be properly textured, and is currently on the list with all the other things that need texturing.

Fabric in Marvelous Designer

Fabric in Marvelous Designer

Fabric in Zbrush

Fabric in Zbrush

For now, this is how the fabric looks like in Unreal Engine (it is still awaiting textures other than the normal map):

Unfinished fabric in Unreal Engine

Unfinished fabric in Unreal Engine

Unfinished fabric in Unreal Engine

Garage - Week 3

General / 03 December 2019

Modelling and baking the hero asset took 4 days as it was much more complicated than I expected. It is finally done and I am currently texturing it.

Since this project doesn't have a texture budget, I decided to bake most props from highpoly models to showcase my baking abilities. Unfortunately this greatly increased my modelling and texturing time, which means I still do not have many props done. Also garages are messy and require a lot of meshes to look full, especially because this particular one has to be big to accommodate a Cadillac (a car which is 5m long!). These are some of the props I have been working on:

I took a break from modelling to make some materials. I started with the corrugated metal for the ceiling:

(Reference )

The next one was a plastered but not finished wall:


Lastly I made some raw wood for the beams:


Today I started working a little bit on the lighting for the scene. This is the reference I could gather for it:

At the moment it looks like this (but it is not finished by any means):

I would like to make the shadows on the opposite wall to look softer and less defined. This is still very much under construction. Bringing the light angle on the directional light up smooths the outside of the shadow, but not the individual "blades". I'll be experimenting with that this week.

1950's Garage - Week 1

Work In Progress / 25 November 2019

This week I started the last 3 weeks project before FMP. The brief is 1950's Americana, and I decided to make a garage with a Cadillac inside.

This is my initial moodboard:

This week I have been modelling the building and started modelling the props. Today I had a try at modelling the car which is extremely challenging for me, as the car I chose is fairly complex and strip modelling is definitely not my forte. If it turns out I can't make the car well enough, I plan to have a fabric on top of it, as a car that is being worked on in the garage.

To make it look like a 1950's garage, I want to have some period props such as a fridge, posters with 1950's advertising and this really cool engine tester:

For the mood, I want to play with lighting coming through blinds at the end of the day. I want the scene to be a little moody, so I am also intending on adding a lamp on the workshop table.

As I'm not a vehicle artist and having such short time for this project, I'm planning on making a rough Cadillac shape and then cover it with a canvas fabric, like a car that is being worked on. I'm aware I probably won't be able to finish the car in a good standard. I think the canvas fabric will also add narrative; working on this car is a half abandoned project and the garage is not frequently used. I want to make a Cadillac 1959 Eldorado Biarritz. This is my reference:

I was lucky to find orthographic views for it, and a 3D model with wireframe. I also asked my colleague and vehicle artist Max Ramsey for advice on how to approach it.

By the end of the first week I still don't have much on my scene. The car is only half started because I decided to prioritise other props I know I can deliver to a higher standard. The car will be more of a stretch goal. This is what I have at the moment: