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Midcentury Mountain Home [UE5] [Intermediate] [Critique]

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Korbology polycounter lvl 2

I am the greatest environment artist ever born. My work cannot possibly be improved.

That being said, what could be improved here?

If it would help to know, I’ll explain some of the methodology and techniques employed here, but before I do that I’d appreciate unbiased first impressions. What would leadership tell me to fix in a AAA studio setting? 

Here’s my Artstation for any savvy detectives out there who might want to spot recurring errors in my work. Just keep in mind some of it is pretty old. 

I appreciate any responses in advance!


  • zetheros
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    zetheros greentooth
    I'm not in a leadership position, but if your rock material could double as chocolate mousse, something's wrong or im just hungry

  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J grand marshal polycounter
    is there a reference?

    besides the materials the whole architecture just doesn't seem believable to me, not that I'm frank loyd wright. But the enormous rock on top - what's underneath? Does that go through the house? If not, how is the 1,000 tons of rock supported?

    How do you get in the place? Is there a door? Secret tunnel on the other side? How is it that this place with this view has no porch? Fire the architect! 
    What is the roof made of? How come we don't get to see the grand view into the valley? what are the windows made of?
  • Korbology
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    Korbology polycounter lvl 2
    Yeah, so I started this project off by generating myself some concept art with Bing Image Creator--which is literally Microsoft's licensed version of Dall-E 2 that they made free to the public if anyone is interested.

    I then chose the concept that I liked best and tried to build a scene around it.

    I know the whole generative art thing is controversial currently, but I figured my usage of it was relatively innocent as I was just using it as a source of ideas, and that I wasn't passing off anything from the generation as "my art." I would have to build the scene in 3D myself after all, which was simply for portfolio/practice, and to hopefully demonstrate technical skill. Plus it would be good practice working from an incomplete concept that I would need to gather further reference for.

    Speaking of which, I noticed that the rocks it generated weren't quite right for this loosely Rocky Mountains based scene. What it gave me were rocks similar to those seen at Joshua Tree National Park, so I opted to keep them as sandstone for the nice color palette, but to change them to something rougher like what you might see in Utah.

    I'd appreciate any advice regarding my rock shader.

    Also with the architecture, haha, those are some good points regarding the lack of porch and the believability and whatnot. I think what appealed to me about this concept was partially how the fantastical and mysterious elements leave a lot to your imagination. Like, where IS the front door? I guess the building must tunnel further into the rock than it would first appear. But clearly I took things too far if it looks like the structure should be utterly crushed under the weight of the cliff. If anyone has any suggestions on how to dial that back, I'd love to hear them and I'll definitely keep this in mind moving forward.

    All in all, my goals with this project were to sculpt rocks for the first time, (success) sculpt them well, (less success) practice creating shaders, (success) create my first landscape with an auto-material for filling in foliage (success, even though it isn't really apparent in the project) create my first vista asset--which in this case was a mountain in the background--(success) and to create my first outdoor scene with organic elements. (success)

    Of course that means I didn't create the trees myself for example, but I plan to make my first trees on a future project. Now it's just a matter of practicing the skills I have obtained from this project, and trying to polish it to the highest degree I currently--reasonably--can.

    I hope that sheds some light on things!
  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J grand marshal polycounter
    in the concept though it does look like the house is built around the rocks in a more believable way. And the windows are transparent + have reflection.

    also in the concept the total scale in up/down is more squished. Like your's or more hamburger shaped but the concept it more flying saucer shaped. This seems to throw the sense of scale off. It may help to put some human figurines in there and base everything from that.

    The colors in the concept are more attractive because the aren't so dark and seem to get a little blue tint? Looks like you rendered this in unreal? If so there are quite a few ways to target the shadows specifically. The simplest way is just with color correction settings in post process. I think if you got closer to the reference with the lighting and colors you'd have an incredible scene.

    But the biggest setback IMO is the modeling. It only looks like just a little ways beyond blockout geometry to me. Don't worry about making each little thing yourself or using AI - I'd just try to make the whole thing look as good as possible by whatever means possible.
  • Korbology
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    Korbology polycounter lvl 2
    Here's my first rework of the scene based on everyone's advice:

    It's still not perfect, but I mildly tweaked many things which hopefully results in a noticeable step up in quality. Those things include:

    1. Reshaping the building to better reflect the reference
    2. Moving the camera to better display some of the valley
    3. Adding slight variation to the rock shader
    4. Lighting rework with a focus on brightening shadows
    5. And I added a very mild lens flare as well as a few dust particles to the air

    The only thing I couldn't really figure out was ways to improve the modeling of the house beyond softening the harsh corners, but I'm still very open to all types of suggestions!
  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J grand marshal polycounter
    It might be worthwhile to put image of yours and the concept together in photo edit app and then toggle opacity back and forth. The intent is not for them to match exactly but this can be helpful to gauge if you are hitting in same ballpark. At least in terms of how image makes you feel as a viewer
    It seems that the concept, even though it is AI art and therefore doesn't necessarily make any sense, still has a little more "thought" put into the architecture and materials. Notice the edge of the roof like it is burnished metal or something. That little bit of color detail gives us some notion what the material is and helps define the shape.
    Also the windows have a lot more reflection and less uniformity in shape. There are quite a few shapes of windows and they appear inset a little ways into the walls.
    Also notice the rocks - there is a lot more variation in shape and size.
    Most noticeable difference is the colors and lighting though. Yours is just realistic, which is fine except that your materials are too basic to make it very interesting. The entire building feels like its made of stucco or something rough. Even the windows. The windows and wall seem like they are just one solid piece of plastic, as if the whole thing were a molded toy. I think if you go in there and inset the windows a bit, add some trim details around the borders, it will catch the light and make it feel more convincing, even if you can't directly see the small details easily. The concept leaves a lot to imagination but if you are going with realistic style I think you have to fill in the missing bits.

    I think the window material is killing yours. It just looks like black paint. We should see the valley reflection wrapping around.

    I did a 1 minute recolor in attempt to get closer to the concept here. I think you should try and stay true to the concepts colors. You might look into how to make a LUT to use in unreal or mess with colors of the variatious textures. For instance the color of the trees and backdrop working in harmony with the colors of the rocks..the AI is very good at choosing ideal color scenarios. Of course you can do your own but I think it is worth deliberate thought and action.

  • Korbology
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    Korbology polycounter lvl 2
    Ah, thank you for the tips! Here's my second batch of adjustments:

    I think after this I need to make the judgement call to move on to another project since I can feel that I've been looking at this one for too long, have absorbed all the lessons I think I meaningfully can from it, and have been procrastinating the next project by staying in "polish mode" for too long on this one. But here's the list of final adjustments!

    1. I found a better reference for my roof material, which brought me to smoothen it and the plaster walls a bit:

    2. I inset the windows more realistically to match how they are in real buildings. (oops, got carried away "interpreting the concept" originally)
    3. Very slightly thickened the trim
    4. Tried to fix the windows by making them transparent and adding curtains
    5. And worked on increasing the appeal of the colors by better matching them to the reference. (hopefully I struck a good balance between what's realistic and the boldness of the concept)

    Thank you to Alex_J for helping me to figure out that I was forgetting to pay proper attention to color pallets and materials. As always, lighting, color, and texture will be areas I aim to grow moving forward. If anyone has any further questions about the scene, feel free to ask!

    And here's a side by side of the original with where it is now:

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