Quiet Tuscan Street (WIP)

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JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
Hello everyone. I'm James, a long time follower, first time poster. I have decided to post the progress of a portfolio project I am working on in an attempt to keep myself motivated and focussed. 
I am creating a Street scene in Unreal 4 inspired by some paintings of Italian towns I found online. I like the vibrant colors and the abundance plant life in those paintings, and I want to capture that feel. I would post an image of one of my inspiration images, but I'm not sure what kind of copyright laws it has, I think some of the images are from jigsaw puzzles actually.

So far I have a concept sketch and a block-out completed. The block out is made with BSP's in unreal with some temporary lighting. The two far buildings ended up a lot closer looking with the focal length I chose in unreal, (about 45mm. I know that's not a real world lens option) but I like it better that way.





I am open to critiques, tips and tutorial links. I Part of the goal of this project is to become more comfortable with Unreal and Substance designer, and to learn more about them. I will post an update every week (give or take a day) if anyone wants to follow along.

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  • Alex Javor
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    Quiet Tuscan town has to have a fountain with a statue in the square back there. Both of these photos are from a small town in southern Italy (not tuscany but it looks the same anyway), I can't remember the name. Montescaglioso or something like that. Unfortunately I don't have good photo's of the streets, just this square, but in general the streets are quite narrow and oftentimes uneven as these towns are usually built on hills and the roads were not originally designed for cars. 

    So all that said, I think closing in your buildings and perhaps adding some unevenness to the road and perhaps even a bit of windiness would give a little more of an authentic feel. 




    not in town square, but lots of statues like this exist there. being situated on hills, its possible to find lots of nice panoramic photo opportunities with nice sunsets. Something you consider incorporating


    (last image isn't my own, from google search. This shows the typical breadth of many roads. Also, in summer time everybody puts flowers out and it's veyr beautiful)
    Image result for tuscan street
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    Yah, Bigtimemaster, that last image you posted is the kind of thing I am going for. I love the green and flowers contrasting the stone and stucco. You're right about making the street more uneven. I will definitely need to do that.

    I like the statue fountain idea, but I already have a lot of work ahead of me for everything I want to do. I may add a centerpiece like that when I get closer to finishing the scene. Maybe just the fountain. The human form is not a strongpoint for me as an artist.

    Thank you for the ideas.  :)
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    This week I felt like working on some tiling textures. So far I've made 3 different stone materials and a couple of stucco materials in Substance Designer.


    For the stone materials, I built in the ability to change the level of weathering and age as exposed parameters. The plan is to instance them into other materials (such as brick, cobble stone, and stone tiles,) and use 'flood fill random color' to create some brick masks. Then I can use different instances of my stone materials, set at different age and weathering levels, to get a varied and hopefully natural look. 


    For the the stucco materials I am planing on blending them with the brick in Unreal using vertex painting. I will also replace the damaged stucco behind the cracks and openings with brick.


    I am not sure if I have these materials quite right though. I thing I might tone down the red color in the second stone. I was going for kind of a red pumice look for the aged version. It looked cooler while I was making it. Let me know what you all think.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I worked on the sandstone texture this week and got it to a place I like it more. I also created a texture that I can use as stone, concrete, or mortar.  

    Then I started building up brick and cobble stone textures. This is my first pass. Not at a place I like them yet. I am trying to learn how create things fully in substance designer. I will need to look up some tutorials on how to build up organic and realistic shapes.

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I've been having trouble finding time to work on this project lately, but I did manage to watch some substance designer tutorials and update one of my brick textures. Next I will apply what I learned to the other textures and start getting things into Unreal.


  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I took a closer look at my reference and decided to work on my brick texture more. I have also started replacing the BSP blocks Unreal with static meshes.  




  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    Sorry I didn't post an update last week (for anyone following along). I spent most of my free time looking up tutorials and working with UV's so I didn't have much to show in an update. This week I managed to make some progress. I made a new cobble stone texture with sand and moss to blend in, in engine. However all three are hard to see from the screenshot camera angle. I also updated my stucco texture. The images inside the windows are temporary.






  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I took a little time off after the last update then I started working on a floor tile texture. I have also been playing around with different ways of building and UV-ing the roof in a way that can easily be duplicated across all of the buildings, without looking like is has been duplicated a bunch of times.

    https://static.wixstatic.com/media/9b71e8_6a7cb5c0a3774880bada4e490cb8c4d2~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_600,h_363,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/9b71e8_6a7cb5c0a3774880bada4e490cb8c4d2~mv2.webp

    (I am not sure how this URL linked image is going to look. The image upload button and attach file button don't seem to work this week.)
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    It has been a while since the last update. I have been making progress, but I keep forgetting to post anything. Since last time, I have created some new textures in Substance Designer and started detailing the buildings. I still have a long way to go, but little by little, I'll get there. 




  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    In substance designer I created a fully modular wood grain texture with exposed parameters so I could change the look quickly and easily. I then referenced it in three wood materials, a floor, ceiling, and a weathered trim with 3 color variants. Then I started building doors windows an shutters.  




  • Carabiner
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    Carabiner polycounter lvl 5
    Materials are looking very nice, good work!
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    Thank you @Carabiner. I am having a lot of fun making the materials. Climbing up Substance Designer's learning curve was well worth the effort.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I keep forgetting to post updates, but I have been making progress. I finished modeling the buildings, and continued working on smaller assets and decorations. I also made some textures in Substance Painter, like wrought iron alpha, assorted metals, table cloth, and curtains. Next I want to put all of the stuff I've made into the level, but first I unfortunately have to start building the level over from scratch again. A while back, my old laptop kicked the bucket, and I had to replace it. Luckily I had back-ups of everything. At least everything except the Unreal map file. Oh well, little by little, I will eventually finish this thing.  

     

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    I found some GDC talks by Epic Games guys and I have been working on the lighting in my scene. It takes a long time to bake, but the scene is starting to look less horrible. I might bump up the sky light intensity though, and play with the indirect lighting settings some more. Next I will flush out more of the background buildings, do some vertex painting, and start working on plant life.

    Also, something seems off about the cobble stone. Does any one have any thoughts on how to make make the cobble stone look better? I am open to Critiques and tips.



  • Alex Javor
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    Hey nice progress.

    I think the road looks a bit too muddy. Kind of medieval. Maybe just tweaking the textures could alleviate that. Make the mud part more rough and give more luminosity and color to the cobbled stones. I think you are going for a just-rained look? Maybe a tighter pattern of stones with less mud inbetween would be better in that case. Just because so much mud really darkens the scene and makes it seem medieval.

    I think a touch more color variation from building textures -- or maybe tweak the post process -- could help get rid of the drabness that makes the overall scene feel a bit glum. Perhaps raising the ceiling on your sky could help a bit too. Everything seems to feel a bit compressed and moody to me.

    Here is some photos I took years ago in and around Matera. That's not in Tuscany but it looks similar anyway. This was a sunny day obviously but just notice the subtle but distinct variation of colors.



    Fun fact, Matera is where Mel Gibson filmed Passion of the Christ as it has a very ancient look similar to old Jerusalem. Up until the '50's iirc the city was extremely poor and people still lived in literal cave's along the outskirts of the city.




  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    @Alex Javor, Thanks for the advice I'll definitely add some color variation to the buildings. Also when I was making the cobble stone texture, I was going for stones set in concrete, but you're right, it comes across looking a lot more like mud. Looking back on my main texture reference image (see below) I realize it looks flat and muddy there as well. I might look around for some different cobble stone reference to start with.


  • Alex Javor
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    I think that reference is fine. Maybe just a matter of the lighting. Having the directional light come from viewers  9-11 o'clock position may help spread a little light on the street and also give some more shape and sillhouette to the buildings, I wonder?

    I guess my main critique is just that overall the scene feels a bit dark and moody and kind of "muddy medieval peasanty" more than "quiet, idyllic tuscan street" right now. I don't have the enviro art experience to say exactly what is causing it, so don't go and rework your textures just cause I said so. May be just a small change in lighting could be the difference.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    Hello again. Since I last posted an update, I have reworked the cobble stone as well as created 2 cobble stone alternate textures, concrete, and tile to break up the terrain. I played with the lighting more to get a more vibrant and inviting feel. I created a fountain (as Alex Javor suggested so long ago) using my all purpose stone trim material with some wet variants. Getting the water features to look half way decent took a lot of work. And I finally got around to vertex painting.
    If anyone sees anything that needs fixing, let me know.


    I also modeled and painted high poly plant pieces to bake into foliage cards.



    There is still a lot to do, but I am going to put this on the back burner for a while so that I can join the King Arthur Artstation challenge. Wish me luck!
  • truemkar
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    Final shots is very pretty and soft. So delicate lightning, great job!
  • Alex Javor
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    Oh damn! Looks 100% differnet and better IMO.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 6
    Thank you both, I'm glad its getting better. :smiley:
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