Remy Vignaud has shared the workflow behind The Old Sanctuary project, talked about creating assets in ZBrush and Substance 3D Painter, and discussed the lighting setup in Unreal Engine 5.
Hi, My name is Rémy Vignaud. I am an Environment and Props Artist. I started my studies in 2005 at the Studio M school in France. After graduating, I started my career as a freelancer, mainly in advertising and architecture. A few years later, I decided to turn to animated feature movies and joined the TAT Productions team. I worked there for five years and I have taken part in the environment modeling on the movies released at the cinema: “The Jungle Bunch” in 2017, “Terra Willy” in 2019, “Pils” in 2021, and “Argonautes” as Technical Lead Environment Modeler.
The Old Sanctuary Project
I have always been interested in the discovery of game industry workflows. So, I started The Old Sanctuary project by wondering what the differences were between animated feature films and video games. I read as many articles as I could and decided to explore the modular technique with Unreal Engine 5.
So the idea I found was to create an old temple based on the Khmer culture, lost in a natural garden. I did not sketch a concept art, I wanted to let my inspiration feel free for this project. But starting an environment from scratch is a difficult task. To help me to stay focused on my original idea, I used PureRef and saved a few images I found on ArtStation and Pinterest.
Generating the Landscape
Even a small environment takes time so my main goal was to work with a minimum of assets. I started the landscape by sculpting some big rocks in ZBrush. I decimated them and migrated into Unreal to check if the shapes worked fine together. I then selected the best rocks and textured them.
The next step was to play with the shapes to combine them into the level.
Creating the Temple
The temple was the most time-consuming part of this project. It had to be the major piece. And with the idea of being destroyed by age, I needed to find a way to control each part of it. But aside from the number of assets, I used the same process as creating the rocks. So I started by sculpting some pieces of brick in ZBrush and importing them into Unreal. When the shapes were good, I textured them in Substance 3D Painter.
To create the structure, I mainly used the rotations and the scales to create the first door. I repeated the same process to create a wall, deleted some pieces, and duplicated this one to create a side. When the building was finished, I moved, added, or deleted some pieces to improve the feeling of destruction.
The last step was to add an old dirty feel with some decals found on Megascans.
Scattering the vegetation and seeing the project come to life is for me one of the most exciting parts. In this project, I did not make the vegetation myself. I used the Megascans library and selected a few tropical plants. The assets were already set up correctly and I just tweaked the settings like the color or the saturation. This library is really helpful for saving time on a personal project. I really recommend using it.
Substance 3D Designer is the last software I added to my workflow. I started to learn it at the same time I was creating The Old Sanctuary. Now, I understand the basics but still need to practice to be efficient.
For the scene, I created two types of procedural materials. The first was for the rocks. I started by following Daniel Thiger’s tutorial Rock Creation Techniques, tweaked the graph, changed some parameters to customize the material, and exported the SBSAR into SP. The second Substance graph was for the ground. It was simpler, I mixed a few clouds connected with slope blurs to get a basic clay ground.
For the temple, the textures were painted directly in Substance 3D Painter. As I said before, it was created with multiple pieces of brick combined in Unreal. Each piece was individually sculpted, so I textured them in the same way. The idea was to create the main material and save it as a smart material. This way, I could drag and drop the same base material into each piece. This technique works well if the texel density is the same for all the UVs.
Assembling the Scene
The level design has been established to create an environment where nature has taken over. The temple also played a big part in the storytelling. So to make this interesting, I created the level into three main areas.
The first and the most important was the foreground, around the temple. Here, the vegetation was manually placed on the ground. It was the best way to control the position and the natural aspect between the different plants. The middle ground was the transition to enlarge the landscape and enhance the sense of natural chaos. Here, I used the foliage tool to scatter the vegetation. It is an essential tool for making large scene foliage because all the assets selected are instances. And finally, the last area is the background to add maximum depth to the landscape.
Rendering and Lighting
All the shots were made with the Master Sequencer. Each object in the scene can be moved or customized as needed. In my case, where there were a lot of cameras, it was really helpful to select an object and hide it on a specific camera. It is a powerful tool but I recommend enabling the Movie Render Queue plug-in to export the output of the images. The Depth of Field and the Motion Blur will be exported with better quality.
The benefit was also to change the lighting intensity or orientations without affecting the other cameras. So in addition to the dynamic lighting system, It is just so efficient!
About my lighting setup, I configured the project settings to activate Lumen and added these basic elements:
- Direct Light
- Exponential Height Fog
- Volumetric Cloud
- Sky Atmospheric
And I added a Post-Process Volume to control the exposure settings.
So to conclude, this beta of Unreal Engine is already ready to use for the artists. The workflow with the other software works well. The version is quite stable, I did not have any crashes or big problems during this project. And the new interface is gladly welcome. But the most benefit of this version for me was Lumen. Working with dynamic lights in real-time is just awesome!
In conclusion, I would like to thank Arti Sergeev and Kirill Tokarev, without them this article would not exist. I hope you find something helpful here and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this article. And many thanks to 80 Level for publishing my art.
Follow me on my social networks here.
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