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Modeling / Texturing / Environments - Student Projects

Modeling / Texturing / Environments - Student Projects

Debora Hirsch
by deborahirsch on 23 May 2023 for Rookie Awards 2023

Hey there! I'm Debora Hirsch, a 20 year old artist from Germany. I've been attending the PIXL VISN academy for the past six months, immersing myself in the world of 3D art. In this entry, I am excited to showcase the works I have created during this period.

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Hi everyone! I'm Debora and I'm excited to showcase my first three projects as a 3D student at PIXL VISN media arts academy. Enjoy!

The Forgotten Pokédex

Here's my most recent project where I present my 3D hardsurface model within a forest environment in Unreal Engine.

The Planning | I started with searching for enough references (object, texturing, environments) before I start my project to have a rough concept in mind. I also searched for front views to make my modeling process easier regarding the proportions of the object.

 & UV Unwrapping Then I began with my modeling process. I aimed to keep my polycount as low as possible while still preserving the details of the original Pokédex. After that, I focused on UV unwrapping. Here, I found it importan to maintain a high texel density to incorporate enough details during the later texturing process. Therefore, I implemented the UV Tile workflow.

Texturing |
 Upon entering Substance, I first brainstormed a foundation to start with. I adjusted the base colors and roughly set the roughness values for the different objects.

In Photoshop, I designed the texts on the back of the Pokédex, as well as created the screens and letterings. Additionally, I created alphas for the details, such as the "START," "HOME" labels, or the symbols visible in the top left of the Pokédex. Moreover, I loaded images of Pokémon into Photoshop and added a white outline to give them a sticker-like appearance. I then imported them as textures into Substance. Next, I arranged all these elements on the Pokédex to my liking. 

Once I finished that, I focused on adding edge wear, dirt, and roughness breakups. 
I utilized various dirt and roughness maps to adapt the Pokédex to the forest environment and make it look convincingly weathered and abandoned. With the help of the "Sticker Creator 2" plugin by Dylan Abernethy, I was able to easily achieve a worn and scratched appearance for the stickers.

Unreal Engine | After I finished texturing, I continued my work in Unreal Engine. It was important for me to create a mood and environment similar to my references. Therefore, I started by familiarizing myself with Quixel Megascans and searching for suitable Megascans to download.

I loaded my 3D model into the scene and placed it onto my main environment asset as I desired (the tree stump). Then, I considered my three camera positions and experimented with different angles. Once I was satisfied with the cameras, I began filling the environment and matching the lighting. Initially, I placed 2-3 additional assets to gain a better understanding of my scene. Then, I adjusted the lighting. I aimed to create a sunny and peaceful mood with my lighting.

Once I was content with that, I gradually filled the scene with environment assets from Quixel. I created the ground and placed rocks to enhance the natural ambiance. Next, I filled the background with trees and bushes to give the scene a more forested feel. To enhance the abandoned look, I added vegetation around the tree stump, keeping it balanced with my 3D object. Afterward, I focused on adding small details such as branches or fallen leaves, as these details play a vital role in enhancing the overall scene.

To give my shots a cinematic look and add some polish, I decided to incorporate camera shake. Once everything was ready for rendering, I took on the challenge of using path tracing for the first time and rendered the shots.

Nuke | 
I imported the rendered shots into Nuke for post-processing and made several adjustments. This included tasks such as adjusting colors, adding chromatic aberration, lens distortion, haze and bloom effects, and applying cinematic LUTs for a desired look.

Abandoned Garage

This is the project where I used Unreal Engine for the first time.
I can already say - I have learned a lot in this project, and it has shown me even more how much I enjoy creating environments and 3D props.

I chose to create an abandoned post-apocalyptic garage with "The Last of Us" vibes. Additionally, as part of the project assignment, I had to animate a character provided to us by PIXL VISN.

Here's how I approached the project:

Planning | I began by researching various post-apocalyptic environments and references from "The Last of Us" game to gather inspiration. I studied the lighting, textures, props, and overall mood of similar settings to understand the visual elements that contribute to the desired atmosphere.

Modeling | Next, I created 3D models in Autodesk Maya that would populate the environment. I made sure to choose assets that aligned with the post-apocalyptic theme and the desired mood. I couldn't focus heavily on details during the modeling process, but it wasn't a problem since the objects would be seen from a distance anyway.

Texturing | During the texturing process in Substance Painter, my focus was on creating a realistic and believable look. I aimed to make everything appear truly abandoned, as if nobody had been in the garage for a long time. 
Since I didn't intend to make close-up shots in this project, texturing became easier for me as I didn't have to perfect every single detail. It was sufficient for me if it looked good from the camera's perspective in the shot.

Animation | Due to my limited time for the project (a total of one week), I decided to create a simple animationin Autodesk Maya. As WALL-E is a curious character, I thought it would be fitting for him to drive around and accidentally stumble upon an interesting garage. He enters the garage, is amazed by the scattered objects around him, and then spots something very interesting that the camera cannot see. He swiftly drives towards it.

Unreal Engine | In Unreal Engine, I imported all my textured 3D props and placed them according to my preferences. Once I finished that, I focused on lighting. It was important to me to create a post-apocalyptic atmosphere in this scene, with a sense of nearing the end of the day. A slowly setting sun with radiant godrays was perfect for achieving that look.
Next, I filled the scene with vegetation to further enhance the post-apocalyptic and abandoned look.
I also added some camera shake to achieve a more realistic look and make everything more interesting.

Nuke | Afterward, I took the render into Nuke, where I performed basic color correction and post-processing, such as adding bloom effects, chromatic aberration, and lens distortion.
I used LUTs to achieve a closer resemblance to "The Last of Us" look. Additionally, I added floating particles to enhance the atmosphere further.

X-34 Landspeeder

Due to my deep love and passion for Star Wars, I couldn't resist incorporating something from the Star Wars universe into my portfolio as well.

Searching for References | I began by searching for references from the Star Wars movies that could be helpful for my modeling and texturing. I made sure to include blueprints or orthographic views to assist me in achieving accurate proportions during the modeling process.

Modeling | Now, talking about modeling... I worked with more organic shapes for the first time, which took a bit more of my time. I aimed to keep the polycount as low as possible, but I faced difficulties with the turbine mesh. It required more subdivisions to accurately build in the details, which increased the polycount. I'm not entirely satisfied with it, but due to the limited time, I couldn't find a better solution.

Texturing | I really enjoyed the texturing process. With this 3D model, I had the opportunity to try out various techniques in Substance Painter. I started with the base colors and the pattern on the Landspeeder and gradually added layers for damaged metal, sand, and dirt. It required a lot of creativity to achieve the used look and feel for the vehicle.

Unreal Engine | To present the vehicle in an interesting and cinematic way, I created a desert environment with the Quixel Megascans in Unreal Engine and used some dried plants to add realism and create contrasts with the rocks.
For the lighting, I decided to embrace radiant sunlight to capture the essence of a desert atmosphere.

Nuke | Looking at the colors, I wanted to create something more dramatic and I think it worked out very well. I also added some chromatic aberration, lens distortion as well as some haze to get a more realistic look. 

Conclusion | This is my debut as a 3D artist.

I learned a lot during the first weeks at PIXL VISN academy. Even though the projects were sometimes challenging, and troubleshooting was unavoidable, these projects once again reminded me of the joy and excitement I experience when bringing my ideas to life.

I am happy
 with how far I've come in such a short time, and I'm eagerly looking forward to my future projects and my next entry in The Rookies, where I'll be showcasing my demo reels!

Thank you for stopping by, and have a nice day!

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