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[Finished!] ComEng V-Set Train.

greentooth
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rexo12 greentooth
Hello! This is a journal thread for my latest project, the V-set electric trains manufactured by ComEng in the 2 decades to 1990. These are lovely old intercity trains that run in New South Wales, connecting Sydney to the Blue Mountains and Newcastle, among other places. I always found them very charming whenever i've had the opportunity to take them. They are unfortunately being phased out very soon.

I am currently still quite early in the modelling stage:


I will be attempting to use a trim-sheet for this project along the main body of the car, in tandem with modular/bespoke assets. This is my early experiment with laying one out - any tips or comments would be greatly appreciated. Some insight into the best approach to texturing something like this would also be useful.


I expect I will also end up with a decal sheet for details like these:

Some of the modules so far:

I have hit a snag with the pantograph: I have been having a lot of trouble deciphering the mechanics of the thing. This is the model so far:
The lower section of the structure has a lot more going on in my references that I cannot figure out - some kind of spring system that actually drives the pantograph up and down as needed.

Here are 2 of my references. This first image has some kind of double-set of pistons connected to a bellows/accordion of some description - however I haven't the faintest idea how or where either end connects.

This image is of an S/C/K set, which has a very similar design - except the pantograph is not enclosed, affording you a much better look at it. This has a different set of pistons, however even then I do not understand what they do or how they interact. One of them even seems to disappear!


I expect I will just have to camp on a railway bridge somewhere to get the reference angles I need. In the meantime, if anyone has some engineering know-how and could take a crack at explaining how these pistons fit together, that would be much appreciated.

Thank you :)

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  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Small update - replacing the blockouts of the top modules with proper meshes. I have added an enclosure to the pantograph, but the lower sections are still unfinished.

    I think Trim sheets have clicked for me! Seems like a very fluid way to work once you wrap your head around it :)
    In order to preserve texel density I have decided to remove the 2 main tilables from my trim sheet - the Corrugation and main base-metal. These will go to 1-2 MatIDs (depending on whether or not I use MatLayering) on the main body, with a trim MatID for... trims.

    As such, here is the new trim sheet, and how it looks applied to the main body geometry. All WIP of course.

    The question now is whether I should try and extend my use of trims to all of my modules, or whether I should stick to handpainting them. I'm now confident I could get decent results from trims - however I do really love to paint. Unifying everything into a single trim would also allow me to overlay directional dirt and the like more uniformly.

    Thank you :)
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello again.

    I have painted the doors. I ended up using my trim sheet for the exterior frame, that way I only use a single ID for each door rather than 2 (or more...). Mapping the UVs to the beveled corners is a bit fiddly, and I wonder if there's a trick to it.

    At the moment, the frames have no baked normals and are entirely driven by the geometry/trim sheet. I am wondering if it's worth introducing a 2nd UV channel to map baked textures to, which would also be useful for AO and curvature to drive MatLayering. The painting also needs some refinement, particularly as a lot of my metals don't read as metals.

     I did bring stuff into engine to test layout and materials. I'm quite impressed with UE5 so far, I think one of the more understated improvements they made was really with scene setup and art direction. UE4 was always such a pain for me to get initial lighting setups correct, with a dozen different independent moving parts you had to balance perfectly. UE5 is truly just plug and play..

    I am using a simple objectspace gradient with some grunge maps to lay dust over the top of the model. The front section is also masked out with a Planar mapped stencil.
    Some more work needs to be done on where the gradient fades out, I'd really like something a bit less uniform - similar to how you'd perhaps use a slope blur in Designer.

    Thanks :)

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Current progress:
    Quickly brought the windows in-engine, and also put together the beginnings of a decal sheet for all the lettering and stuff.
    This is an RGBA set of packed masks, each channel corresponding to a colour parameter in-shader. This lets me re-use and re-colour elements such as the logo, which appears multiple times across the train body. I am considering adding the ability to selectively mask off areas in-shader, for smaller decals where scaling and transforming won't cut it. The logo was sourced from the TfNSW open database.

    The bigger thing I started was on modelling the bogies and undercarriage stuff, something I had been putting off for a while, haha.
    This is just nice and fun subsurf modelling, nothing remarkable here. I'm not completely sure about the proportions but I think i've matched it as best I can - I've started and then restarted this 3 times now. I was surprised at how narrow the rail gauge is compared to the width of the carriage, it's almost half the size!

    I expect I will have a fair few IDs here for the detailed parts closer to the camera, with tiled/matlayered stuff in the back.


    I also came across some photos looking down into the pantograph well, So i'll be able to go back to that at some point. It also showed me some errors I had made with the maintenance bins too :/

    I have also been thinking about how I'm going to present this - I want to build a train station around it. As I see it, my choices are either to pull from somewhere in the Blue mountains, or use an inner city station. This would reflect a tranquil, bright-and-blue narrative and tone or a busy and exciting one respectively. More to come on that.. perhaps.

    Thanks!
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello.

    Bogie High-poly is probably done, posting here for any feedback before I commit to my low-poly.
    Some personal notes:
     - Some sections don't make much mechanical sense. They are missing motors and hydraulics and links and so forth that sit behind the wheels. I could not find any references of these, and they are hidden from sight normally, so they've been omitted.
    - Very little idea how I'm going to texture this. I expect I will end up with a fair few IDs. A lot of the elements can be mirrored/repeated. This does pose some problems for AO bakes and so forth but It's probably minimal.

    In other news, I have baked and textured the first of the top-bins, alongside the front cabin door:



    I have also tweaked the materials on the side-doors a bit.

    I'm sort of only half-satisfied with the materials so far. They look fine, but they also don't match my references the way i'd like. In particular, that fine brown-dusting that they all seem to have, coupled with very bright and high-gloss metal surfaces is something that the Metal/Rough shader doesn't like! I feel as though I am pulling it too far in one direction or another.



    Thank you :)


  • sacboi
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    sacboi insane polycounter
    No crits too offer, I think you're pretty much got it sussed as far as I can see.

    I'm south of the border in VIC and do recall traveling on these trains when posted to Holsworthy Barracks, Liverpool during the 80s, serving with the ADF which if memory serves was kind of weird first time out since we've only single decked rolling stock in Melbourne.

    Anyway will follow along, I like your descriptive commentary in terms of workflow so aside from being quite informative, your project is also a gem for the self confessed railway fan, too :+1:

    Cheers.     
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hey, thanks for the reply. It's great that you enjoy my posts, I'm always trying to provide insights into my own work, alongside any feedback I may receive. I think it's a good exercise for communicating with potential future team members, and probably also helps with actualising a project for yourself.

    It's funny you say that, as as a child I was under the impression that all trains were double-decked. It's only very recently that Sydney has (re)introduced single-deck trains for it's new Metro system.

    Thanks for the encouraging words!
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello,

    I've been spending time fleshing out the front facade/undercarriage section. Still very much WIP.

    I am basically making much of this up as I go along. I've also been considering putting together a kitbash set of random mechanical stuff to fill in gaps and stuff, I'm not sure how worth it it would be though.

    I did also bake out another of the bins. I expect I will be revisiting these materials.



    Thank you.

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello :)

    I have a few things to show this time around - bits and pieces of various parts of the project in their various stages.

    First up is the bogey (bogeys?). I have got a low poly out.
    Blender reports this as 35k tris, although I think the true number is about 64k, as blender doesn't report instanced geometry. UE5 claims it's 40k but I do not believe it.  Regardless, this is much higher than I would like - I was aiming for 20-30k, however I was far more aggressive than usual with optimising this and have already made some significant silhouette compromises. Its going to be a lot harder to rely on trims and tileables for this, as I'm going to need high-res normal maps to bring the high-poly details back, making any potential draw call/density savings kind of moot.
    I am still in the process of unwrapping this, so none of the pieces are consolidated into texturesets as of yet. I try to get each individual piece to an "ideal world" texel density, >20.48px/cm in this case, reducing the density for hidden/unimportant areas per-piece. Once that's done I pack each tile into larger consolidated texturesets with UVP, which is where I sacrifice and normalise much of the rest of the density. I expect most pieces to be at least 10.24px/cm.


    I have been continuing to work on the front facade. Mostly just greebling in a way I hope is convincing.
    Notable changes are: New front lights, with (simple) internal modelling (bulb, reflector). Windshield wipers.

    Pipes! I still haven't attacked that coupling thingo yet.


    I have got around to painting out the trim-sheet,  along with making some slight changes to the base-material.



    My process was to paint onto the high-poly in Substance Painter, and bake all the associated textures down onto a plane in Designer. I had to recombine the maps afterwards, as Designer's baker doesn't really like going from several projected textures to just one. Making changes is easy though as anything I do just gets pumped up and down the pipeline by Substance's ecosystem.



    Changes in-action. I also made some changes to the dust-mask generator. I figured that since objects are separated anyway, I wasn't saving any draw calls by not instancing my trim material, so I introduced some parameters to tweak per-object and better fit the mask to each item. I'm still trying to figure out how to introduce some sharper crevice dirt. I experimented with a 2nd UV map, which had poor results. I also fixed a bug where an unclamped subtraction in the mask was influencing areas it shouldn't have been.

    Have put a tiny bit of thought into the broader environment, with some very rough blockouts.
    This would be based off many of the stations along the blue mountains line, where the way was cut deep into the rock. These sunken stations often felt like a separate 'world' to the surrounding town, as you can't see or hear anything of it once below. There's some interesting opportunities for shadows/lighting here, and it's also convenient for sealing everything in haha.

    At the moment the overpass is supposed to be steel truss and iron, in line with most of the stations. However I have also been considering stone arches, which is probably a bit more romantic. I don't know.


    That is all - This was much longer than I thought it would be! Thank you for reading, feel free to drop any thoughts about the blockout/wider env concept. (Or anything at all!)

    Thanks.
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello.

    I think i'm satisfied with the front undercarriage bit, I've been working on breaking it down into components for baking and painting. I think all the structural/support stuff and cables will be unbaked, with a trimsheet (costs around 14k), while everything else will be made from a kitbash of painted components.
    This is the full undercarriage module. The big pylon is mainly just to block vision straight through to the other side of the carriage, giving the impression of more density than there really is.


    These are all the components that will be baked + painted. I expect maybe 4-6 texturesets, including trimsheet, for this module. Arguably could be lower but I like to aim for a 20px/cm density to give me flexibility in presentation shots, and this is a portfolio piece.


    You can see the beginnings of the trims/tilings here.



    This is test/unbaked geo in-engine just to see how it works with lighting/if its convincingly detailed. You can also see I have begun painting the bogeys too. It does feel like it's all starting to come together!

    That said, university semester has just started, so I expect my free time to work on this will drop to absolute 0, as my study consumed all my free time last semester, and this time around i'm working!






    Thank you, see you space cowboys...


  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hi, small update today. Looking to get feedback on a quick audit of work so far in terms of optimisation & design decisions i've made.

    I have got the low poly ready for the front undercarriage section, and baked/mapped it out. Looks no different to the previous screenshots as yet, so I don't see much point in posting.


    That said, here you can see a bit of a breakdown of the texturesets as they stand on the model, where each unique colour maps to a unique matID (default blender grey notwithstanding). At the moment, there are about 22 texturesets across the entire model, including my trims & tileables, which account for 5 of them.
    My reaction is that this is too much, as i'm really used to targeting like 2-3 IDs for a single 'project'. However, this is the largest single 'model' i've attempted thus far. This has been a natural result of the texel density i'm targeting, and the tradeoffs i've made to balance against polygon counts. I feel as though i've used my trims and tileables effectively, and i am maximising UV space in everything I do, there are just a lot of elements that either don't map to trims very well, need aggressive polycount reductions, or both.

    In terms of polycount it's a bit less clear. UE5 reports between 60-70k at any one time at fullscreen 1440p. I don't believe it considering there's no Nanite elements here and my estimate based on individual props says it should be about 120-200k. 

    Should i be re-adjusting my expectations? Does this seem reasonable for the scale, complexity and target of the model?

    Some insight would be helpful, thank you :)

  • Kanni3d
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    Kanni3d ngon master


    My reaction is that this is too much, as i'm really used to targeting like 2-3 IDs for a single 'project'. However, this is the largest single 'model' i've attempted thus far. This has been a natural result of the texel density i'm targeting, and the tradeoffs i've made to balance against polygon counts. I feel as though i've used my trims and tileables effectively, and i am maximising UV space in everything I do, there are just a lot of elements that either don't map to trims very well, need aggressive polycount reductions, or both.

    In terms of polycount it's a bit less clear. UE5 reports between 60-70k at any one time at fullscreen 1440p. I don't believe it considering there's no Nanite elements here and my estimate based on individual props says it should be about 120-200k. 

    Should i be re-adjusting my expectations? Does this seem reasonable for the scale, complexity and target of the model?

    Some insight would be helpful, thank you :)


    This is a huge asset - and you're already being quite optimal with it by not using unique textures/bakes, decals, trim sheets, and some shader work.

    If you are considering re-adjusting your expectations, ask yourself this: What this would be used for realistically in a production environment?

    Is it something that's in the far distant vistas? If so, then yeah it can probably be done away with far less geo, details, and intricacies along with everything mapped/baked down into single material.

    OR is it something interactive, player can get real close to it, drive it, onboard it, maybe a focal point in the game where the player constantly has to onboard these railways or see them often? Tons of factors and questions, but if so, a few IDs is definitely warranted for that sort of use, especially that amount of geometry.

    The factors this asset meets (size/scale, importance, screen space etc) all make it quite justified, I think :)
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    @Kanni3d That is about what I was hoping to hear, thanks :)

    I started learning realtime art back around the beginning of the 7th gen, so a lot of the benchmarks and metrics I use to measure optimisation is still sort of stuck in that era. As such, I get nervous once I start breaking 50k and 3-4 texturesets (couple this with the fact that i've never tackled anything of this size). So by 'readjusting my expectations' I was looking to see if I should be less conservative, or whether what I had right now was working.

    I understand this is always a bit of a roundabout conversation as there are a lot of factors that go into these decisions that ultimately makes it up to the discretion of the artist, but it's good to know that someone else can affirm my choices.

    Thank you.
  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth
    Hello, It's been a while!

    With semester done I am returning to this, hopefully I can finish the actual train by February next year - The surrounding environment I'm not too sure about. Not a lot to update on since i've just come back to it, but thought i'd revive the thread anyway.

    Low poly for the pantograph is about done (and I guess High poly too - apparently didn't mention it before). Will likely introduce another 'layer'(?) into one of the trim sheets for the cables, everything else will be baked & painted.



    On the cables, I'm trying to get that raw coiled metal rope look for them, which you can see in the reference. Given the deep height variation that defines the material I've found it difficult to do at low poly. Has anyone tried something like this before and is able to share some insight into how they approached it?





    Also finished painting the bogeys.

    I have also made a brief start on painting the facade undercarriage. Does anyone have a good source of reference they use for defining metal materials? I've been managing alright for now but it doesn't quite look how I want it to - this is a surprisingly complex material. I've only got a macro view of most of the materials from my references.


    Thank you!





  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Hello again,

    Wrapped up the low-poly for the catenary and a couple of other bits and pieces and bobs. My Substance license expired and I dithered about on whether or not it was worth coughing up for Adobe. I guess this year is when I poke around with Quixel perhaps. So i've got a fair few bakes and paints lined up.


    Started work on the rear of the carriage finally, will aim to re-use as much of the kitbash I prepared for the front as possible. I don't intend to make separate locomotive and carriage units, although it's not something I've actually investigated properly. In theory I guess I could just swap the front facade for my rear-piece, although the dimensions of the resulting unit will be weird.


    As you can probably see, also started on a rail track and ballast while I was out of license. Made some procedural shale/ballast in Houdini and scattered them across a track I modelled with a simple RBD DOPnet. Pretty happy with the results, although it does tile quite noticeably.

    Am thinking about leveraging Nanite for this, especially as UE5 has seemingly deprecated tesselation. As a point of reference, the scattered ballast alone for a single module comes in at 2.4 million polys for ~1500 stones. Interestingly there is very little performance impact when instancing them out in UE5. I could certainly be more aggressive by individually instancing each ballast stone in-engine, which needs some investigation - my initial look seems to suggest it isn't possible yet..


    I think for presentation I will put the larger environment idea on the backburner, or at least release this project in phases - the environment alone could end up being an extra years work! Instead - for "phase 1" anyway - I was thinking of doing a number of different livery variants, just to give the portfolio post some flash, as a sort of 'look through time', reflecting the history of the network. Could even have some fun designing my own or doing a collab.

    Thank you! (PS, having trouble with this new post editor :P )

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Oops, it's January already.

    Progress has been a bit slow, have had a lot of other things on my plate. Mainly just painting and baking at the moment, I still need to collect some more references to figure out the modelling on the rear section, and there's a lot of little annoying greeble pieces that I need to get to - they're basically just cubes but also aren't which makes it difficult to model to a convincing degree of detail.

    Pantograph materials are a bit meh at the moment - Lumen also doesn't like casting shadows from it at all so there's basically no tone in the lighting around it (presumably something to do with all the little thin pieces it has). I also need to add more global variation to the ballast, probably with some planar projected noise to darken certain rocks.

    I am however fairly happy with how the front facade has turned out, I did struggle against it for quite a while.


    Let me know what you think, thanks!

  • sacboi
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    sacboi insane polycounter

    Truly Massive!

    I'm learning alot thus far even though I don't work with your tools - cheers for sharing.

    And looking forward to seeing those final render/s 🤙

  • AngrySokol
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    AngrySokol polycounter lvl 7

    Nice work!

    Waiting for final renders 💪

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Hello,

    Thank you both for your comments, it is very encouraging and I appreciate the support.

    Rear of the carriage is ready for painting. Bullshitted the mechanicals on top a little bit - even with some photos I snapped I can't make much sense of it, hoping it holds up. Only 2 extra MatID's for this module, everything else is trim & tile.


    The greeble bits I was complaining about, finished up. UE5 has really gimped translucency I feel. They do help break up the large empty sections on the model.


    Also working on an overhead cable module. Will connect this up to some kind of pylon just to tie the scene together. Extending beyond the scope of the train a little bit, but I feel that it's valuable for presentation purposes.


    I should begin thinking about properly lighting and composing this soon, at the moment i've just been using this as a stage, so there are lights sort of everywhere. Any other final polish things I should think about let me know, it's coming up to that point. I do have some livery stuff in the works, not enough to really show... yet ;)


    Thank you!

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Hello!

    Blocked out a pylon, but now that I'm looking at it I don't think I like it.

    Seems a bit too dominating and screws with the composition. In particular I don't want to have anything extend over to the other side of the train as that will block cameras, which leaves me with this unbalanced L-shape. It's also very large (despite being more or less in-scale), and so takes over the focus. I think I will leave it out, and just have the overhead cables floating.


    Rear of the carriage is painted.

    My boyfriend is also helping me out and is working on some illustrations for a livery/wrap variant! I am again going to leave the idea for the historical paints, as university goes back in basically a week and I do want to get this out before then.

    Still a work in progress, let me know what you think of the idea. There will be another large illustration to match the rear end of the carriage, as well as a start and end piece for the trim along the middle.


    Thanks - happy for any feedback on the pylons & the illustrations.

  • sacboi
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    sacboi insane polycounter

    The pylons kind of contextually 'frame' this scene quite nicely but tbh not sure about that wrapped illustration though?

    however all good, just a personal preference. I'd worked on a rail project just prior too covid hitting here in VIC so used to seeing clean skinned trains, is all 👍️

  • griffinrails

    Beautiful model! You could probably convert this for Trainz Railroad Simulator 2019 or DTG Train Simulator, upload it as a payware mod and make a killing. I'd buy this!

    Amazing work on this, this is incredible.

  • killnpc
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    killnpc interpolator

    very nice modeling and texturing, great work

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    Thank you! Much appreciated :)


    @griffinrails Interesting idea, would you be able to point me towards the modding communities/resources for either? Does either game use Unreal Engine? I suspect the complexity of the model as it is now would be a bit beyond what's performant. Definitely open to doing it as there is a dearth of Australian content in these kinds of games.

  • griffinrails

    Trainz and DTG Train SImulator as far as I know have their own different game engines. Trainz: A New Era onwards uses it's own scratch built 64bit engine, however I'd say Trainz 2019 onwards would be the safest option since it has the most powerful engine. You'd likely have to downgrade the model a bit though, or at least the shaders and textures. The bogies, pantograph and cabin all ahve to be seperate game assets, and have to have animations. You could easily just use a stock standard cabin or use the cabin from the old V set made for the game.

    There are plenty of discussion forums for the game itself, although you do need to have a MyTrainz account to access the forums i believe. (MyTrainz accounts are made either from the forums or when you purchase one of the games). Trainz 2019 is VERY pricy, so Trainz: A New Era on Steam would be a better option for testing purposes and whatnot.

    The community is friendly and can help you with any problems.

    Forum URL:https://forums.auran.com/trainz/forum.php

    DTG Train Simulator is another option, however their community seems to be far more elitist, and the company DTG (DoveTailGames) is rather disliked due to their scummy busniness practices. Nevertheless, they would help you with any problems on their forum.

    Forum URL:https://forums.dovetailgames.com/forums/trainsimworld/

    Also, some VERY useful tools are found on the PEVSoft Website when it comes to Trainz modding.

    PEVSoft URL:http://trainz.shaneturner.co.uk/tutorials/index.php/home/utilities/pevsoft-trainz-tools

    Don't want to come off as forcing you to make a mod here, sorry in advance.

  • sacboi
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    sacboi insane polycounter

    Was into sims when starting out, though been out of the loop for a while but checking out their respective wiki (eg: Trainz) is where I'd start and by the way your project has inspired me to have a crack at making a Chs6 loco using a 2/3D workflow, on another forum 👍️

  • rexo12
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    rexo12 greentooth

    @griffinrails Not a bother at all! I would love the opportunity to have my model (and all its details) available in a more interactive way. I just need to scope it out a bit - maybe this is what finally gets me to buy a train simulator...

    @sacboi Looks like a great project, lovely little loco and those pantographs will be interesting. Good luck :)

  • cityrailrulez

    WOW! I am blown away by the details of your V Set mate, that's absolutely amazing

    Shame it's the Hamburger livery "Yunk!" but it's just caught my eye. Mate, if it was only possible to obtain your model so I could have fun ripping it apart in Blender and seeing how exactly you modelled it, I enjoy ripping apart models here and there and seeing how it's been made and learning from it as I model my own models

    I would love to see your V Set in DTG "Dovetail Games" Train Simulator! I could give it a shot if I was able to download your V Set model, I do have some knowledge getting models into DTG Train Simulator. But with only basic setup for now as I am still learning

    Overall, what an EXCELLENT model

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