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Sci-Fi Scene

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    I am a SciFi craze for as long as I can remember.I have to agree with the comments above.
    Very impressive man!. A clean, sharper, sleek futuristic manufactured look especially for advertising and visualization projects...excellent detail indeed.
    I will love to see Random areas of light dirty, grimy, damaged textures and not so bright Emissive neon effects...will transform the entire scene to another level...overall,excellent work.


      Hey everyone, so I invested a lot of time making the changes and tweaks suggested here. Namely the most common crit and suggestion from everyone has been the bright highlights of all the interior "neon" lights and all that. So I toned down the bloom in a lot of areas that were overpowering the viewer. There is still lots of bloom but it has been adjusted so that it is more balanced. Also, while I was adjusting the lighting I found that the scene looked better with some more contrast which I liked, so I did away with the old lightmapped solution and redid it a bit. Largely is not altered too heavily because I liked the previous light setup I had but I made the darks a bit darker and the env. isn't as so evenly and brightly lit as before, which I think looks nicer.

      Also, I added volumetric lighting FX and a simple flare to the main star/lightsource on the outside (more on that in a bit). I wanted to add some more personality to the env. so the volumetrics help give so more atmosphere to the env. as before it was kind of bland and missing the nice ME2 touch. Finally, I created a nice skybox environment for the outside. I took advantage of NASA (thanks a JPL and NASA!) and used real, super hi-res images, taken with various NASA imaging equipment, including the Hubble telescope, etc. and I comped a nice image for the background, I was trying to go for something fantastic, something hard to believe and kind of surreal instead of something photo-realistic, basically stylized realism and created something that has more of a painterly, or matte painting feel, something I really like about ME2's environments (those who have played the DLC Kasumi for ME2 know what I'm talking about!)

      Ok so here we go:

      You can see the space background through the windows now which makes things look soooooo much better- I love it!

      The volumetrics effects make things look more natural and polished. You see these a lot in ME2, especially in the more significant enviros once you get to important parts of the story.

      Door area bloom as not as overpowering as before. Bloom is still there, but more subtle. Sometimes less is more.

      Volumetrics where not that easy to do. Originally I was going to create my own but quickly realized it would be very time consuming and I wanted to move onto the rest of the tasks I had. So I opted instead to use built in volumetrics included with Unreal 3. I heavily (and I mean HEAVILY) modified the default volumetrics. I used a combination of Fogsheets and Foglightbeams included with the Engine volumetrics packages. I then modified their mesh shapes dramatically to work with my specific environment. Finallly to get the look I wanted I had to duplicate their material networks (they are very complex, with lots of math going on) and then proceeded to modify things, like changing some of the math calculation and equations, altering key values for the vectors, colors, masks, animation, and opacity among others. You can't see it in the images, but the volumetrics have some slight animation so that it looks like dust particles are floating through the lighting coming in from outside; perhaps I'll make an animation/video and post it on youtube or something when I get some free time to do so- looks very cool though.

      As promised, lighting toned down so the bloom and glow is not so overpowering, I think it looks better now- you?

      Looking in from outside a bit, you can catch the space BG some.

      Thanks for all the feedback. I will probably add some more to the BG. I envision some stuff going on back there; like some ships in the distance or something flying around and going about their space work day.
      I also am going to replace the default flare you can see in some images, with one similar to those seen in ME2. The Mass Effect flares look so awesome and I definitely want to add one in. If anyone has any tips on implementing custom flares in UE3, please feel free to share, either way I'll figure it out if anything. Thanks for the feed back and keep it coming.
      Also, forgot to mention I added an animated element to the space background. There is also a subtle animation of the far away gas and nebula clouds, so it looks like there is stuff happening there with gases swirling around and stuff; really makes the scene look more alive and interesting. I picked up that tip from the BG's of the mission where you fly in space in Halo Reach.


        J'adore. <3


          Looks much better! I love it.


            Do you have any pointers on ZBrush hard-surface modelling? I've become quite fluent with it in Maya and would like to integrate ZBrush into my workflow, but I haven't a clue where to start. Are there any books/websites that you'd recommend?


              Originally posted by KartoonHead View Post
              Do you have any pointers on ZBrush hard-surface modelling? I've become quite fluent with it in Maya and would like to integrate ZBrush into my workflow, but I haven't a clue where to start. Are there any books/websites that you'd recommend?
              Hi, well first thing you need is ZBrush4 (ZBrush 4R2 comes out this week!). With Z4 you can do a lot more cool stuff with hard surface modeling, one of the cool additions it the new clipping brushes. These things are amazing and once you use them you wonder how you ever worked in ZBrush without them! There are also some more brushes, like the planar series of brushes, which are pretty freaking awesome for sculpting nice "machined " surfaces.
              There are so many potential workflows available in Z4, there's no specific way to do anything, every artist finds their own way of doing things. Check out the ZBrush Central forums, lots of talented artists are more than willing to share their experiences and workflows. Probably the best free resource is Pixologoc themselves, they have the ZClassroom portal with tons of free training videos on everything from hardsurface modeling to painting. Check it out here:

              Watch everything and before you know it you'll be ZBrushing like nobody's business. Myself, I adapt my workflow depending on what I'm working on. For this specific project I used a lot of alpha brushes, some I got from the ZBrush website (did I mention they're free?) and some I made myself in an image editor. I used this technique for most of the details, simply setup a collection of alphas with patterns and details you like, kick in Projection Master (G) and go at it; here's a break down:

              - Projection Master

              - switch stroke to DragRect

              - adjust your Brush settings, Add/Sub, Falloff, etc.

              - load your custom alpha

              - have fun sculpting!

              To really get good details there are some important caveats you should be away of, so here are some tips:

              1) start by working with a base mesh with no triangles or ngons; if you create your base meshes in ZBrush with ZSpheres or primitives you don't need to worry about this cuz you started in ZBrush anyways; if you started with an outside package, like Maya then read below

              2) your base mesh doesnt need to have UV's, but this depends on the scenario. Depending on the task or what the work is for, sometimes I will make sure to have good clean UV's when going to ZBrush, sometimes I won't as it can be a waste of time. For this project I created base mashes with quad topology (subD's) in an outside package, left them un-UVmapped, imported them to ZBrush and went at it

              3) make sure your base meshes have even quad polys, even when made from within ZBrush. For example, say you have a big long tall rectangle that will be a panel for a thin tall wall piece, just because it is a big quad doesn't mean jack. You need to subdivide it so that the long thin piece is split evenly with several subdivision in Maya (or whatever program). this is to ensure there is a nice and even distribution of quad polys on the mesh, which will subdivide nice and allow for the best detail. Don't learn this the hard way, you will hit your head against a wall. In the worst case scenario, you don't listen and after sculpting in ZBrush with a model containing elongated polys, you'll notice that no matter how high you subdivide the polys look stretched and the model becomes useless for sculpting, and hence you wasted lots of time and have to make a new base mesh from scratch again and sculpt allover again. This is not a bug or limitation by ZBrush, it is human error and will happen in any sculpting package like ZBrush.

              4) I sculpted for this project with an average of several million polys per object, some I had to subdivide to 13 million polys or more in order to be able to sculpt the details I needed. This takes a huge tolll on system memory. Make sure you have several GB of memory in your workstation (keyword being workstation, not regular PC you buy from Bestbuy). The more memory the better, ZBrush can use all of it, like a 64 bit program (though technically it's not, but kind of is, if that makes sense). If you get errors when you subdivide too high about running out of memory, well, buy and install more

              5) Have knowledge about how subdivision surfaces work. I've been working with subD's since about 2005'ish and before that I used NURBS (yuck!). I'm well aware of subD limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. You should too. If you don't know subD's front to back and how they work, you will have problems working with ZBrush. One thing lots of people don't know about ZBrush, is that when you subdivide a mesh, it becomes rounded- well in some cases you don't want that, so one trick many don't know is that you can turn off smoothing when you subdivide. I used this technique quite a bit and allowed me to do some cool stuff easily. Example: say you have a metallic object panel thing and you want the edges to remain fairly sharp, but at the same time you want to sculpt some nuts, bolts, grate, scratches, etc. Well, you take the base mesh from Maya to ZBrush and when you subdivide- oh oh, you get lots more polys to add the detail you want but the hard sharp edges and creases you had in Maya all get smoothed and now the entire thing looks like a weird lump of clay. The trick for something like this is to turn OFF smoothing before you subdivide, now subdivide and you mesh keeps its shape perfectly and doesnt get smoothed at all, in fact will look exactly like in Maya, until you look at the wireframe and see all those polys ready for you to add sculpted details. Now you can have your cake and eat it too- yummay! Another trick I do is I turn smooth off, subdivide until I get to about 100k polys and then I turn smooth back on and subdivide up to about 1-2 million polys. Now your object keeps its overall shape and silhouette, but my corners get a nice very subtle, soft bevel edge that looks very realistic and machined. Then I sculpt details, like nuts, bolts, patterns, vents, etc.

              6) Reference! Reference! Reference! Collect lots and lots of reference before you even open a 3D program of any kind. You should have a folder with reference images that contains over 100+ images. Google images is a great place to start. If you dont have a good 100 ref images or more (and assuming you've studied them), you're setting yourself up for failure. Myself for this project, I have 2 folders, once is dedicated to scifi stuff in general, like space ship interiors, exteriors, images of space, from real life and from movies, etc. Another folder has only tons if images from Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3. I knew early on I wanted to do something in lite of ME (ME2 in particular), so I collected tons of images from that game. I also watched all the behind the scenes interviews and discussions with the art team and producers of the game (included in ME1 platinum edition) and I also played through ME2 again on my XBox and stopped to walk around the game and analyze different environments and levels of the game, paying close attention to the lighting, texturing, normal map details (gives important insight into the sculpting they did) and the low res realtime meshes (gives good ideas at how to optimize meshes, imagine what the actual wirframe look like by staring at the meshes, sounds stupid but this helps ALOT). I also sketched some stuff before I started, simply by using all the reference I analyzed for hours and days, and from playing ME1&2, and then imagining a new level or DLC for ME2 and what I would do if I worked as a project lead there or was put in charge of env. design/art/conceptualization. And what you see in this thread is what I came up with in about 3-4 weeks. With the last week spent on working with Unreal; previous ones were for concepting, blocking out volumes, initial iteration, then final design modeling, sculpting, texturing, mapping, optimizing, etc.

              7) Next gen mapping: For your assets to truly take advantage of your sculpts, make sure to at least create normal maps and occlusion maps. This can be done inside ZBrush, but sometimes this is either not possible or is inconvinient for your pipeline. For this specific project, I chose to bake my maps outside of ZBrush. There are many programs that can do this, like Maya, for example. I've used Maya to bake normal maps and it's ok, but not great and very slow. XNormal is an app I use in my CG tool kit, it's great cuz it bakes high quality maps, there are tons of options, you can batch bake, and it can create tons of maps, including normal, occlusion, cavity maps, and more. It can also handle huge meshes and comes in a 64 bit version. Did I mention it's free? In my experience the programs with the highest quality map bakers and fastest are Softimage, ZBrush, and XNormal- in that order.

              There's a bunch more stuff that I could tell you, but it would take forever to write that post
              Good luck with your projects and don't be afraid to ask any other questions you may have.


                Looking nice, perhaps a little less ambient lighting could look good (more contrast). Try with a little less light sources and allow the outside (outspace?) lighting play a larger role. Just a personal suggestion, up to you if you want to try it.

                (Or then my screen's calibration has messed up by itself.)

                But seriously, great looking work there! Any idea whether we could get a sample map to run around in? At least a video?


                  Originally posted by musilowski View Post
                  Looking nice, perhaps a little less ambient lighting could look good (more contrast). Try with a little less light sources and allow the outside (outspace?) lighting play a larger role. Just a personal suggestion, up to you if you want to try it.

                  (Or then my screen's calibration has messed up by itself.)

                  But seriously, great looking work there! Any idea whether we could get a sample map to run around in? At least a video?
                  Hi, thanks a lot for the feedback, I felt the same way after staring at the scene for hour, but when you do that your perception of things gets distorted and something that looks good can look bad, and something that looks bad can look good- which is why I appreciate the help of everyone here giving me unbiased feedback.

                  I plan on doing a video and probably publishing a playable map or something, particularly for prospective employers, etc. Not going to do that though until I'm completely satisfied and finished, because there are a few more things I want to do including:

                  - adding cool hologram interfaces on the doors and by the central window, like the ones seen in Mass Effect when you approach doors and computer screens, etc.

                  - adding objects outside, like cool space craft flying around in space doing their thang, like in the background of Illium in Mass Effect 2- that simply looks gorgeous.

                  Thanks again for the feed back, will prob as you ask, I think it's a good idea.


                    Hey everyone, back with another update. Nearing completion of this first portfolio scene.

                    Made some changes, including:

                    - balanced lighting some more, created a bit more contrast which looks better

                    - created hologram panels for doors and some for the central window

                    - created custom lens flare effect using the Lens Flare editor, achieved that iconic lens flare that Mass Effect is known for

                    - added more detail to the door textures, just a bit more

                    You can see the contrast looks a little better compared to before, where the lighting level was too uniform across the enviro

                    Updated textures for the door and new holographic control panels have been installed by that marvelous galactic janitorial crew.

                    The cool lens flare inspired by Mass Effect.

                    The lens flare editor in Unreal is amazing. I've worked with lens flares in other engines, but Unreal's dedicated lens flare editor gives you ridiculous amount of control and power over the artistic control of any and all individual lens flares in your game. It is simply sick, and addicting playing with it.

                    The holographic control panel for the window. This isn't the bridge of a ship, but instead a small hub, one of many located throughout the station. The window itself doubles as the screen, and this control panel gives you access to various pieces of information and allows you to directly communicate with other locations on the station. You can check the status of the different systems, including for example the climate control system and safety of the life support system within this specific compartment, so if a harmful toxin or anything was present and detected, occupants of this compartment would be notified, warned, etc. It works like a touch screen, similar to an intergalactic iPad-1000

                    I want to make a note that I created some animated effects in the materials for all the holo panels. Obviously you can't see it in the screenies, but when I make a video you'll be able to see it. One of the animated effects is pretty simply, but makes a big difference. Hard to describe, but it's that sort of digital fluctuation effect you see on displays as the image refreshes. It makes the displays look more realistic and natural. Best of all, it looks great but was rather easy to achieve the effect using the material editor, one of my favorite features if Unreal 3. I simply added some panners and rotators to my shading networks, and when plugged into the rest of the nodes composting the effect, it looks fantastic. There's so much you can do with the material editor in Unreal that it boggles the mind- and it's fun as hell to use.

                    The holographic panels can display all kinds of information, from the levels of radiation bombarding the stations exterior, solar flare activity in this star system, the magnetic field of the planet, location of the station, speed, orbit, etc.

                    One last shot of the cool lens flare. This was a lot of fun to create with the Lens Flare Editor in Unreal, I ended up spending hours on it trying to make it look as Mass Effect-y as possible. I like the way it ended up looking in the end, and looks even more awesome when walking around the enviro.


                      Need some music in your scene?


                        Originally posted by MatiasCastro View Post
                        Need some music in your scene?

                        That's actually a good point, I was planning on using some music from the Mass Effect soundtrack. I don't have it, but I should be able to get it on Amazon or something, I don't know.

                        Why do you ask? Are you offering? The kind of music I'm envisioning during this part of the reel is something like this, or something similar to some of the ambient tracks in ME2:

                        Note, for larger images check out the thread on ZBrush Central:


                          Hey Jak,

                          Your work is awesome. That should make an amazing portfolio piece. I sent you a PM about an opportunity that might interest you. Did you receive it?



                            Absolutely awesome! Crazy texturing! Really cool!


                              Originally posted by jingato View Post
                              Hey Jak,

                              Your work is awesome. That should make an amazing portfolio piece. I sent you a PM about an opportunity that might interest you. Did you receive it?

                              Hi, yeah I did, I received a PM from you and someone else on your mod team, I just haven't had a chance to answer back since I've been really busy lately.


                                Words like looking nice, great, good, etc isn't enough. This is simply stunning, way above average & a feast to my eyes !

                                I always love the details, this scene is full of it, continue your awesome work dude