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[Finished] Japanese Town

Brandon_KyT
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Just a quick work in progress on a small Japanese town I have been creating. All made using Maya, Zbrush and Substance Painter (aside from the vine decals seen on the brick walls). Assembly and lighting was done in UE4 and the trees were created using speed tree. 

Still working on detailing the scene and finishing up some assets as some parts still look pretty flat. Any suggestions/critiques would be much appreciated and if you have any questions about the scene feel free to ask!




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  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter
    Cool scene, it has a lot of potential, but right now a couple of things stand out that could use improvement.

    First the lighting, is it supposed to be daytime or nighttime? I can't tell. The very bright directional light feels like mid-day sunlight, but the darkness, contrast, and general mood of the rest of the scene looks like night. Also the lanterns seem a little too bright in the foreground, and too dark in the background. Are they meant to be electric or flame?
    I would be interested to see some of your lighting reference, to get an idea what you're going for.

    Also I'm not sure if the ivy decals work. They look too flat, and the projection is very distorted when it tries to wrap around the sides of the bricks. Maybe the ivy texture would look better on meshes with alpha placed on top of the brick walls?
  • teodar23
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    teodar23 interpolator
    I agree, the contrast is too much, there should be some light bouncing around creating a bit more ambient light.
    I suggest creating a shell mesh over the walls and use that for ivy with an alpha.
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Cool scene, it has a lot of potential, but right now a couple of things stand out that could use improvement.

    First the lighting, is it supposed to be daytime or nighttime? I can't tell. The very bright directional light feels like mid-day sunlight, but the darkness, contrast, and general mood of the rest of the scene looks like night. Also the lanterns seem a little too bright in the foreground, and too dark in the background. Are they meant to be electric or flame?
    I would be interested to see some of your lighting reference, to get an idea what you're going for.

    Also I'm not sure if the ivy decals work. They look too flat, and the projection is very distorted when it tries to wrap around the sides of the bricks. Maybe the ivy texture would look better on meshes with alpha placed on top of the brick walls?
    Hey really appreciate the feedback, been refreshing my post all day to get some replies on things I can improve on. 

    For the lighting, I was going for an ambient sunset kind of feel, though it does seem like I started to veer off from that (ill post reference pics below). As for the lanterns I agree. I never really though about what type they were meant to be, now that I think about it I suppose electric. Also the lights in the background disappear once I exceed a certain view distance; any way I could fix that? 

    I'll definitely work on the ivy decals and try your suggestions. Also your work is awesome man, I'm really thankful for the feedback and hope you can continue critiquing the scene as I continue to push it even further. 
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    teodar23 said:
    I agree, the contrast is too much, there should be some light bouncing around creating a bit more ambient light.
    I suggest creating a shell mesh over the walls and use that for ivy with an alpha.
    Thanks for the feedback! I'll give that a try and post an update soon.
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Here's the reference lighting. Now that I look at it I kinda missed the mark haha

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    There isn't really a directional light at all in that reference. It looks like it's all skylight, image-based-lighting, and bounce / global illumination type lighting. You could try loading an HDR into your sky light's 'Cube Map' slot, and turn up it's intensity and it's indirect lighting intensity, and see where that gets you. If it helps you could try turning off all of your other lights temporarily while you calibrate the skylight.

    Not sure what's going on with the lantern's distance cull. Are you using point lights, emissive materials, or both? And if they're point lights, are they set to static, stationary, or movable? (Each setting limits point lights in different ways).


    if you are interested, these are some of my favorite lighting tutorials/lectures:





  • KW_Arts
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    KW_Arts triangle
    Hey there! I am quite new to polycount so I am trying to be a bit more active on other people's forums to try and get some critique on my own work! :D and then I stumbled upon this work and it looked really awesome man. There is something quite unique going here and with a bit more time and polish with the lighting and the materials (how they react to the lighting) it could look incredible. I think your lighting reference is really beautiful with the pink and purple hues from the sunset sky, but to me your scene feels more like a foggy early night and its quite interesting. Kind of like this image. Obviously its down to you what you go for, but i think your current lighting does still have potential if you follow through with it!
  • Dks13632725
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    Dks13632725 polycounter lvl 3
    you are awesome
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Went ahead and completely re-created the lighting. Took James's suggestion and used a HDRI for the skylight and significantly toned down the directional light. Lights in the foreground were toned down a bit as well. Really want to nail the lighting before I start making the final assets!

    I also did some tweaking with the ivy, I got rid of the decals and ended up manually placing ivy scans in my prefabs. 

    Really appreciating the feedback from everyone, the more the better! 



  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    There isn't really a directional light at all in that reference. It looks like it's all skylight, image-based-lighting, and bounce / global illumination type lighting. You could try loading an HDR into your sky light's 'Cube Map' slot, and turn up it's intensity and it's indirect lighting intensity, and see where that gets you. If it helps you could try turning off all of your other lights temporarily while you calibrate the skylight.

    Not sure what's going on with the lantern's distance cull. Are you using point lights, emissive materials, or both? And if they're point lights, are they set to static, stationary, or movable? (Each setting limits point lights in different ways).

    Took a lot of your suggestions and implemented them into the scene and also watched some of the tutorials you linked; I really enjoyed the polygon academy one! 

    As for the lantern distance cull -- I am using point lights, I tried static, stationary and movable, messed around with the LODS and still no luck. Went into the project settings and tried configuring the cull settings as well. Spent a few hours looking for ways to fix the problem but haven't been able to find a solution yet. Again, really appreciate the feedback and hope you can continue critiquing the scene!
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    KW_Arts said:
    Hey there! I am quite new to polycount so I am trying to be a bit more active on other people's forums to try and get some critique on my own work! :D and then I stumbled upon this work and it looked really awesome man. There is something quite unique going here and with a bit more time and polish with the lighting and the materials (how they react to the lighting) it could look incredible. I think your lighting reference is really beautiful with the pink and purple hues from the sunset sky, but to me your scene feels more like a foggy early night and its quite interesting. Kind of like this image. Obviously its down to you what you go for, but i think your current lighting does still have potential if you follow through with it! 

    Thanks for the feedback! Let me know what you think of the new lighting  :)



  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter
    The point lights in the background still cast light on the buildings, just not on the lanterns themselves. I notice that none of the lanterns cast shadows either. Are you using fully a opaque lantern material, and turning of 'cast shadows' for the meshes? Maybe adding an emissive layer, or adding to one (literally with an 'add' node) in the lantern's material would help?
    (this is becoming an intriguing mystery.)
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    A few tweaks and a darker night sky 


  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    The point lights in the background still cast light on the buildings, just not on the lanterns themselves. I notice that none of the lanterns cast shadows either. Are you using fully a opaque lantern material, and turning of 'cast shadows' for the meshes? Maybe adding an emissive layer, or adding to one (literally with an 'add' node) in the lantern's material would help?
    (this is becoming an intriguing mystery.)
    Yup, that's exactly what I'm doing with the opaque material with cast shadows off. When I enable cast shadows they project a really weird shadow from inside the lantern. Anyways, still no luck, spent several hours checking forums and videos for an answer and still a mystery haha. For the final shot I might just go in and add a manual glow in photoshop or something. 
  • Eric Chadwick
    This is coming along great.

    The ground textures are super shiny as if wet, but it's not raining so that comes across as incorrect material work. Either add rain, or reduce the shine to a more reasonable amount.

    Your darks are pure black, which can be a stylistic choice, but I know it can be a pet peeve for lighters. Usually there's some bounce light add some dark detail in the shadows, and usually there's a cool color cast too (moonlight or cloud/sky bounce). Tree trunks are also jet black, but a bit of bounce from all those lanterns would be nice.
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    This is coming along great.

    The ground textures are super shiny as if wet, but it's not raining so that comes across as incorrect material work. Either add rain, or reduce the shine to a more reasonable amount.

    Your darks are pure black, which can be a stylistic choice, but I know it can be a pet peeve for lighters. Usually there's some bounce light add some dark detail in the shadows, and usually there's a cool color cast too (moonlight or cloud/sky bounce). Tree trunks are also jet black, but a bit of bounce from all those lanterns would be nice.
    These are some things I was not even aware of, so thanks for letting me know! All of the feedback is really helpful and I will definitely be making some changes 
  • KW_Arts
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    The new screenshot is definitely a LOT better, the values are a lot more balanced now and the lanterns are no longer getting blown out, very nice man!

    I feel this scene would benefit with a bit more depth of field adjustments through some tweaks to the fog and maybe having some slight blur for the background just to clearly differentiate between the different planes in the composition!

    Nice stuff! :)
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Another update, took a lot of Eric's and KW's advice and cleaned up the lighting and added some DOF in the back. Also made some new assets for the scene and toned down the specular values of the stone materials.

    I still think I can push this scene a bit further, the feedback is helping a ton keep it coming! 

  • teodar23
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    teodar23 interpolator
    The contrast is a bit too much and if you dont want to go the static baked lighting way, i suggest adding some ambient light even a skylight with very low intensity. Anither thing that i would try is to decrease the faloff exponent in the lights that are more area lights than point lights. For example on the right side you have a strip of light that has unshadowed lights as the light source and its giving very contrasty light around it when in reality the light would be much more soft. Maybe mess with their radiuses and turn down their specular contribution as well.
    I would also introduce some AO into the scene but not too much.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Looking great!

    The white bricks on the left are bugging me a bit, too uniform in color.

    The wall in the upper left, it would help to add some dirt in the corners where it meets the wood beams. This is true all around, but especially noticeable here. If a surface has been around for any length of time, it's going to have soot and grime, which is worn away by wind/sun/rain in the more exposed parts, and accumulates in the crevices and corners. Increases realism. Just don't go too crazy with it, a little goes a long way. You can use vertex painting and multitexturing to add this. Search our wiki for MultiTexture.
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    teodar23 said:
    The contrast is a bit too much and if you dont want to go the static baked lighting way, i suggest adding some ambient light even a skylight with very low intensity. Anither thing that i would try is to decrease the faloff exponent in the lights that are more area lights than point lights. For example on the right side you have a strip of light that has unshadowed lights as the light source and its giving very contrasty light around it when in reality the light would be much more soft. Maybe mess with their radiuses and turn down their specular contribution as well.
    I would also introduce some AO into the scene but not too much.

    Got it, do you think the scene could use more shadows?
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    @Eric Chadwick Great suggestion, I'll get on that. For the bricks I've been pondering up some ideas to add variation to the color, but not sure yet. Will keep you guys updated thanks for the feedback!
  • Eric Chadwick
    Look for reference of retaining walls. Pay attention to logical wear patterns. Sun and rain and human traffic will all leave telltale marks on town surfaces.

    Every surface has the chance to add to the environment's narrative, as the environment artist, it's your job to sell that story.
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Here's another quick update, I added a few new angles to spice things up a bit. I think the 2nd one looks pretty awesome. 

    Went and made the lights on the right side of the brick wall softer and more ambient @teodar23

    For the white bricks that I previously had I ended up using a reference picture of a worn down European style brick wall as per @Eric Chadwick suggested. Went for a slightly dirtier and sandier look than before and added some new bricks with a few more chips and cracks around the edges. Also dirtied up the white walls a little so that they don't stick out as much. 

    I feel as though this project is starting to near it's end, but I am in no rush. Going to try and look for small things I could touch up and make the scene the absolute best it can be. As always thanks everyone for all the feedback, it has helped tremendously. And of course, let me know what you think and tell me what I can improve on! 






  • Eric Chadwick
    The bricks came out well. 

    I think the walls could use some help, a bit of a softer transition to the dark wood beams. Here's a quick paintover:

  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    @Eric Chadwick just touched up the walls. Appreciate the reference  =)


  • Eric Chadwick
    Nice one. How did you do it? Is it burned into the wall texture, or did you use vertex color to blend it in?

    One thing that bugs me a bit is the terraced areas don't have railings. Most entrance/exit walks will have railings for any drop more than 24". 
  • Brandon_KyT
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    Brandon_KyT triangle
    Nice one. How did you do it? Is it burned into the wall texture, or did you use vertex color to blend it in?

    One thing that bugs me a bit is the terraced areas don't have railings. Most entrance/exit walks will have railings for any drop more than 24". 
    Thanks! I ended up putting it into the wall in substance painter and just reimporting the texture files. I was running into a problem where I couldn't vertex paint on the houses because they were all in blueprint actors already. I must be doing something wrong in that aspect so still trying to figure that out. 

    Great suggestion with the railings, I think that will look good as well. Thinking about adding a balcony to some of the second story floors too. 
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    Yah, It's looking good. :)
  • KW_Arts
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    Looks amazing man! Well done for sticking with it and responding to the feedback, the progression is obvious and it has ended up being an incredible scene! :D 

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