Finding a Style
Since I didn’t have a concept art for the whole scene and I am not the best painter, I created a certain style for my first props and then was trying to stick to this style throughout the project. I blocked out the low poly version of these pottery in Maya using reference photos.
As I’ve finished the UV’s for these pots I imported them into ZBrush to give them little details like cracks and edge wear. I left a little space in my UV map for the falcon head since I knew that I go from high poly to low poly on that one and after doing the low poly retopology I would need to lay out the UV’s for the head.
So after sculpting the falcon head I put it into TopoGun to do the retopology. For my past projects I almost did just hard surface stuff and mostly went from Low Poly to High Poly. If I had to do a retopology I used ZBrush’s ZRemesher to get down to a lower polycount. But on this one I wanted to try TopoGun for the first time and do a retopology on my own. It worked out pretty well (even if this might not be the best topology for animation, but it works actually for a static object).
So, after doing the retopolgy (for one half) I sent it back to Maya to mirror it onto the other side, merge it together and to do some clean up and the final UV’s for my whole UV Maps.
Baking worked out pretty well at the first try (sometimes I need to tweak the models a little bit, changing the distance between high and low poly meshes to get rid of little baking errors or intersections with other meshes). But baking with Toolbag is pretty awesome. I like setting up Baking Groups to avoid meshes intersect with one other. You are also able to change distances (Front Cage/Rear Cage) for every single Baking Group.
So after baking I sent my Maps (AO, WorldSpace, Normal, Curvature) into Substance Painter.
Maybe some final tweaks at the end when the whole scene is brought together, but so far I liked it and got ready for the next step.
Blocking out the Scene
1. Creating a rough blockout
2. Exporting to Toolbag
3. Setting up light and see how to composition will work
4. Go back to Maya, do some tweaks and export into Toolbag again.
5. Repeating until the block-out will work
Finally I came up with this Mesh in Maya.
For the basic block-out of the scene I used small (2x2m) and bigger blocks (4x4m). As a scale reference I put in a cylinder with 0.5m width and 1.8m height to be a place holder for a human.
The rest was just laying out those blocks, trying to get a nice composition (the pillars on the side which should frame the throne, the platform in the middle where people might stand and look up to the throne), the stairs in middle should lead the eye up directly to the throne. Having some height information like the platform which is at the bottom, the catwalks on the side are a little bit higher and the throne itself at the highest point. That gives the scene more interest I think and also it would fit way more into a story of an ancient throne room.
I though about a throne room of an ancient queen and to show her power and strength, she definately needs "to have the high ground" 😉
I created those wall piece which tiles horizontally. For some variation i pulled out some of those little blocks and pushed some of them inside the main piece. I deleted the side planes, created the UV Map for this piece and combined all single blocks to one mesh. After that I duplicated it and moved them to tile along the wall.
Later I used "bevel" on the edges left and right (as you can see in the screenshot) since this piece can't be this long, I think they needed to use more of those separate pieces to build those side patterns. It just felt more real.
Scene Details and finishing every prop
For now, the scene looks very "chunky" and simplified. So I needed to go into detail for every prop. I basically used the same workflow for every props:
- Exporting a prop (e.g. the flag) with its UV's
- Sculpting the High Poly Mesh (ZBrush)
- Baking the Texture Maps like Curvature, AO, Normal (Toolbag)
- Texturing (Substance Painter)
Then I had every single prop in my "Meshes"-Folder (e.g. flag.fbx) and my texture Maps (Albedo, Roughness, Metalness, AO, Normal) in my "Textures"-Folder ready to put them together in the engine (in this case I used Toolbag to render the scene).
Here are some ZBrush-High Poly Meshes:
For the cubes and blocks (picture above, left corner at the bottom) I decided to texture and sculpt every side. Meaning, slightly different colors and scratches on every side, that way I just needed to turn around one block to get some variation in the whole scene.
I sent the whole Maya scene to Toolbag, did a basic lighting set-up and assigned the materials to the meshes to get a good look at the scene with lights and textures (if you look at the screenshot below, you will recognize that not all UV's are done at this point but I just wanted to check colors and composition).
During the texturing for the props I constantly switched between Maya and Toolbag as soon as I changed stuff in the Maya scene. Toolbag is pretty awesome for LookDev. After I did the sketch at the beginning of the project, I had a particular mood of the scene in my head. I thought that this would be the best possible mood for the scene but as I used different lighting set-ups in Toolbag i discovered a even better mood. So i decided to do a night scene (kind of blue-ish for the main lighting) and fire bowls should light up the interior. (I didn’t do the fire, I am not a VFX Artist and I didn’t just want to put planes with alphas into the scene, I tried to focus on the environment props and mood).
So after texturing every prop I finally had every asset in my Toolbag scene. Then I did the lighting and I set up cameras (post effects and cam animation for a little teaser).
This is what I finally came up with:
Here is a different lighting set up, using daylight on the scene:
Final teaser for this project:
So far, I am happy with the end result. As I said, at the beginning it was hard to really get started, since I had no concept art or illustration I was able to use as reference. The key here was to tackle every part of this project step-by-step. It wasn't like knowing exactly what the final scene should look like. It was more like developing the scene during the project. And the sketch at the beginning was my starting point. That was actually everything I needed to start, just a simple idea..... and now I have to refer to one of my favorite movies ;-)
Hope you like this stylized project and if you have questions don't hesitate to ask me (firstname.lastname@example.org)