Setting Up Dark Underground Passage in Unreal Engine 5.2

Daniel Chira has told us about the working process behind the Underground Passage Remastered project, explained how he set up the initial composition, discussed asset creation workflow, and shared how he managed to achieve the realistic camera shake.

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Hello! I’m Daniel, a 26-year-old Level Artist from Romania, currently open for contracts. I think I always had a curiosity for 3D art especially when I was a kid and amazed by Pixar animated films, I was questioning how they managed to make them.

In 2018 I downloaded Blender, and I was constantly watching tutorials specializing in modeling first and then trying different areas such as sculpting, props, and characters. In 2021, I got my first powerful PC just after I came across Joe Garth’s YouTube channel where he explained how he made the entire Rebirth scene in Unreal Engine. That was the moment I knew that Level Art was my path.

Since then, I have been involved in cinematic projects, and I attended a few video game studios, the most recent one being Room 8 Studio where I had the amazing opportunity to work on Call of Duty.

The Second Version of the Underground Passage Scene

I immediately felt inspired when I saw the trailer for the upcoming game called Unrecord. I recognized some of the assets and decals from Quixel Megascans and Epic Games Marketplace content and decided to make something similar. That’s where I got the idea for the POV bodycam running.

I could have just made a completely different scene, but I decided that a remake of one of the existing projects would better show the skills and experience I accumulated over a year being part of Room 8 Studio.

Planning the Initial Composition

The main reference for the first version of the project was the train station underground passage located in Predeal, Romania (which is very close to where the Wednesday show was filmed). I planned the block out and modeled the walls in Blender, focusing on having the long hall and the stairs entrances. I thought that having the chainlink forbidden area would bring a nice contrast between the outside light and the colored insight light.

Asset Creation

The assets that I used were imported from Quixel Megascans and I had some packs from Epic Games Marketplace, but some of them needed a bit of tweaking. To fasten the workflow, I set the position to 0 on all axes for the wall structure in both Blender and Unreal Engine.

For example, the chainlink fence needed to be resized and adjusted so I imported it into Blender. After the edit, I set the pivot point to WorldCenter and imported the mesh into Unreal Engine. I set its position to 0 and the mesh went to the correct place. I believe there is a live link feature between the apps, but I got used to this procedure and I just hit reimport whenever I’m making changes to the mesh.

Assembling the Final Scene

I built everything as a level, established the angles of the cameras, and added more details to fill the shots. The remastered version of the project is designed more as it would be a map for a shooting game, having a few cover spaces, a lot of crates, and possible military equipment.

I was paying attention to the areas that could compromise the realism, so I masked spaces and corners with photoscanned assets. Decals were a big factor as also in the Unrecord game, so I put as much graffiti as I could.

For the static cameras, I used a 12 mm lens to capture most of the scene.

Lighting and Rendering

The scene was completely rendered in Unreal Engine using Movie Render Queue. For lighting, I used the Ultra Dynamic Sky pack and didn’t touch the settings except for the cloud coverage as I needed more of an overcast atmosphere.
I used a PostProcessVolume with a few color settings and Chromatic Aberration intensity set to 1 and offset to 0.5.

Making the Realistic Camera Shake

I thought that movement would bring more realism to the scene, and I was trying to depict that the protagonist was chased. I needed a first-person perspective, but the trick was to start the project as a third-person game.

In the third-person blueprint, I attached the FollowCamera to the Mesh and then set its parent socket to Head. I aligned the FollowCamera to the head and hit Compile. The next thing was to be able to look up, down, and sideways and for that, I used this tutorial.

The next thing was to be able to record and render the player's perspective, but I needed a camera track into the sequencer. Here comes the Take Recorder plugin. I set the sequencer and hit play, but just before I clicked on the viewport and start running around, in the Take Recorder panel, I set the source to BP_ThirdPersonCharacter0. This way I was able to record into the sequencer what I was seeing in the viewport.

Main Challenges

One of the challenges was keeping every idea that I had in the final render. As an artist, you are not always also a developer, and you intend to uncheck some of the aspects of the projects because of a lack of expertise.

My advice is to establish a good workflow, take everything step by step and there are plenty of tutorials you can follow on the spot. For example, you just finished assembling a level, and you need to animate some characters for a showreel. You don’t need to study every aspect of rigging and animation; you can learn what you need for your project, and I think that is a good way to add to your skills.

Daniel Chira, Level Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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