A few weeks ago I wanted to make a new portfolio piece. I had a deadline, and I needed to get reacquainted with modelling and texturing again, as I have put all my energy into leveling up my lighting skills.
The scene was built over three weeks, with the majority of the modelling being made during the first weekend. Below are a series of pictures I grabbed during development. Some were to show peers and gather feedback, others were simply for myself to show I made progress. I’ve made small comments below the pictures on ideas and reasoning behind my decision but as time has passed and as it was a hectic period I doubt I will remember it all.
First thing I did was to throw together some base geometry and textures and just tried out the shapes. I was working of the base of the corridor from the movie Solaris. I borrowed a character from The Haunted to use as a scale reference in this is a quick Mentalray render.
Next I brought the assets into UDK.
I continued making textures and meshes. Many of the assets, such as the boxy computer panels on the left were only added in as placeholders but I never got around to making the actual assets for them.
I did not spend much time on texturing at this stage. The diffuse was just a simple color with ambient occlusion and curvature map.
Spent a few hours on the textures, lighting and shaders, along with just churning out assets.
More assets made and added, and I continued with texturing in a very quick and rough way. I found that the hand railing gave the scene a good sense of scale. I struggled with where I wanted to take the scene, as I did not have a visual target or theme in mind.
Further updates to lighting. I got side tracked, really. I intended never to care that much about lighting until later in development but… whoops.
Further texture and meshing work. This is where I left off after those two initial 2-3 days and all the further updates were made either in the morning before I went to work or in the evening when I got home from work.
I removed all the lights from the scene and started playing again from scratch, trying to find something I liked. This wasnt it… Come to think of it, I think this is just a base pass lit up entirely by meshes.
I plugged up most of the holes in the ceiling, leaving only one open. I quite liked this idea, even though the execution at this point was severely lacking. I tried to get this really soft light leaking in through the open gap, supported with key lights from ceiling lamps. But I didn’t like it.
I tried different color hues, levels of brightness, looking at it from different angles. It was difficult because what I had in my head was an idea, rather than an image but I spent hours just playing around with a bunch of different light set ups.
I dont know… An aquatic theme? Which I kind of liked, but the color in lighting were fighting too much with the overall color of the scene.
I was getting closer to… something. It was a horrible workflow though. I should have gone hunting for reference and inspiration, but I just kept at it. Because sometimes, I am an incredible tool.
I think I ended up trying maybe 5-6 different light set ups with different colors and composition. This lighting experimentation lasted for a few hours untill…
I stumbled over this and I instantly got a clear image in my head. I wanted the open panel be the main light source for the entire scene. Burning, overexposed sunlight pouring all over the space, with slight hints of light from the sky bouncing around all over the place in the lower spectrum. I toyed around with different colored supporting key lights on the arches.
Test for the adding in blue lights again. I don’t know why I kept returning to cold colors but as far as lighting went for this round, I think this is just about where I left it to return to texturing. I had received valuable feedback from various people about the scene and I wanted to hit it all in as short amount of time as possible.
First order of buisness was to make the floor less noisy. I also got some feedback about the overall color of the scene being a bit messy. I am prone to use alot of color, and I did not feel it was a problem untill somebody pointed it out to me. After looking at it again after a good nights sleep I saw how messy the entire scene was. Besides getting a bit depressed and unmotivated, I was closing in on what I wanted to do with the scene. In the process of fixing all these things I also remeshed the floor to further support the idea of the arches going in under the floor tiles. I also added a bunch of random pipes off in the distance. Today, I don’t really know why… I think I was trying to create a point of interest off in the distance but it really didn’t work.
More work with lighting, assets and… everything. I was trying to hit feedback and whatever other things I stumbled over that I thought not good enough. I changed the color of the railing back to yellow. I found it a pleasing setup with the red arches, orange pipes and yellow hand rails.
I finally killed the idea of blue light from the sky sneaking in with the sun. FINALLY. I decided that whatever gain I would get from a wider range of wasnt worth the time taken away from other areas that needed attention. In the end, I think was a really good decision in the nick of time. It all got very dark but in the grand scheme of things I felt I was making good progress on lighting and the warm, pissy feeling settled over the entire scene. Ahh yes..
I decided that I needed a better overall composition. I remade the area on the right and added an elevator. This was a real late night, sleep deprived decision I made. I was running out of time, I was running out of stamina but I felt the scene needed it.
I estimated it would take longer than it ended up doing. I spent an evening on getting the elevator in there. In retrospect, it looks kind of poor but at the time I was quite pleased.
I made some quick effects of steam and floaty dust particles. I also removed the ugly placeholder computer panels as I realized I wouldn’t have time to make any new assets.
View from the other side of the corridor. This place was a thorn in my eye… It had some good elemnts going for it but the overall impression is just a mess. It had fallen behind in progress when I decided to add the elevator in the other end, but I had other things I needed to fix. Further fixes and tweaks to shaders, textures and lighting. In the end I nuked this entire intersection idea.
I made a cable from the floor. Don’t ask me why I thought it was high on the priority list. I was sleep deprived after a few late nights working on the scene.
I was still struggling with lighting. I liked the direction it was going, but I needed to push it further to get it across the finish line. In this particular image I was balancing visibility versus contrast. A fine line to walk…
After more tweaks to lighting, post, effects, shaders and just giving everything a bit of spit and shine the scene ended up like this, which is the final. All in all I think I spent about 45-60 hours on it and in retrospect I am moderately pleased with it. I am pleased to be working modelling and texturing again and I will keep doing that because I feel the harsh truth is that my lighting skills compensated my lacking modelling and texturing skills. Something for me to remember for my next project, along with further working out what I want to make before I start making it. And last, but not least, that I just need to get a hell of a lot better at modelling.