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).

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

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:

Conservatory - Week 4, Day 1

Work In Progress / 11 November 2019

I started this week by making fairy lights for the scene. I wanted to make the scene warmer and cosier and thought fairy lights would do the trick :) This is the reference for them:

For the cable I made a simple mesh that uses a small normal map for the twisting, and used a spline to add it to the scene. The mesh itself is only 2cm in height and has 72 tris. I followed this tutorial to make the spline mesh. This is what the blue print looks like:

And these are the fairy lights in the scene:

For the fairy lights glass I followed this tutorial that my friend Josiah suggested. The inside is made of 2 planes with a masked emissive texture.

I also made a couple of materials and textures today. The first one was a cardboard material:

This is the reference I used:

I used this cardboard to texture this box, and made the sides different because of the way I placed them in the scene. Since the viewer will never see the boxes from more than 2 sides, I could use the same prop from different angles in order to create the impression that I have more than 1 prop:

The second material was Soil:

  This is what the scene is currently looking like:


There are some light artifacts that disappear once I bake the lighting in production rather than preview, but since I have been adding new items I have not built the light in production for a little while.

Conservatory - Week 3, Day 4

Work In Progress / 07 November 2019

This week I have been working on some extra materials and meshes. Following my new blockout, I made a chest of drawers and a cabinet with shelves. This was my reference, I couldn't find anything exactly like I wanted for the cabinet but I used these measurements as a base:

The first material I made this week was wood, which I decided would be pine.

This is my reference:

And this is my material in its varnished form and painted form, plus a variation for vertex painting.

I used the painted wood material on the cabinet and chest of drawers, and vertex painted between them. I am planing on making some edge decals for them too, to have more controlled wear and tear. I have not tried edge decals yet so that will be something new to learn with this project:

Last week everything was too saturated and red and I was not liking it. That lead to the decision of making some of the walls white plaster instead of brick. I still kept half of the back wall as brick. Talking to my peers it was pointed out that the brick wall was distracting the eye from some nice details like the garden chair, providing a background that was too noisy. I still wanted some interest on the wall, so I made a textured plaster based on this reference:

I made the decision of keeping this material very simple, as I did not intend on making a variation of it for vertex painting and I did not want to have tiling problems. I might add some humidity decals to it later on.

Another material I made was a simple fabric material in a neutral colour so I could play around with colour multipliers within Unreal Engine, to better assess which colour would look better. I also kept this one very simple, as I intend on using it as a tiling material on the duvet, pillow and mattress sheets, but I also want to use a baked normal on these assets.

The final materials I made this week were terracotta variations. I want to make a trim sheet of terracottas and have my plant pots changing between them randomly when placed in the scene. This is my reference:

And these are the materials:

The last subject for now was lighting. I really needed to bake it to see how the environment could look like. I want an overcast day, perfect to stay home reading a book and drinking some hot beverage. For this reason I am not using a Directional Light, and instead I am relying on my Skylight as the main light source of my scene. The HDR used on the sky and on the Skylight is this one from HDRI Haven. Another issue I encountered was having seams in the light bake where my modular pieces met. To solve this I changed the Lightmass settings a little bit:

I know lots of people associate overcast days with sad days, but I wanted to make it a little magical. I wanted to test and see how fairy lights would look like in the scene, baking the light from the emissive texture. I just scattered some spheres around for testing, and I think I will go ahead with the fairy lights but I am still to model them. This is what the scene looks like today:

The light is still baked on preview as I am adding more things to the scene. I tested baking it on production to see if the artefacts in the bake would disappear and they have :) but forgot to take screenshots :( The duvet on the bed is still under construction, I will post updates about it soon.

Conservatory - Week 2, Day 5

Work In Progress / 03 November 2019

Yesterday I spent quite a lot of time making an ivy leaf material with  some shape and colour variations. 

I made the shape of the ivy by combining shape nodes and passing it through slope blur, then using Histogram Scan to get crisp edges. 

I then used lines and bevel, then mirror and warp nodes to create a wavy effect that was blended on the leaf shape. I also used cells to add small bumps to the leaf.

I used bevelled  cells again to get the big shapes for the leaf.

I used my own photos as reference:

The fern leaf material needed some tweaking as it looked too clean. I used the smooth curvature node (with some level passes) to make parts of the leaf older and yellow, and added some yellow spots (I have this plant at home and it often gets these spots if not watered enough).

I also made the fern plant and the Chinese evergreen plants with the leaf material from the day before. Here is how the look like in Engine:

Today I decided  to go back to my floor tiles material as I did not think the colours reflected my reference pictures. I also made it a little more distressed looking by using a mixture of sharp and soft noises, using Fill to Random as a mask to distribute them and warping them with Fill to Texture.

I also applied parallax occlusion on them, but kept it sutil. I used Unreal Engine's documentation as a guide to implement the parallax into my master material, that now has a POM Switch.

Here is a comparison of what it looked like before and after the tweaking:

I also felt like the room didn't look cosy enough, as there was too much space unfilled. I decided to block out some more furniture and mess in it with simple blocks in Unreal Engine. I think the extra mess will really add more to the feeling that someone is living in this conservatory.

Conservatory - Week 2, Day 3 - Leaf Materials

Work In Progress / 30 October 2019

Today I have been making a leaf material that I hope will be easy to change into other types of plants. I was looking into this tutorial for it, but I changed it quite considerably. I made 2 main colour variations, and further variations for different leaves on the same plant. I re used part of the graph for a different type of leaf. In the future I might turn this into a leaf generator.

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen

Bird's Nest Fern

Bird's Nest Fern

The graph looks like this so far:

Here is some of the reference I used. Some of these pictures are my own:

I still have some more leaf types to make. I want to make an ivy, a rubber plant (I might use pictures I took of my own plant to make the textures for this one) and some other type of fern like Eagle Fern or Lady fern.

Conservatory - Week 1, Day 3

Work In Progress / 23 October 2019

I wasted one day changing my mind about what I wanted to do for this project, but today I went back to the original idea. As this environment is full of windows and windows use a lot of tris, I decided to make a modular kit for it:

  This is how it is looking in Unreal Engine at the moment:

Tomorrow I will start modelling the individual props.

Conservatory - Week 1, Day 1

Work In Progress / 21 October 2019

For the next project brief for university I have chosen the "Behind the Door" brief. It is about a sci fi door and what you would find behind it. I decided my door is a time machine door.

The story behind it that of the scientist that created it. They created the time machine in a world that has been almost wiped off by some sort of apocalypse. The scientist uses this machine to go to their favourite place pre apocalypse, when they used to live in a conservatory/potting shed surrounded by plants. At the time the scientist was a student, still learning the things that would bring them to create a time machine in the future.

This is my main moodboard (which will grow soon with smaller props and details):

I made a rough plan for the room:

 Following this morning's lesson on organisation and using Trello, I thought I would give it a try:


I am enjoying using Trello very much, I used to make Excel files for my projects but this seems much easier to use :)

I am also considering the possibility of making my environment modular, just because I would like to experiment with modular kits.