Cabin in a lake environment
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Cabin in a lake environment

Iván Sanandrés Gutiérrez
by IvanSS on 28 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Hi there! This is my first ever environment created in Unreal Engine. I made it as a class project in the Digital Art for Video Games Master Degree in Voxel School. I really like how it turned out and I hope you do too.

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Cabin in a lake environment

This is my first environment art project made in Unreal Engine. What I wanted as I final result was a rendered image with a high focus on color and composition. I also wanted to work on different aspects of the development of an environment in UE, such as modelling props, creating a landscape and setting up some nice-looking materials.

The next image is the final result.

Breakdown

First things first. Before opening UE, I started looking up for references. I decided to try to make a cabin in a lake because I thought that would be balanced enough for what I wanted to make, taking into account that this was my first environment. I ended up choosing the next picture as a reference.

Using Unreal Engine 4.27 I started making a landscape and I modeled a whiteboxing of where I would place the objects using the engine itself. I used UE default character dummies as a size reference. Then I added a plane that would serve as the lake water. I exported every element of the whiteboxing separately so that I could model them in 3DS Max keeping the measures.

After replacing the final models by the whiteboxing I started creating materials for everything and looking for textures. I downloaded some textures frome Quixel Bridge for the props I modeled and for the landscape. However, I edited the landscape textures a bit using Quixel Mixer in order to break the tiling. 

I created a material for the terrain that included every texture that I wanted to use. Then, I painted these textures over the landscape.

For the water I created a material that uses different noises I made in Substance Designer and mix them to make it feel less uniform. I also used a 'Depth Fade' node that I'd mix with a fresnel to achieve a slightly different color in the parts of the water that are close to any surface.

The next step would be adding the foliage. I downloaded different packs that I liked from the Marketplace and then I filled the landscape with vegetation using the foliage tool in UE.

I finally placed some cameras to take some nice shots of the scene. I also added a planar reflection to the water to make more realistic and good-looking. Then I started a long process of editing colors and lighting, modifying the foliage and trying different post-processing setups.

Lucky me, Unreal Engine 5 was already out when I was deciding what the final image would be, so I decided to try migrating the whole scene to that version. I really liked the look of the scene withing UE 5, so I stayed with it and tried different lighting and post-process configurations as well that led me to the final render.

Finally, next you can see a comparison of the scene with no post-processing at all and the final setup as well as a comparison between the reference picture and the final result.


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