Second Year University Projects
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Second Year University Projects

Chris Copeland
by chriscopeland3d on 27 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

My projects from my second year at Falmouth University. I created a Micro-Apartment scene and then for my final project I created a Dynamic Forest Scene with a focus on shaders. I learnt a lot over the course of this year!

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Dynamic Forest Scene (UE4)

For my GART 250 University project, I was able to choose exactly what sort of project I would like to undertake and how I will I create it. Recently I have really enjoyed making shaders within the Unreal Engine and these can be used to push an environment piece to the next tier whilst simultaneously speeding up my workflow. For my GART 250 scene I ultimately settled on creating a forest scene based off some photos I took whilst walking around a local reservoir - my rationale for this is that I will be able to create a range of advanced shaders and I haven't ever created foliage / organic assets for a game environment and I wanted to throw myself right into the deep-end. I have also had very limited exposure to Zbrush up until now so I wanted to use this project to develop my sculpting skills and integrate Zbrush into my workflow. Hopefully, by the end of this project I should have filled the gaps in my skillset and I should be able to be more confident in organic asset creation.

Forest Materials

Beauty Shots

Shaders

I knew that I wanted to have the option to procedurally add a material to the top of an object regardless of its rotation rotation. This would be a good feature for quickly and easily adding materials like moss to the tops of objects in the forest scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDluA1f5gzw I used this tutorial to achieve this effect - it was a good tutorial and I learnt concepts like axis masking in WorldSpace. To have more control over the layer, I added the ability to paint out parts of the mask using Vertex Painting. I also took this concept a step further by adding camera based tessellation to the top layer:

The most complex shader I created for this project was my rain shader. Originally, I followed a tutorial by DeepSpaceBanana on creating a rain shader within UE4 - you can find it here: https://deepspacebanana.github.io/ . This was a good tutorial as I learnt concepts such as Alpha Erosion and using different axis's to display different textures (to make rain drip down a model but stay on the top), as well as how to saturate textures using shaders.

I found that this shader looked a bit too cartoony for my scene so I decided to use another tutorial by Ben Cloward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUemJLSaFxw . This was an extensive tutorial that took me through the process of creating droplets, ripples, streaks and puddles. It built upon a lot of the ideas in DeepSpaceBanana's rain shader. I also added a few tweaks of my own to the new rain shader by adding parameters to the puddles to determine how soft the edges are and how much contrast the puddle mask has.

I discovered a nice way to quickly create variations of rocks within UE4. I utilised Vishal Ranga's Rock Shader workflow for my rocks as this allowed me a lot of control and easy variation of the material without having to leave UE4: https://80.lv/articles/rock-shader-pipeline-from-zbrush-to-unreal/ . This was a good breakdown as it introduced me to the concept of layering Normals and Masks within UE4 to create quick variations of materials:

I created a quick and simple way to add snow to the scene which uses the same logic as my Object Orientation Mask shader - only instead of blending another material, it turns the masked area white and lowers the roughness. This is a really quick and easy way to get quite believable results of snow on top of objects. I used this technique with a Material Parameter Collection which allows me to update the parameters globally - allowing for dynamic global snow. I also made the snow react to different masks such as the rain shader and my wetness gradient masks - this gives the illusion that the snow melts when it comes into contact with water like rain or a river:

Zbrush

I used this project as an opportunity to improve my sculpting skills with Zbrush and to integrate it more with my current modelling pipline. Prior to this project, I struggled to navigate Zbrush's interface and regularly ran into issues when I moved around the viewport. I still think that Zbrush is one of my weakest areas of skill, however I'm happy with the progress I have made during this project. I used Zbrush primarily for the rocks in my project along with sculpting some leaves that I could bake down onto a texture atlas. When sculpting the rocks, I focused on blocking out the large shapes and forms first to get a good base to work with. Then, I went over the sculpt using the Trim and Orb brushes to create harsh edges and flat faces typically found on rocky formations. I also used the surface noise menu to add some noise to the rocks to break up some of the flat faces as well.

I also used PolyPaint to mask out some leaves and extract them from a plane. Then I sculpted in some light details like veins before using the bend curve and arc tools to create different shape variations. I could then bake these leaves onto a plane for my leaf atlas.

Owen's Micro-Apartment (UE4)

A scene I created for my second year GART 230 University Project. The task was to create a scene from your favourite TV show or film: I chose Owen's Micro-Apartment from the Netflix Limited Series: Maniac (2018).

Blockout

Assets

Materials


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