Vent Scene Progression #4

Making Of / 19 March 2021

I'm calling this piece finished as the intention around it was to do something small that I could focus on understanding trim sheets and POM a bit better before I make the move on my next big environment piece.

The biggest resource for leaning Parallax at least in Unreal was this video which explains a lot of the process: which is a definite recommendation.

POM in action for the console on the container extruding from the prop.


Vent Scene Progression #3 - Update

Making Of / 15 March 2021

A quick update on progress with the scene. All tiling materials are in the scene, the master material is nearly finished and I have successfully been able to integrate a trim sheet into the scene with POM.

Right now the next step is to get the final textures in and then I can go about detailing the scene using masks.

Vent Scene Progression #2 - Master Material. Part a

Making Of / 13 March 2021

A quick update on progress so far for the Master Material for the entire scene in keeping with using just tiling textures (Trim sheets will be worked on later).

I'm going to run through my initial workflow but this is all subject to change as I learn more.

In blender each asset to the scene is given two UV sets; the first is texel density correct (I am going for a texel density of 1024/meter using 2048 textures due to how close the camera is going to be to everything being such a small scene), the second set is packed to use up the entirety of the 0-1 UV space and will be the one sent to Substance Painter.

To make sure Painter accepts the correct UV select the camera icon by the UV set you're using (this was the same back in Maya)

In Painter the prop's baked onto itself and then I create the 3 channels like in the previous project, each associated with a channel of R, G or B and add the wear and tear (right hand mesh). I also assigned different parts of the prop a colour once again in R, G, B or left plane white (left hand mesh). I export 2 textures; the ID mask and the wear and tear mask (making sure to set them to Masks inside of the engine).

In engine the Master material is currently set up as so. I plan to break a lot of it down into Material Functions once I had the general layout sorted and a lot of stuff is placeholder.

1 - Tiling texture has its inputs; a UV editing function for scaling and rotation, and then some minor parameters like normal strength and rough. This should all be done before any additional changes in the material.

2 - This is where I use the ID mask and break it into its channels. First the Base Colour is sent through a 'Desaturate' node in case I want to completely wipe the colour and just have a grayscale colour map. Once greyscale the colour is sent through a 'Blend Overlay' function with a colour parameter that is then added back onto the original texture through a LERP, the channel mask acting as the Alpha. This is done for each of the 3 channels.

3 - I have separate mask inputs for both the prop mask and ID. A texture coordinate is plugged into both and it is assigned to the second UV set of the prop.

4 & 5 - These are placeholder right now for the mask changes, one being a general grime material and the other being for edge wear. The Red channel is used as a LERP back in 1 for a slight roughness change.

6 - All these materials are layered over each other.

7 - This is a final detail normal input that should properly be put earlier in the material but it is just empty right now.

8 - Here everything is combined, I use 'Saturate' nodes to help clamp the different inputs before they are fed into the final Material.

The results without the layered wear and tear using one tiling texture and an ID mask.

Vent Scene Progression #1 - Initial Stages

Making Of / 13 March 2021

Currently working on my next piece for my portfolio while in the process of job hunting. I intentionally want to keep this project on the smaller scale so as to be able to really focus in on what I want to do and be done with it in a matter of a few days instead of weeks.

The key inspirations behind the workflow for this scene are that seen in Alien Isolation and Star Citizen; using tiling textures in combination with trim sheets for the majority if not all of the scene. I want to also expand on the previous projects use of unique prop masks and work it more into this scene by using all three channels now that I know where I am going with the material set up and workflow.

The scene itself is inspired by the vents we see in the Alien franchise with some initial reference gathering below. The intention is to keep with typical Sci-fi environments we on Artstation but approach it differently. Adding on that working in such a small scenes means a more conscious attitude to prop and light blocking and general texture quality.

Utilising a 2x2 meter trim sheet for the entirety of the scene modelled in Blender and going to be touched up in Designer.

With this scene I want to start bringing more focus to blocking the scene with props and lights as though it was a navigable environment. Right now it's in the very immediate Blockout of route.

I want to get better at keeping tabs on my production as though I was a part of a team and have so started to work Trello into my production.

Alleyway Environment Breakdown #4 - Lighting

Making Of / 10 March 2021

The majority of lighting went in hand with the development of the blockout. I knew from the start I did not want to be using baked lighting but instead fully dynamic. Quixels own Medieval tutorial provided the base for my ideas behind lighting (link at the bottom) and I took a lot of elements from that including Unreals' new sky atmosphere lighting and using Screen Space Global Illumination (SSGI) on top of using Distance Mesh Fields.

One issue found during development with Distance Mesh fields would be props being too big, for instance the Dumpster which is not fully accurately represented. Though this didn't prove to be much of an issue in the end it is definitely something I will be keeping an eye on here on out.

Lighting went as follows:

First starting with the atmosphere lighting with fill likes from all openings to mimic city light coming from behind.

Following that key lights are introduced as hot spots across the scene. I like to in all of my environments have larger lighting set behind walls often projected against buildings; I feel its widens out the world and helps provide some depth and more specifically layering to the scene beyond what we see.

Following that is lights emanating from windows, and then a large swath of fills lights across the scene with no shadows to help brighten up and fill in dark spaces.

In the end lighting was a fun experience for me and I believe did I good job between keeping the scene dramatically lit and ensuring enough light for the majority of the scene to be readable. There was one prominent issue in the original upload I fixed after the fact you can see discussed in my polycount thread.

Quixel link:

Polycount Thread:

Alleyway Environment Breakdown #3 - Materials & Shaders

Making Of / 10 March 2021


For the buildings I wanted to explore a workflow I've recently been learning about here and there involve baking out individual masks for modular pieces that can be used over tiling textures to break up repetition without needing unique textures for each piece in the scene.

Starting out I provided each building piece 2 UV sets, one for Texel density, and the other for a unique 0-1 unwrap with the most prominent faces given larger space in the UV. From there it's into Substance Painter for a bake. Using Painter I create 3 User channels and split them between R, G and B and then create masks within each. On export these 3 channels are packed and the buildings ambient occlusion is packed into the Alpha of the texture.

In-engine the material set it starts with the tiling textures and a unique dirt mask made in Designer that is used to create the dirty version of the base texture. Those two are Lerp-ed using the previous building mask and the AO is added in near the end using a AO blend function. At the very end of the shader are some cannibalised sets up from Quixels shaders to add in a detail normal and specular.

As I was learning as I was going there's still plenty more that could be done with this shader/optimisation and I never did get around to utilising the Green or Blue channels. This workflow is definitely one that will be explored deeper in my next project now that I have the basics learnt.

A lot of this workflow was trial and error with experimentation but a good place to start is with this video:


I would say about 90% of tiling textures used were sourced from Quixel, with one or two taken from Substance Source and myself making two from scratch when I couldn't find the necessary equivalent anywhere else.

Using Quixel textures didn't stop at me simply importing them to Unreal and that was it but instead typically taking them into Substance Designer to dirty up and make the shapes more pronounced. I think some results were pretty hit or miss and going into the future I more likely take the time to learn Quixels own Mixer so I can keep the entire process in one place.

Detail Normals

I used one prominent detail normal in this scene quickly made with Designer that can be shaped and tiled independently of the rest of the textures.


Alleyway Environment Breakdown #2 - Pre-Production

Making Of / 09 March 2021

Originally the plan was to set the scene on top of the buildings but that quickly changed after I realised the scale of the project it would need to be.

I start by gathering references into a Miro board (this should stay up for a good while: where I can break down images, highlight aspects and mark notes and then carry relevant parts over to my Pureref for when I'm using specific references.

Blockouts done in Blender, I get the shapes, switch between Blender and Unreal as I work out the lighting and then start breaking the scene down after I know what I want including modular aspects and props. I find it important to do it this way because I can constantly be making tweaks and changes.

When it comes to reference gathering the probably most important source I found was in fact Google Earth; it had honestly skipped my mind that was a thing for a good few years now. Google and Pinterest are okay but Google Earth allows you to get unaltered references for buildings and the materials that go into making them as well as see the same make-up for a building across multiple instances.

Alleyway Environment Breakdown #1 - Props

Making Of / 09 March 2021

Originally the plan was to try and use just Quixels library so I could focus entirely on the composition, lighting and decaling; building on from what I felt was lacking in my previous environment. In the end it turned out I would need my own props to make up the difference, it wasn't really an issue because it gave me the opportunity to learn Blender more thoroughly and get some experience with modelling workflows that aren't high-to-low baking. All of the props here are made with weighted normals and then baked and textured in Painter with no need for a high poly.

It was important that they blended well when sitting next to megascanned props and I think for the most part I managed to make it work.

- Beauty Renders -

- Wireframes and Triangle Counts -

Where is learnt to create the Wireframe Shader set up for inside Unreal:

Simple blinds are made in Designer, and then with a material set up to allow Subsurface Scattering to get the appearance of depth behind the blinds. A good place to start with SSS:

-Additional Stuff -

Everything bears mind to remaining texel correct. To reduce texture amounts minor props like above are all sharing one texture set and on top of that the Occlusion, Roughness and Metallic are packed into one, this goes the same for any masks for larger props with different types of dirt split between channels and the AO in the alpha.

This is a good video to understanding channel packing in Painter:

This is a good place to look if using Blueprints interests you:

Alleyway Environment Progression #7 - Renders

Making Of / 08 March 2021

Propping, decaling and lighting are complete so now its working on the renders. Below is a quick render done to practice with UE's camera sequencer.

There is some edits needed to be made with some fill lights in areas like the boxes at the end that are unnecessarily bright.

Alleyway Environment Progression #6 - Decals

Making Of / 07 March 2021

Finished my pass on grunge decals for the scene as well as included some posters here and there. I had to do some tweaks to Quixels own decal master material to get it working how I wanted it to.

The next big piece is to clean up the lighting and post processing and to fix up some textures and strange glitches that only appear when I took screen captures (there is a very noticeable one in the bottom right of the third picture down. A lot of fill lights are doing most of the heavy lifting right now so I'm going to go about introducing more hotspots for lights to shine.

Some subtle before and afters.