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Real-Time Lighting and Environment Creation

Real-Time Lighting and Environment Creation

Silvia Lawson-Vilches
by lavilsa on 1 Jun 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

Thank you for checking out my entry! Here's a detailed look into the work I've developed to heighten my real-time lighting and environment creation skills over the past few months.

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The Aftermath

"We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” -D.H. Lawrence

This passion project was heavily inspired by my admiration for the dichotomy between beauty and destruction. My focus lied in developing an intimate, dramatically-lit scene that could visually tell a story in every portion of the frame while utilizing the power of the Unreal Engine. 

First things first, I knew I needed to look at the bigger picture and figure out the tone I wanted to emphasize by way of lighting, quantity of destruction and debris, layout, etc. These are only a handful of the references I used but were the ones that guided me in developing the scene most. I also found heavy inspiration by way of the phenomenal work created in The Last of Us. 

I needed to develop a strong enough concept that could guide me through the entire production process and speak volumes in a short few strokes, so I played around with different thumbnails sketches of the abstract image I had in my head at the time. These were my favorite three that I decided to stick to, with the first being the primary image I'd use through production while the next two I'd use to develop tone. 

This highlights my progress through the main camera. I initiated my block-in by way of values. I knew that if the main subject couldn't be made out without any color to distract the eye, the entire composition would fall apart. One I had the lighting and lighting tone where I wanted it, I expanded upon the textures and debris that made the scene come to life. 


"Not all those who wander are lost." - J. R. R. Tolkien

As I continued to explore this theme of beauty and destruction, I set my eyes towards a larger-scale scene that would truly emphasize a world changed forever, inciting a feeling of both loneliness and awe into the viewer. 

There was a particular thumbnail I couldn't get out of my head, of a silhouette embraced by a towering horizon, and I set out to gather references that could guide the scene to where it needed to be. As with The Aftermath, these are only a handful of the ones I used, with the ones below including images I used to develop the tone of an imposing overcast day. 

With the aid of DAZ Studio, I hopped into Marvelous Designer and made some clothing of a hooded figure. I later brought the figure into Maya, modeled in the gas mask and boots, and finally had the silhouette of the figure I desired. 

This was one of my first forays into Substance Designer, so here are a few of the materials I dedicated time to creating to speed up the production process. 

As you can see, this went through several different iterations by way of both color and composition. I quickly found during the beginning stages that the initial thumbnail drastically flattened the three-dimensionality of the piece, so after getting feedback and critiques from my peers, I shifted the camera and dramatized the scale of the buildings before the figure. Towards the end, it was a matter of having taken a couple of days to let my eyes rest from the scene that I realized how "green" it felt, allowing me to slightly shift the hues and lighting to better develop the values of an overcast day. 


"You were my ghost." - Interstellar, 2014.

My favorite movie of all time is that of the masterful Christopher Nolan, and this project in Unreal was created both as a tribute to his wonderful work while also affording me the opportunity to push my hyper-realism skills and understand physical lighting values. My biggest project by far, all of the below images were captured real-time in the Unreal Engine.

I modeled and textured all hard-surface objects. The corn plant was bought from an asset pack in Turbosquid, and the HDRI images were brought in from HDRI-skies. 

I had a massive library of lighting inspiration and real-world textures of inanimate objects. As with the previous projects, these are only a handful of references I used, both from behind-the-scenes footage and screenshots from the actual film.

Thank you for checking out my entry!! 

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