Winners announced for Rookie Awards 2021


Mariana Alejandra Luna López
by marianaluna on 1 Jun 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Or what I think Tenochtitlan would look like if it had evolved into a sci-fi city. This is a small environment practive I decided to make to polish my lighting and look dev skills while practicing some modeling and texture.

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Hello, I'm a designer/engineer but I'm looking forward to work in the VFX and animation industry. I'm trying to focus in lighting and look dev, but I also like environments. So I started this proyect as a way to polish my skills and also to try and follow an actual pipeline. 

I have always liked the combination between ancient and sci-fi architecture, so I decided to take this approach for my environment. At first I wanted to go with some asian inspired style like some of my favourite sci-fi movie references, but as I looked for other references I realized the majority of the sci-fi works are inpired in that particular style.

So as I looked for another culture or architectural style to get some inspitation from. I decided to look at my own country and go with something sci-fi mexican inspired.  And also because I thought it was funny that all the mexican related artworks are always small towns, jungles or regular cities. I only found like 2 or 3  sci-fi related artworks. 

That seted, I decided to look for inspiration from Aztec and Mayan cultures. 

And searched for some concepts and landscapes to try to get and idea of how were their cities.

Altough at the end I invented my city, I took a lot of inspiration from the ancient Tenochtitlan for the layout. This ended up being the main moodboard for my concept.

After that I searched for architectural inspiration from some concepts and archeological sites. 

Following my references I made this small layout/concept to get an idea of how many buildings and props I was going to make or search for, and how I wanted to distribute them. 

As I wanted to follow an actual pipeline, I started my development process by creating folders for each part and object that I was going to make. 

Once that was done, I actually started with the modeling part. Since this was a city, I decided it was best to just have some distinctive buildings and use some other internet models to give more variation to the city. 

I modeled my buildings in 3ds Max since I had more modeling experience in that software. But for the texturing  and shading part I used Substance Painter and Maya. For this last part I also created a master look dev file, so I had the same lighting and ACES configuration for all my models.

I'm just responsible for the main buildings and the boat, the set dressing (a.k.a antennas, statues. etc.) are from some packages I got from one of my university professors and some free internet models. 

For the layout I also used the free Kitbash Neo-cities package and plants  from SpeedTree. 

Also, altough at the beginning I wasn't planning to, I ended up searching for a character to add to my scene. So I used  "Winter Girl" ( by Jakob Scheidt is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ( And just modified her clothes and skin color. 

When it was time to start with the lighting and render part, I thought the scene was probaly going to be too heavy for my computer. So before that, I converted all my assets into maya standIns to try to make my scene as lighter as I could. 

Then I actually started to light my scene, I searched for a lot of lighting references and it also took me several trials to get to the final look. 

For the final part, to reduce render times I divided my scene components into layers and also created some masks to use in compositing. I used Nuke to fit everything together.

I really enjoyed creating this environment, it was very fun and challenging trying to adapt myself to a certain pipeline, specially the ACES part, since it was my first time actually creating a project with them. I wanted to share what I did for this project but I still think I can do better and I will try to improve my scene in the future. 

Here you can watch some of my other projects 

Thank you for reading my little journey through this project and if you have any feedback I will gladly accept it :)

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