Still Trying to Finish ArtStation's T.L.O.K.A. Challenge

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JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
Hello everyone,
So I participated in the Legend of King Arthur challenge on ArtStation. However, I could not complete it on time because I had a lot going on those two months and chose a larger scale project than I probably should have. Oh well. But I am still plugging away at it since I really like the concept and would love to put this scene on my portfolio. Anyway, I decided to move my old and new work in progress updates over here now that the challenge is over.


So the original concept is "Merlin's Cave" by Erik Nykvist from Stockholm Sweden: 



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  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Block Out:



    Lighting Test:


  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Created Rock sculpting height maps in Substance Designer and started sculpting assets:




  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    First Materials and building up the landscape:




  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Decided that the scene needed some additional lights and I took inspiration from of Erik Nykvist's other TLOKA submission "Avalon". Also as far as I got on the environment before the challenge's deadline.


  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    And this is where I am now:

    I have replaced almost all of the BSP and block out meshes. I reworked the lighting. I built in some things that were not in explicitly in the original concept like a sea entrance, a stairway entrance and a secondary stone circle. I should mention that I did not make the fire particle system. It is from UE4's starter content. I threw it in to see how it made the smaller stone circle feel.

    I still feel like there is a long way to go, but I am determined to finish it (foliage, stalactites, boats, waterfalls, etc.) . I am open to critiques if anyone sees something that needs to be fixed.


  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    This week I worked on sculpting the lantern holding statue. It's been a while since I have tried to do anything close to a character, so please let me know if there is anything that looks wrong or needs to be fixed. I still need to detail the hands a bit though.

    Also, I could use a some opinions on what sort of base for the statue I should go with. Right now I am leaning toward a simple design, but I'm not sure.




    Reference/inspiration:

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Since last time I posted an update, I textured the cave ceiling, made some stalactites, started vertex painting, worked on the lighting, learned how to create a volumetric cloud particle system, tested out my lantern statue, and then threw out the lantern meshes. I didn't like the shadows the block-out lantern was casting, and all of the time period accurate lantern designs I was looking at would probably end up being worse. I'm now thinking a tray of candles, or maybe just candles dripping through her fingers, ha ha. Still playing with ideas.

    If anyone has any suggestions or critiques, let me know.


  • WillPowell
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    WillPowell polygon
    The candle idea would look great, with the wax dripping down the statue. Candles don't give off a whole lot of light but you could always take some artistic license and have them brighter (may not be necessary as you have a good amount of lighting coming from the ceiling and being dispersed throughout the cave).

    The central island looks awesome, has a mystical feeling to it, fitting in line with the original source material!
  • pistachio
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    pistachio greentooth
    Lighting/color grading is the bomb, I can always go for that ICO vibe.
    Grass/dirt needs more work and geo detail (for a first pass it's cool)
    BG ruins closest to us starting to look good but it's darker in the original. Depends how accurate you wanna be there but it amps up the focal point. Also pretty roughed up in the original
    Foreground is gonna need more rubble.
    I'm not an env artist, take this with a grain of salt.
    It's definitely shaping up.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    @WillPowell  Thanks. I will try to make the candles and post an update soon

    @pistachio Yep, those are all on the to-do list. Ha ha. I'm just doing things a bit out of order because lighting was starting to get fun. Thanks for the feedback though.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Hello again. 
    I have sculpted the candles and textured the statue. And I'm noticing some thing weird. My textures look great in substance painter, but not great in Unreal, and I'm curious if anyone has any ideas as to why. In Unreal it looked splotchier and noisier. I had to remove a couple of the grunge maps that looked really good on it in SP. And I noticed that some of the UV seams are showing up in unreal in the light map. I have a fairly dense light map resolution for it though. Maybe It would look better if I do a full 'production' build. Maybe Iray will always look better because of the way it renders things. Or maybe I'm just nit-picking and it's all in my head. I don't know. At least the candles look cool in unreal with the subsurface scattering, even though the flames are over exposed.

    Substance Painter's Iray:


    Unreal light build on 'high' with grunge maps removed:





  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    In other news, I built the low polly and  UV'd the boat. I also decided that the hypothetical Druid Monks needed short wooden style docks to help them get up out of the boats and onto the tall stone docks. 

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Got the boat and docks textured and placed.



    The boat docks and rope all share one texture set that tiles horizontally in some parts like a trim texture. The Dock is also built in a modular system.


  • Jakro
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    Jakro greentooth
    You're killing it man!  B)
  • icegodofhungary
    Good atmosphere and good assets.
  • CybranM
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    CybranM greentooth
    Looks really nice so far, keep it up :smile:
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    @Jakro , @icegodofhungary , & @CybranM , Thanks guys, I'm glad you like how it is turning out.  =)
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    Let's see, since last time I've built and placed the plant models. Then fixed and polished the plants and their placement a couple of times. I created the waterfall. I worked on the lighting. . .  A LOT. Carved some designs and patterns in the stones. Worked a bit on reflection captures. Fixed some other little issues here and there. Pretty much anything I could do to keep procrastinating on making the tree, ha ha.

    I think at this point All I have left is the tree, and a little more polishing. First though, I have to decide if I should try to build the tree from scratch, or download the free trial of speed tree and try to learn how that all works.

    Let me know if there is anything that needs fixing or improving.






















  • Taylor Brown
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    Taylor Brown polycounter
    Damn, beautiful work to wake up to
  • Necrodark
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    Necrodark triangle
    Aweosme stuff dude! slow and steady as they say  =). I would really love to know how you handled the lighting on such a big interior scene as i have a project with a similar scenario and i've been struggling with it for a while, looks like you're using volumetrics to fill out the cave? anyways beautiful piece!!
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter lvl 7
    @Necrodark So after a lot of experimenting and test bakes, this is what I came up with. It's probably not the best way to do things, but it's the best I could come up with from my very limited experience lighting in Unreal. . .

    First off this guy has a great volumetric fog presentation if you haven't seen it yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd7-rTzfmCo I pretty much followed his example for the fog. I even followed his break-neck-speed mini tutorial on particle clouds he does half-way into the video. I then played with all of the settings in a trial and error kind of way until I got what I wanted. You can kind of see the clouds behind and around the mountain in my scene.

    The cavern is pretty much lit by 3 main lights. A sky light with an HDR from HDRI-skies.com plugged into it's cube map slot, and two over-sized spot lights mimicking the sun. I originally tried to get an actual directional light to be the sun, but it just wasn't working the way I wanted it to.
    The smaller spot light is the sun (see image), the bigger one helps out the sky by adding more fill light (or indirect lighting, or bounce light) and giving me more control over the fill light. 
    In order for either of the spot lights to be visible I ended up having to change the intensity units to unit-less for both of them. Otherwise I would have to figure out however many billion lumens or candelas they would need to be to even reach the ground. Unit-less seemed to just fill the entire length minus the falloff. I set the Sun spotlight falloff to almost nothing, since sunlight's normal falloff is like out past Pluto. I wanted a lot more falloff for the Fill spotlight so I could mimic bounce light getting weaker the further into the cave it got.
    I then turned the indirect lighting intensity way up to make the light bounces a lot stronger and effectively fill the entire cavern with a soft ambient light. Then I turned the indirect lighting intensity down again when I realized how much the 'Preview' bakes were miss-representing that particular setting's effect compared to the 'Production' level bake.
    I then changed the volumetric scattering intensity to control how much light would scatter through the volumetric fog. I wanted a lot for the Sun spot light to get cool light shafts, a lot for the sky light to fog up the ugly corners of the cave, and almost none for the fill spot light keep the docks and hillside fairly visible. I made the Sun spot light yellow, the sky light blue, and the fill spot light green which gave the fog some interesting color gradients. But I had to knock down the indirect lighting saturation because bounce colors were getting a bit out of hand on some objects.
    Oh, I also had to turn the source radius and source soft radius on both spot lights way up (2200-2500) to get really soft shadows. Basically to the same diameter of the cave opening. Otherwise I would get 2 shadows from one "Sun". Ha ha.

    Once I filled the cave up with the main lights, I added extra lights around to help match the concept (like the mountain's back-light) and add some things what I wanted for the scene (like the sea entrance, camp fire, and candle statues). The mountain back light is kind of interesting actually. It's two massive point lights with almost no light intensity (unit-less 0.1) but a ton of volumetric scatter intensity (38) and a falloff of 5. Those point lights don't really light the scene much, but they blow up the fog and particle clouds like crazy, and cast the mountain in a silhouette like in the concept.




  • Necrodark
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    Necrodark triangle
    @JamesBrisnehan

    Wow man, I cant thank you enough for that breakdown! Thats a really creative way of solving the issue of lighting such a big scene. I think my problem is that im relying too much on lighting everything with just a directional light and so im losing a lot of control over the overall lighting on the scene, so i will definitely have to try out your method of using spotlights with unitless intensity. I also recently discovered UE4's localized volumetrics tech and have been toying  with it in another scene so I'll play around with that too to add some depth to my scene.

    Again, thanks alot for the response, it's really a good example of thinking outside the box.  🙌
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