Making of 'Street 13 - 26'
My name is Grzegorz Wisniewski and I work as an Environment Artist on next-gen games. I consider all of my personal projects to be a nice break from everyday work where I have to deal with engine/console restrictions and also poly count and texture size limits.
This project was simply meant to be a texture test, but as I kept working on it I decided to make it a complete scene. I start each new project by collecting as many reference photos as possible - this step I find to be very essential (Fig.01)!
I started my scene with a simple, low poly block out to help me find the right composition, camera angle and basic light set up. After I had finished modelling the main objects I added details, like cracks and so on, to make both the objects and textures look more natural (Fig.02).
I modelled many and various props to scatter around, which I found helped the environment become more realistic and believable. These small details always help me to switch my imagination into reality, as I believe that the true power of environmental scenes lies in the details (Fig.03 - 04)!
The modelling process used basic polygon techniques, and I paid more attention to the textures rather than the geometry in this project. When I'm working, I find it a lot easier to keep real size measurements for all objects.
Textures & UVs
I must say that the texturing was my favourite part of the entire project! UVs were done using planar mapping and unfold to adjust the overlapping edges. For most objects I used standard Maya shaders with normal map, diffuse, reflection and specular, and also a few MR materials for smaller elements. I used numerous textures overlaid on top of each other to get the final result. I really enjoy creating large textures; in this case the resolution for the main buildings was about 2k per texture.
I usually start off with a base material, correct the colour and contrast, and then add smaller elements (Fig.05). The trick when adding details is not to make the texture look too heavy. I always bake an occlusion map with a very small distance to find areas where more details need to be added, as using just UV alone is not enough (Fig.06). It is also very important to keep the same density of textures when transferring details from different files.
Normal maps were created using the NVIDIA plug-in and CrazyBump. For more complex textures with many layers I felt more control working in Photoshop. I removed all unnecessary details from the previously grey-scaled image, like dirt, highlights, and graffiti and so on, and then, depending on the material, I blurred the base texture and adjusted the contrast and opacity to regulate depth. Sometimes, if the normal map still looked too flat, I would hand-paint the gaps between the stones, for example, to give it even more depth (Fig.07).
Rendering, Lighting & Compositing
The rendering was nothing fancy. I used Mental Ray, modified physical sun and sky for light (Fig.08). I also added a few point lights to bring out some details. Finally I added some hidden objects to cast shadows onto the scene and rendered it using high anti-alias and FG settings with separate passes for AO, specular and shadows. I usually use ctr.oclussion to get proper occlusion, depending on the position of the light, but this time I used a colour range selection from the brightest points to remove parts of the occlusion map.
I have to say that I really enjoyed working on this picture and was very happy with the final result, taking into the consideration that it took me only a matter 3 weeks - working only in my very little spare time!
Thanks to everyone who gave me a positive feedback, and good luck to you all!