COMPLETED! UE4 Environment: Tales from the Loop - Simon Stalenhag

greentooth
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B_P_L greentooth
Hi there,

I'm coming pretty close to finishing up my current environment project, and I'm really looking to get as much feedback as I can before drawing it to a close and publishing it on Artstation.

It's based on original artwork from Simon Stalenhag, from his book 'Tales from the Loop' - see the artwork below.


And here's a video walkthrough of my interpretation of the environment where I take a fairly slow stroll around, and a bunch of screenshots taken straight from UE4 - no photoshopping of any kind, so these are pretty raw warts-n'-all shots. 






So, first of all - thanks if you've made it this far.

Secondly - as I said I am pretty close to done on this, I only want to give it a few more days at most before I start trying to make sense of it as a portfolio piece - so getting screenshots, showing detail, putting together a video cinematic, creating panoramic stills in Ansel etc. etc...

So really what I'm asking from the Polycount community is feedback about what's in there so far and how to present this on my Artstation - is there anything that looks obviously wrong? Is anything jumping out about lighting, composition etc. that definitely needs to change? What should I focus on in the portfolio? How should I present individual elements? Any suggestions for post-processing? I'm most open to changes to lighting / atmosphere / post-processing right now - that's not something I've ever given much time or thought to...

The trouble I have is that there are quite a few things going on in here - a full landscape with layered landscape material and foliage and scatter stones. The road spline-blueprint with all it's decals and details and blended materials.... The hero meshes with multiple materials blending together included POM displacement... the building all it's details... the pipe spline-blueprints... the powerline spline-blueprints.... There's a lot of stuff in there that I've worked hard on and while I want that to come through in the portfolio, I also don't want to overload the viewer. 

Anyhow... that's enough rambling. Thanks for taking the time to have a look, and thanks in advance for any feedback you chose to give - it's all gratefully received. 

Kind regards,
B.

Replies

  • Eric Chadwick
    I'd recommend picking the three most interesting angles for screenshots, make a video with a smoothly-moving camera, and show some wireframes & textures for a couple specific props.

    As for the content itself, I like how the original painting had an early-morning feel to the lighting, which you've kind of lost here. The time is different. His is just as the sun is rising over the horizon, while yours is about an hour later. The whitish-blue ground fog balances the color scheme. That and the sun angle, and more bounce from the sky, could be a quick fix on your end?

    I'd also like to see a bit more clutter around the bases of the big pieces. Salvage yards should show a range of large/medium/small pieces. You've got the large pieces, just need a few more medium and small piles around their bases.

    This is a great piece, you're really close now!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    ... I like how the original painting had an early-morning feel to the lighting, which you've kind of lost here. The time is different. His is just as the sun is rising over the horizon, while yours is about an hour later. The whitish-blue ground fog balances the color scheme. That and the sun angle, and more bounce from the sky, could be a quick fix on your end?
    Hey thanks for chiming in Eric! You're absolutely right here - these are all things I'd been thinking myself but I guess I needed to hear someone else say it, so I'm gonna act on that today.
    Trouble I've had with this scene is the apparent contradictions in the original artwork - first off it's the Nevada desert (look at the license plate on the car...) ....and yet we have morning mist? I may be totally wrong here - but isn't a misty / foggy desert something of an oxymoron?  
    Also the lighting states in the artwork don't totally add up - there's an overall coolness to the light, suggesting - as you said - an early morning feel, but then you can see deep orange sunlight reflections around the scene, which you only really get in the late afternoon? Every time I've tried to cool down the overall atmosphere, all those hot-spot reflections cool down as well....

    Regardless - you are right - the concept has a misty, mysterious, David Lynch-esque half-light that I'm missing in my scene and I need to get on it. Thanks for calling it out. 

    I'd also like to see a bit more clutter around the bases of the big pieces. Salvage yards should show a range of large/medium/small pieces. You've got the large pieces, just need a few more medium and small piles around their bases.
    <Deep sigh> Again - you're right. This is something I'd been in denial about but can't ignore any more. Gonna need to factor in a couple days more modelling I guess... 

    This is a great piece, you're really close now!

    Thanks man, I needed a little reassurance on this - means a lot.

    Regards,
    B.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Initial alterations to lighting scheme - note; more pronounced detail on distant landscape.
  • Eric Chadwick
    I like the changes!

    The painting makes me think of sand dunes near a beach, like you would see in Monterey CA. Ground fog in the early morning is not uncommon, especially in winter or early spring. Cold frosty mornings. It burns off quickly when the sun rises high enough to hit it.

    Hard to find examples but here

    https://www.imgrumweb.com/post/BneNdL7nwv4


  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Increased / tweaked volumetric fog...

  • Eric Chadwick
    I like the orange/purple combo, it's really nice!

    I found a larger version of the painting, less cropped too
    https://www.arkhane-asylum.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/piersonssalvage.jpg



    When working from a concept, I think it helps to put them side-by-side. Now, you may be moving yours in a different direction, and that's totally fine too. But if you want to capture the same mood as the source, lighting and camera both play their roles.

    Simon used a long lens (figuratively). The camera is further back, and the FOV is smaller. Reduces distortions, and pulls the background closer to the foreground. I don't know if it's too late to do this, worth playing around with though.

    You could also look into limiting the upper height of the volume fog, creating a more dense ground-hugging mist.

    Totally up to you though. I think you have a pretty strong piece as it is!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Done playing with sky/light colours - now just using PostProcessVolume to adjust tone/balance. Eric Chadwick said:
    I like the orange/purple combo, it's really nice!

    I found a larger version of the painting, less cropped too
    https://www.arkhane-asylum.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/piersonssalvage.jpg


    Hey again! That reference file you found is a god-send! Thanks! Looked all over and couldn't find a better version than the one I had - I've been working from the actual book. This helps enormously, seriously.

    Wasn't happy with the purple colour cast - I'm now trying to hit the concept's palette as accurately as I can within reason.

    RE: the focal length of the lens, yeah - I know the standard settings on the FirstPerson character in UE4 are not exactly what you'd call 'cinematic' but my intention was to re-create the environment for a FirstPerson view, so - everything in the scene is scaled and proportioned for that super-wide lens. In the above shot you can see I've dropped the FOV a little just for that one angle. 

    Having trouble with the ExponentialHeightFog - can't get it to lay low and dense like in the concept - when I drop the 'Fog Height Falloff' parameter it first doesn't appear to be doing much... .then it just causes the fog to disappear entirely.... Need to tweak it more.  
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Side-by-Side comparison...
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Ground fog achieved with simple particle system, which has had an... interesting effect on overall performance... will need to optimise that, going forward.
    And again, side-by-side with original artwork.

    P.S The little particle emitter for the car exhaust looks terrible in this shot. It looks way better when you see it moving, I promise!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    And a little comparison of changes - just from tweaking the lighting and height fog, and adding a couple particle emitters:

  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Getting real close to calling this done now. Again - please chime in with any thoughts or feedback you may have.



    Added more scrap metal (blown-apart car engine model) and chain link fence to mark out property line and break up long sight-lines.



    Immediate plans are just to carry on scattering scrap-metal and do a little landscape material painting (there are two material layers with scrap metal decals blended into sand - haven't really made the most of those yet).

    Will be calling this done tomorrow hopefully.

    Cheers,

    B.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    One last walk around...


  • jStins
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    jStins polycounter lvl 7
    I really like this piece, well done! I'm glad you took Eric's feedback to heart. I think the lighting / color / fog adjustments really helped push the quality. The lighting is great and I'm impressed with how well your colors / contrast hold up when moving from lit to darker areas of the scene. Is it all baked, real-time or a mix? 

    If I were to nitpick (which I will), your hero shot is missing some of those medium chunks near the salvage shop. They help give the environment a sense of being closed off from the larger terrain. That helps reinforce the eerie vibe of the concept imo. Perhaps you already have some assets to fill that role in the hero shot without having to model anything new?


  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    jStins said:
    I really like this piece, well done! I'm glad you took Eric's feedback to heart. I think the lighting / color / fog adjustments really helped push the quality. The lighting is great and I'm impressed with how well your colors / contrast hold up when moving from lit to darker areas of the scene. Is it all baked, real-time or a mix? 
    Thanks! Glad you noticed the consistency across lighting condition changes, it took a little work - after getting base lighting how I want, it was a balancing act between tweaking material colour/brightness/AO and then making small adjustments in post processing. All the lighting is dynamic.

    jStins said:
    If I were to nitpick (which I will), your hero shot is missing some of those medium chunks near the salvage shop. They help give the environment a sense of being closed off from the larger terrain. That helps reinforce the eerie vibe of the concept imo. Perhaps you already have some assets to fill that role in the hero shot without having to model anything new?



    <another deep sigh> Like with Eric's comments, you're right and it's just something I'd been avoiding. I agree, it closes the space in and makes it feel more claustrophobic and intriguing.
    I'd blocked this object out a while ago and started iterating it several times but I just couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be or what to do with it... I also didn't like it occluding the one visible part of the mountain-scape in the distance....so I left it and hoped it would go away... but I guess I can't avoid it anymore.

    I think it's supposed to be a leg of some sort. Here are some of Stalenhag's other designs - I'm thinking right now I'll have to adapt some of the shapes from these leg mechanisms to fit that space....



    ...thoughts / suggestions on this will be well recieved, because I'm a little stumped on what to do in this spot...

    Regards,

    B.

  • Eric Chadwick
    If it was me, I would just detach a couple of the curved plate elements off the larger pieces, and just prop those around, scaling them a bit as needed. 

    I haven't used Unreal in a while. But I bet it has some kind of method that would help you force the height fog into a tighter falloff.

    Set the top about 2 meters off the ground, and the bottom a meter off, then increase the strength.

    I did this a lot with a custom engine, worked great. This uses bluish height-fog for the ground mist, and white depth-fog for the distant part.
    http://ericchadwick.com/img/mmo_valleyofthelost_comparison_01.jpg

    This one used bluish height-fog for the distant part, but black depth-fog in the foreground that used a negative depth value. That forced the foreground to always be dark, the black fog being the strongest right at the camera, and falling off as it receded. A neat effect!
    http://ericchadwick.com/img/mmo_wildwood_01.jpg

    Anyhow, Unreal is undoubtedly more advanced, and should allow you to control the height fog better.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Ok... built a few more props to fill in the gaps as mentioned by @jStins , continued filling up the open areas with scrap, painted in some of the decal'd landscape materials a little more.... I think - hopefully - I can just about call this done, but please, as ever - any and all feedback is welcome before I start pulling it apart and turning it into a portfolio piece on my Artstation.





    Thanks for input so far, and thanks for taking a look,

    Regards,
    B. 


  • Eric Chadwick
    Looks great man, Ship It!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Looks great man, Ship It!
    Man - I can't tell you how bad I needed to hear someone say that. Cheers!

    B.

  • jStins
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    jStins polycounter lvl 7
    Nice interpretation of those forms to close off the space. I agree with @Eric Chadwick, ship it! (straight to the front page!)
  • lloydj14
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    lloydj14 polycounter lvl 5
    Filling in those gaps with legs/ scrap really has helped just finish the scene off nicely.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Thanks very much to @jStins and @lloydj14 as well for your encouragement - very much appreciated.

    Last post in the thread from me for a while, will update when it's all done and dusted - till then here's my first attempt at the main hero-shot:
    (Any tips / observations on UE4 stills rendering/compositing are still very welcome btw)


    Regards,
    B.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    (And the now obligatory side-by-side comparison with original...)

    Thanks again everyone,
    B.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Nice! Are we going to get a nice smooth flythru vidcap? Looking forward to frontpaging this.
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Nice! Are we going to get a nice smooth flythru vidcap? 

    Hey thanks! Yes - that's something I'm definitely planning. Been mentally planning a shot-list for a few days now... 

    Looking forward to frontpaging this.

    Oh that'd be awesome. Thanks for the motivation, and thanks again for the feedback - the above image would look nothing like it does were it not for your input!

    Cheers,
    B.
  • Eric Chadwick
    I hope the soundtrack has lonely desert birds and wispy breezes, with a few metallic groans...
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Hi guys - will post content directly here in a minute, but just published this on my Artstation, so I'd be really grateful if you wouldn't mind taking a look there:

    https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Bmvld4

    Regards,B
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Cinematic overview: 



    Regards,
    B.
  • Tetranome
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    Tetranome polycounter lvl 4
    @B_P_L
    Wow, this captures Stalenhag's style really nicely. Brilliant atmosphere and surface details.
    I find your video intro a little jarring, and too in-service to the audio track. The back and forth cuts to the mechanical object makes me think "Just show me the art!". Anyone looking at hiring you just wants to see your work.
    Otherwise, great work!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    Hey, Epic - it was nice of you to post my work on your official UnrealEngine Instagram account and get over 6000 likes for it.... but I can't help thinking it would've been nicer if you'd maybe included a link to where the artwork originated from? Oh well.... it's not my concept, and at least they named me in the post. 



    <edit>Now that I think about it... it probably wouldn't be a good idea for that account to provide links to Artstation; it's followed by thousands of very young Fortnite fans and a lot of Artstation content is.... well.... not exactly what parents would want their kids looking at...
  • robertabe
    Hi, impresive work. Congratulations for that.
    First of all I'm new in this forum, and also in 3d in general. I've been the past year trying new things and being a 3d generalist profesionally, but in a basic level. I'm trying to learn a real time engine and i was thinking about eevee cause it seems more user friendly. But this stuff in ue is quite amazing so my questions are:
    How do you model de grass, and the sand. I know that this game engines have procedural environment generators that with a brush can grow grass and all kinds of stufs in a procedural random way and it looks gorgeous. So do you make the entire scene in UE, or you switch between programs to model the buildings, etc. 
    Do you also use substance? 
    I wanna now if it's better to learn a powerfull game engine to do real time that allows my to have this new features like landscape painting, or if I can achieve the same results using a conventional software like blender eevee and cinema 4d. 
    Thank you so much!
  • B_P_L
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    B_P_L greentooth
    robertabe said:
    Hi, impresive work. Congratulations for that.
    That's kind of you to say, thank you.

    robertabe said:
    First of all I'm new in this forum, and also in 3d in general. I've been the past year trying new things and being a 3d generalist profesionally, but in a basic level. I'm trying to learn a real time engine...
    Well, right off I've got to say I'm not yet a professional and there are many talented people on this forum who are better qualified to help you than I am. But with that said - I did write about my last environment project at length, and I specifically wrote it with beginners in mind, so maybe take a look through the breakdown thread.

    robertabe said:
    How do you model de grass... 
    Simple grass can be made numerous ways, but increasingly, people use purchased, scan-based foliage.
    Anyhow, it's not hard to make decent grass yourself - I used to do it with Maya's built-in Paint Effects tools. 
    Making grass and leaves move around in the breeze is handled in the foliage material - you don't have to animate it.
    When you've made 3-5 grass clumps, you scatter them in the game engine; either with the foliage painter, or by including the grass in your layered landscape material. But really - don't sweat over things like grass right now. Deal with it later.

    robertabe said:
    ...and the sand...
    You generally don't need to model something like sand. That's something that is all done with your textures / materials. I talk about that in my breakdown. Unless you're talking about the sandy landscape itself? In which case.... I also talk about that in the breakdown!

    robertabe said:
     I know that this game engines have procedural environment generators that with a brush can grow grass and all kinds of stufs in a procedural random way and it looks gorgeous. 
    Ok - you're packing a lot of different topics into that one sentence, and if I tried to explain the processes to you right now I think it would leave you more confused, so I'll just say this; take things one step at a time and try to not get separate parts of the process mixed up. Approach these four subjects separately, and in order - and then combine them together later on when you understand them more:
    1: Landscape generation.
    2: Layered landscape materials.
    3: Setting up foliage / Foliage painting.
    4: Adding grass-types to layered landscape materials.

    robertabe said:
    So do you make the entire scene in UE, or you switch between programs to model the buildings, etc. 
    Do you also use substance? 
    You certainly need to use a number of different applications to make environments, yes. Different applications are used for different tasks, this is what I generally use:
    1. Buildings / architecture... mostly everything, really... ; 3DS Max
    2. Landscape generation ; World Machine
    3. Rocks and other organic props ; Zbrush
    4. Highly detailed hard-surface props ; Fusion 360
    5. Landscape materials ; Quixel Mixer
    6. All other materials ; Substance Designer
    7. Texture painting ; Substance Painter
    8. Texture painting while in a slightly masochistic mood ; Quixel Suite.

    robertabe said:
    I wanna now if it's better to learn a powerfull game engine to do real time that allows my to have this new features like landscape painting, or if I can achieve the same results using a conventional software like blender eevee and cinema 4d. 
    Thank you so much!
    I have never used any of the applications you mention there, so I am not best qualified to talk about those, but I would recommend having the game engine of your choice at the centre of your workflow and learning/using separate applications for the specific requirements of your project that cannot be solved within the game engine alone.

    Best of luck, and thanks for taking a look at the thread
    B.
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