After creating the scene in Autodesk’s Maya, I was very excited to start delving into the impressive and sophisticated program of Epic’s Unreal Development Kit to light my scene and truly make it come alive.
Welcome to the second article in the three part series of Experiences with Environments. In this article, I will discuss my process for importing my assets, creating materials for those assets, lighting, and post-processing techniques.
The first task was to create the same composition in UDK that I had in Maya. I exported my meshes as .fbx files and imported them into the Content Browser of UDK. I inserted the same meshes and then added a couple of wires to add a little more realism to the scene. I then dragged the meshes from the content browser onto the scene to create the visual below:
Next, I needed to create materials to imitate the same effects that were made in the mental ray render in Maya, as shown at the beginning of this article. I first created simple materials that implemented basic textures such as diffuse, normals, spec and emission. Next, I created a Render2DTexture and a RenderCaptureCameraPlane. A RenderCaptureCameraPlane takes a picture of the scene from the position and rotation that it is in. The Render2DTexture takes the picture made by the RenderCaptureCameraPlane and puts it into the texture. This texture is now used in creating materials, such as the Reflection Material shown below:
This material takes the Render2DTexture, creates UVs from the Screen Position, otherwise known as the character camera. Then, it multiplies the texture by any number to implement how reflective the texture should be. I then added it to the Diffuse texture, and plugged it into the diffuse slot.
This creates a reflective texture that truly adds a nice pop onto any scene. Next, I wanted to create a material that makes the emissive textures of the material blink, shown in the material below:
If you thought your brain was hurting before, get ready for this section.
Starting from the right, I multiplied time by any number. This product is then entered into the Sin wave. This controls how quickly the material blinks. The Sin wave then enters a Clamp. The Clamp controls the minimum and maximum values of the number that is entered into it. For this material, a minimum and maximum number are needed to show how bright the material gets when it is at the top of the Sin wave and how dull the texture is at the bottom. It enters into a parameter where it is only run when it is active. It is multiplied by any number to show how bright the whole texture should be and placed into the Emissive part of the material.
Note: When multiplying by any number, in the blinking or reflective material, adjust the number until it fits the visual feel you are expecting out of your scene.
After I finished my materials, the next step was lighting the scene. I wanted to create a stronger presence in the scene than was show in the concept picture. I look at some of Visceral Game’s Dead Space concept pictures to draw inspiration from. The first light pass is shown below:
The scene is still too dark. The colors are not popping the way I wanted them to, but I did not know where to put the next couple lights. Therefore, I took a screenshot of the scene, took it into Adobe’s Photoshop, and painted where I wanted the light. I came up with the picture below:
The light pass in Photoshop added the pop I wanted, so I translated the same values from the picture into the scene shown below:
I was happy with the second light pass, and so I decided to begin Post-Processing. Post-Processing is a chain of events that occurs while the camera is looking at the scene. I first created a Chromatic Aberration material to overlay the screen. This creates a distortion on the edges of shadows and lights with a specific color (in this material, it was a shade of red). This helps create a better distinction of the different light values.
Next, I added ambient occlusion and bloom to the scene. Ambient occlusion is the small shadow that is seen when one object intersects with another. Without this effect, some object might appear to be floating and do not belong in the scene. Bloom occurs when a light source is really bright and there is a glow that surrounds the light.
And finally, I created a Color Correction 3D Lookup Table to overlay the scene. I took a screenshot of the scene thus far and entered it into Photoshop. I imported a default Lookup Table to the bottom-right of the picture and I made corrections to the scene using only adjustment layers. I then exported the Lookup Table (importing it as a Lookup Table) to UDK and entered it into the Color Correction parameter.
Note: Painting anything onto the scene will not be included in the Lookup Table. The adjustment layers affect every layer in the scene, meaning also the Lookup Table. Painting only affects one layer and can cause unreliable results.
Combining all of these different parts, I created the scene below:
The UDK scene looks very different than the Maya scene, but I believe it transferred very well and I was happy with the outcome.
The final article of Experiences with Environments will go over the same process that is in this article but into Unity 3D.
Thanks you for reading and if you have any questions regarding anything covered in the article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
James Watson is a student in the VFS Game Design program