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Space Train Post #02 - Everything so far...

General / 12 March 2018

Thankfully this project hasn't been running as long as my Roman villa project has been so I don't have as much stuff to post. So rather than break it up into small specific posts I'll just dump everything into one and go from there.

Blocking Out

I sort of knew roughly what I wanted to begin with, the corridor. Every sci-fi environment needs a nice corridor. I started roughing out shapes in Maya not worrying too much about topology or anything, I just wanted something that looked cool and would repeat easily. Once I got something I was happy with I threw the assets into UE4 and got some basic lights in there to check the scale. 

I was pretty happy with it so I went ahead and modelled into everything a little more. I also began to refine the lighting a little more so that I had a better idea of what it might look like in the end. I was trying to push the idea of this being kind of like a train with some obvious visual language. The luggage racks and scrolling signs above the doors are a prime example. It's kind of weird and I'm not sure what purpose luggage racks would serve if everyone has their own room anyway but I like the aesthetic so they stayed.

Rough Texture Pass

After messing around with the models a little more I started throwing on some rough textures to get a feel for the colour scheme. I knew i'd be doing most of this with only tiling textures and then using mesh decals for the detail so I just applied a bunch of materials to every mesh and assigned colours to them in Unreal. it looked pretty ugly but it helped me refine the idea. 

Once I knew where the metal would be and what colour everything would be I had another crack at the lighting. I probably relight this scene every time I add something cause I'm never happy with it. I struggled to get the metal to look bright enough at first but it forced me to learn more about how to properly utilise PBR by using proper value and such and how to bend UE4 to my will.

Material Creation

At this point I'd gotten impatient and started making some materials in Designer. I haven't done nearly as much designer work for this project as I have the villa because a lot of my texturing has been done in engine. But here's a couple of materials I sunk a bit of time into. 

Mesh Decals

Before I went any further with this project I wanted to get the mesh decals underway. I'd never done this kind of trim sheet before so I wasn't sure how best to go about it. In the end I made it in Designer, I'm familiar with it and the none destructive workflow meant I didn't have to worry about remodelling bits if I didn't like them. 

 This is what the trim sheet looks like at the minute. I left some space should I wish to add anything. It was easy in Designer to generate an opacity mask from the height information I was using to convert to normals.

having finished that up I took it into Maya, cut it up into all it's pieces and then started covering my meshes with them. This was a very tedious process so I'm sure now I've finished it I'l discover a much quicker, easier way. 

Signs and Shader Work

I didn't have much experience with the material editor in UE4 before this project, so these were a nice little learning oppurtunity. they aren't complex really but I learned a lot of things that seem obvious in hindsight. 

For the scrolling signs above the door I just used a simple panner node and then exposed a few parameters such as the scroll speed, emissive intensity and roughness intensity.

The palm print screens for the middle of the doors were a little more complex but not by much. I wanted multiple parts to be rotating in different directions so I needed to build the material up in layers. There's a few odd decisions made in this shader but that's because I was just experimenting really. It's nothing revolutionary but it was a fun little challenge I set myself and one I was able to accomplish rather quickly.


I wanted to get some quick foliage into my scene because I knew that the would green would help tie it all together, I did a lot of research trying to decide what kind of plants I wanted and eventually just stuck to something simple. It was my first time trying out a new workflow for foliage so I figured I'd keep it simple for now. I started by gathering reference of the plant I wanted to make then set about modeeling the leaves in Maya. They were a simple shape so they didn't require any sculpting. I baked the leaves down in Substance Designer and textured them in Designer as well. After arranging the textured leaves into a quick clump I took them in engine to see what they look like.

All in all this only took a couple of hours and I've gotten quicker now I know what I'm doing a bit more, so I'll try and revisit these to clean them up a bit.