Misty Forest - Unreal Engine Environment

Misty Forest - Unreal Engine Environment

Jorge Antão
by antao98 on 1 Jun 2020

I always wanted to build a nature scene as it is something I always struggled with, and actually avoid. So, after making some photoscans, I decided to build a scene with a lonely cabin in the woods. It could be something from a traditional fairy tale, or from a modern horror film.

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The idea for this project came after photoscanning a tree and some wooden planks from a kid’s playground wooden hut. I used a DSLR and Meshroom and was super happy with the outcome of the scans. I cleaned them in Blender and modelled the rest of the cabin, using photos I had taken as textures.  

The hut and the photoscanned planks

I always wanted to build a nature scene as it is something I always struggled with (and actually avoid). So, I decided to create a piece and include the hut in it – its wood is really old and mossy, so I tried visualizing a scene that would fit this look. I thought of a lonely cabin in a forest, surrounded by dead trees and with a mysterious mist floating around. It could be something taken from a traditional fairy tale, like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, or it could be something like The Forest or The Blair Witch Project. I started gathering references and doing some tests in the Unreal Engine. I am fairly new to it, so I first built a simpler scene just to try and achieve the general grey light that creates the mood. After having what I wanted, I started building the main level.

The simpler scene, with the grey fog. Here I played with the settings of the lights and the exponential height fog. I also started building my master materials, with vertex painting in mind. The textures are from Megascans

I quickly sketched and took notes on what I pretended with the scene. Afterwards, I went on Pinterest and looked for references that would fit the look I wanted. I imported an image I especially liked into Photoshop and drew on it. This gave me a clearer concept of what I wanted to build.

My main references. I divided them by colour and by the composition of the elements in space - the trail in the middle and the trees surrounding it.

Progress of the scene, as I added assets and built the lights

When I had the basic scene built, I went on the Experience Points discord server and asked for feedback. There, I was told that the foreground was very dark and because of that, the path to the cabin was lost. So, I added more lights to the scene and adjusted the camera's position. I also tweaked the contrast and the colour saturation a bit.

Final detail lighting

The scene's final lights - I have exponential height fog with volumetric fog enabled, a directional light, two reflection spheres, some point lights and lots of spot lights. Most of these lights don't have shadows casting enabled. I ended up using more spot lights than I expected because I needed to light up the dirt path, which was pretty thin. All the lights are baked.

I am super happy with the result of this scene. I learned more about the engine, especially about master materials (vertex painting and landscape materials), landscape splines and light baking. I also feel like I am really progressing in terms of my lighting and composition skills, which in the end strengthen environmental storytelling.

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