Are you ready to show your skills? Rookie Awards 2023 is open for submissions!
Citadel of Time

Citadel of Time

by JulianBuettner on 28 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Hi everyone! I am Julian, 21, and currently a student at PIXL VISN media arts academy. As part of my education, I created this little project which I am happy to share with all of you! (concept by Jeremy Fenske)

25 934 7
Round of applause for our sponsors

A citadel of times long forgotten

After the topic  was announced, for me at least, it was immediately clear that I would do a “The Legend of Zelda” themed project. Because of “Breath of the Wilds” interesting Landscapes and its world depicted in ruins, I started looking for concepts based on that particular entry to the series. This concept has been on my front page for a long time, and now was the perfect opportunity to realize it in 3D. I had one week to finish the project.

The importance of references when creating environments

As with every project, the use of reference material proved once again to be invaluable to achieving a realistic look. In this case I looked at a good number of overgrown places as well as forests to learn how my concept might look in a realistic world.

These are just some of the pictures I used to create my project.

Getting to work

Once I knew which concept I would use for my project, I immediately started to plan which steps would be needed to realize this project. I started with blocking out my scene in Maya. After that, I proceeded with modeling the citadel as well as the small stone pedestal to the right of the screen. I downloaded the guardian from Sketchfab and placed it in my scene. The next step was to texture the assets in Substance Painter. Once that was done, I created several different trees in Speedtree. The overall fooliage and grass was the last step I made to complete the environment. While all of that was going on, I worked on the liquid simulation of the river using Bifrost

Challenges. Challenges. And more challenges..

This project proved to be, without any doubt, the one in which I encountered the most severe problems. While the overall process of creating the scene went rather smoothly, the project turned out to be basically impossible to render, sporting suspiciously high render times of 2 hours and more. Undeterred by that, I tried to lower the samples in order to finish the project in time. When this didn't work, I did some digging and figgured out what the problem was. After a few test renders, deactivating objects one after another, I was able to track the slow rendering time down to the fooliage assets. The issue seemed to be related to the leafes alpha masking. A friend of mine eventually told me about the sprite node in Redshift, which fixed the problem. Well, the more you know..

Artistically lighting an environment

Because I specialize in Lighting/LookDev, I wanted to do an environment which wouldn't be too easy to light, but still possible given the tight schedule. Below, you can see a breakdown of my lighting setup.

In the future...

Planning proved to be very important. As with every environment project, blocking out your scene and cameras early on is critical to successfully delivering a finished product on time. This also helps to know which objects are to which degree visible to the camera.

In retrospective I would say that this project taught me a lot, especially in terms of level of detail when creating an environment. In the future I would love to utilize the power of a set dressing program. In fact, I am currently working on a new project in Clarisse iFX. Despite only specializing in Lighting/LookDev, I enjoyed the process of building a scene entirely from scratch. In the end, I am really happy with how this project turned out!


- guardian model by NinKorr3D on Sketchfab

- Plants and rocks from Quixel Megascans

- HDRi from PolyHaven

- "A new Beginning" by Cleffernotes on YouTube

- Sound effects from YouTube

Comments (7)