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[WIP] Overgrown Crash Environment - UE4

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rexo12 polycounter lvl 3
Starting a new environment to further practice foliage skills and general environment art. Aiming towards a dense forest scene with a single central prop (Tree + Capsule) as the focus. I intend for this to be quite a long term project, given its scope and also the fact that I am in the middle of my semester and so will not have a whole lot of time to dedicate to it. I'm almost approaching it more as a sandbox to try new stuff out than a focused environment study - but we will see.

So, this is the scene, as it stands currently. 
This is my first proper try doing any kind of large foliage like trees - I have done them in the past but was a bit lazy about how I made them. As such, this was my first experience wrangling with the workflow for trees and foliage and I must say at times it felt like performing a bewitching ritual.

I started with the main trunk and branch structure, Subd-modelling a base-mesh and then sculpting over that. I struggled a lot with figuring out how the branches were going to work, before I realised that I was approaching this from the wrong angle, where the usual process of blockout-to-detail doesn't really apply. I unfortunately didn't take any screenshots of my early attempts but they were quite goofy.

So instead I sculpted some leaves.

And then some branches.

I textured both and baked them down into cards to use on the canopy. I ran into an issue baking multiple texturesets in SD, where they'd overwrite each other (marmoset was just not an option due to the HP polycount), so I had to recombine the leaf and branch textures in Photoshop using MatID masks.

Which leaves us with this crown, using this tutorial from the wiki. The final tree has ~15,000 tris and 2 texturesets. I intend to use matlayering for the trunk once in-engine. The crown is probably a little too full but I think, given that it's supposed to be viewed from below, I want more coverage rather than less.

I did try to do some vertex-weight shading stuff with the branch cards but I couldn't get something that looked nicer than straight smooth-shading, so If anyone has any tips or pointers that would be much appreciated!

I also made mid-poly variants of the branches to place by hand once in engine, so that it's not all 2D cards.

I am, of course, absolutely looking for feedback on this as it's my first attempt at foliage of this scale. So if you have any comments on canopy scattering, branch structure, etc etc, fire away.


  • rexo12
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    rexo12 polycounter lvl 3
     The mandatory Hard-Surface component of the project: A little crashed capsule that the tree has grown around. Loosely based off the Vostok capsule, but I have taken significant liberties with its layout (Some may recognise the DSKEY/AGC - don't tell the nerds).
    It's still feeling a little empty/underdetailed, so some advice on how to fill it would also be appreciated. I'm trying to hold off on filling it with hanging cables every which way, as I'm not too sure of the capsule's final orientation yet.
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 polycounter lvl 3
    I also went and did some photoscanning for smaller foliage, again as my first real attempt at making some. The process was surprisingly straightforward and I'm quite happy with my final result.Ferns seem to me to be the "Hello World!" of foliage, so they were my plant of choice for this. The scan was a bit dirty but I only really cared about the depth information on the surface of the leaves themselves as they'd be baked down to an orthographic projection anyway.

    I did really want to try cross-polarisation for this project so I could retrieve specular information from the subject, as it's something i've been chasing for a while, but I just couldn't get enough light onto the subject to shoot at a low enough ISO. I think I really need some more serious lighting hardware, or a better sensor, or nicer lens, or a combination of all 3, before that becomes a viable technique.

    I did have to do a fair bit of work by hand to remove the background of the scan, so i should look into better ways of handling that - such as maybe offsetting the backplane during photographing so I can just box select and delete irrelevant points once reconstructed.

    Some final renders. Quite happy with this, considering how fast and painless it all was.

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