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I often start with some simple sketches for setting up composition and lighting

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3D World August 2015


3d world view “This piece is great fun and there are some subtle details in the finished render, such as the scratches on the snowmobile.” IAN DEAN


The Great Escape with Tatra V855 Artist Jan Hrebícek and Ondrej Cervinka Software 3ds Max, ZBrush, V-Ray, Photoshop Drawing their inspiration from dreams, comic books and movies, Prague-based artists Jan Hrebícek and Ondrej Cervinka took around a year to complete this particular project. “I’m not a fan of sitting at a computer for whole days, so my main source of inspiration is travelling around on my motorcycle,” explains Ondrej. “It’s a cliché but after just one ride, I have a clear head and can think about anything I want. It’s relaxing and helps me to focus.” With Jan currently studying professional photography and Ondrej working as a shading/lighting artist at ProgressiveFX based in Prague, the pair are a force to be reckoned with. The Great Escape with Tatra V855 was the first project in which Ondrej used hand-painted textures in Mari and although it was a time-consuming process, both artists are happy with the outcome. “I often start with some simple sketches for setting up composition and lighting,” explains Jan. “Then I continue with modelling, lighting and texturing. Sometimes I like to jump around the workflow and skip certain parts to get an early preview of the final product.” Jan continues, “I usually start with references to shaders and atmosphere; my work is only about shaders, light and rendering.” See more on FYI and

3D World August 2015


Communit y Industry interview

industry interview

Secrets of the world builders Ubisoft share the lessons learned from moving Assassin’s Creed to Victorian London

M Thierry Dansereau Thierry is art director for Ubisoft Quebec and has worked in gaming since 1997. His big break was Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.

oving a well-known gaming franchise to a whole new world means even more attention on your environmental work than usual – everything will have to be spot on. So with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate moving to the open-world stealth series to Victorian London, how did Thierry Dansereau, art director at Ubisoft Quebec, cope with the high expectations? In a word: research. “We’ve spent months educating ourselves about Victorian London through history books, photo references, movies and old city maps,” Thierry explains. “We want to gather as much knowledge about the world we’re building, from architecture, to

the city layout, to technology, to how people lived. We tried to learn as much as we can.” There were also references to draw from, as photography was starting to become popular in Victorian London, ensuring greater accuracy. Plus, Ubisoft invited historians – both in-house and external experts – to their studio to validate their ideas. The team also spent time in London to get a better sense of how the elements in the city relate to each other. “The atmosphere and the topography of the city, things that the maps and pictures can’t fully capture,” Thierry explains. “I’ve personally walked about 70km in London to feel the vibe as much as possible!”

3D World August 2015


For other artists embarking on building a new world, Thierry has this advice to offer. “First find what’s cool about the world you’re trying to build, and how it relates with the interactive experience you’re creating. In our case, things like landmarks, railroads, the River Thames, gang ridden slums, were all things that felt cool and also serve a gameplay purpose. We built around these as ‘must haves’, which are strong world elements that are part of the core of the game, not just visually but also mechanically.” Thierry’s second tip is that contrast is essential. “It’s important to look further than just architecturally rebuilding a setting,” he explains. “The Industrial Revolution is loaded with contrasting

Ubisoft’s team spent months researching Victorian London in order to build an accurate world

How they built it

Thierry admits there are more boundaries when creating a historically based environment

You want to capture the differences in how people live in different parts of town, which areas were darker, poorer, richer, more crowded… themes and we pushed the differences into our seven districts as far as we could, while remaining as historically accurate as possible.” “You want to capture the differences in how people live in different parts of town, which areas were darker, poorer, richer, more crowded, traditional, industrialised, dangerous, commercial… and support all that with the appropriate architectural signature.” It’s easier to create contrast in worlds that are based on fantasy, he points out, since there are less boundaries than an historical setting. “However, the former can also be a challenge as it is easier to pull away too far from what is believable and create things that don’t fit in your game’s fantasy.”

In contrast, for a historical open world game like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, it’s important to nail down the small details accurately since the players already have a base of comparison and a preconceived idea of what to expect of 1868 London. “This probably makes the polish work a bit harder,” Thierry admits. “But at the same time, it can be more rewarding.” Ultimately though, he argues, “World design is world design, whether it is fantasy or a realistic setting. The goal in both cases is to create a rich and plausible world that players want to explore.” To learn more about Ubisoft Quebec, FYI visit

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An open world environment the size of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate doesn’t come cheap, and a huge number of artists were needed to work on developing it, explains Jonathan Dumont, level design world director for Ubisoft Entertainment. “The number varied during the creation process, but at its peak we’d have close to 200 artists working on the game,” he explains. Modelling on the game was mostly done using 3ds Max, Lightroom, Photoshop and ZBrush. “For characters, we also used Photoshop and Lightroom along with 3D-Coat, xNormal and UV Layout. Our pipelines are well established with these software packages and fully compatible with our in-house game editor.” But despite all that, the artists still had to work their socks off, he adds. “The expectations were extremely high, the workload was enormous, and the teams were huge and located across the world,” says Jonathan. “You could compare the production of a game of this magnitude with a marathon.” If that sounds negative, though, it’s not meant to: as Jonathan feels very positive about the experience. “We had the chance to work on a brand with a tremendous fan base,” he enthuses, “and it’s very rewarding to know that our work will be in the hands of gamers on October 23rd, 2015.” Such passion is something he believes to be vital for anyone who wants to make it as an artist in the games industry. “Without passion, it’s very difficult to evolve your skills,” he reasons, “since it takes considerable efforts to keep progressing and challenging yourself.” “You also have to believe in yourself, to have ambition and to practise,” he adds. “Practise and practise as well as to stay humble, since there is always someone better than you.” Finally, Jonathan recommends you dedicate yourself to pushing your limits and learn to love working with others. “Today’s development teams are bigger and bigger,” he points out, “and you’ll have to work with a lot of different people. As an artist, you have to not only be able to work well with others, but to fully embrace the teamwork mentality.”

Alex Dracott shares tips and tricks for lighting, texturing and rendering in Unreal Engine 4


ince public release early last year, Unreal 4 has set and raised the bar for third party engines. As of March it’s now free to use and there’s no better time to get creating on your own. Built from the ground up, Epic’s newest engine is capable of producing truly incredible visuals. Its deferred rendering, custom materials and advanced lighting techniques are perfect for pushing the engine – and your art – to the next level. I’ve worked professionally in Unreal 4 since its public release and have discovered some fantastic techniques for creating and presenting high-quality art in-engine. Here I share some of my personal tips and tricks I use on a day-to-day basis to help you light, texture, and render your own beautiful scenes within Unreal 4. In this issue’s online Vault you can find video tutorials as well as models and textures to get started in Unreal 4 today! For all the video and digital assets you need visit

Author profile Alex Dracott Alex is a lighting, effects and environment artist working in the gaming industry. He has been working in the field for the past four years.

3D World August 2015



Importing Textures into Unreal 4


Physically-Based Rendering

You can import textures via the Import button in the Content Browser. Unreal 4 supports a large variety of texture formats, from .tgas and .pngs to .psds and .jpgs. One important tip is to make sure normal maps are compressed as TC Normalmap to prevent visual errors in engine. Also be aware that if your texture dimensions do not follow the power of two, they won’t stream or have mipmaps.


SavE Memory: Channel-pack Textures

One of the fantastic things about Unreal is the large amount of control you get to have by creating your own materials. When you’re creating multiple black and white masks for textures like roughness or transmission, you are able to save memory by hiding each mask into an individual channel of a texture image and then accessing each channel of that texture separately in your material.

With the dawn of new rendering capabilities in new engines like Unreal 4, there has come the widely praised adaptation of physically-based rendering. This should definitely be worked with rather than against. Learning how to accurately represent the physical properties of materials with roughness and metalness masks can seem like a change from the way game engines worked last generation but can help keep materials consistent and believable across multiple lighting environments.

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3D World August 2015


Tutorials Create a mecha concept

ZBrush 4R7 | Keyshot 5 | Photoshop CS6

Create a female mecha concept Riyahd Cassiem shows how to create a 3D sci-fi android design for video games using 3D and 2D techniques

I Artist profile Riyahd Cassiem Riyahd works as an independent freelance digital artist creating visual effects, motion graphics, 3D character sculpting, illustration and concept art. He uses a mixture of 2D and 3D techniques in his workflow and enjoys working in the fantasy and science fiction genres. www.riyahdart.

n this tutorial I will go through some of my workflows and techniques for creating a female android character illustration using ZBrush, KeyShot, and Photoshop. I use a mixture of 2D digital painting and 3D sculpting techniques to create the illustration. This character was part of a personal project to explore mecha design through the female form. I focused on conveying a strong yet feminine character through the illustration while integrating mech design elements. I draw reference and inspiration from fashion, robotics, military gear, biology, nature, human anatomy and other fictional sources, as well as comics, games and characters from films like Tomb Raider, Kill Bill and Sin City. This helps bring more depth to the concept, incorporating different

design elements into the character. I use my previous mecha designs as inspiration, using the workflow and techniques I learned from each piece to develop my ideas. After compiling references, I create a few concept sketches using digital painting and photo compositing techniques within Photoshop to work out the overall design, form and values of the character. The concept is used as a guide to develop the design. I start in ZBrush with a base mesh, blocking out the character and different elements, looking for interesting shapes and angles to develop the design further while maintaining good space relationships and proportions. I use various tools and features in ZBrush, such as the Extract function to create parts of the mecha design.

After sculpting is complete I use the KeyShot Bridge feature to export my sculpt form ZBrush into KeyShot for lighting, material set up and rendering. I apply materials and textures to different parts of the model to help distinguish material differences and contrast in values. I experiment with different environment HDR light set-ups to create interesting contrasts in light and shadow. I export the renders from KeyShot into Photoshop for post effects and to enhance the final output. I use these tools and techniques to help explore creative solutions while creating my designs. So, follow my process and try the techniques for yourself to create your own concept. For all the assets you need go to

Use references Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, Ripley from Alien, Motoko from Ghost in the Shell, Beatrice from Kill Bill and Nancy from Sin City all came to inspire the concept character

1 Research and reference Topics covered Concept design Character design 3D sculpting Digital painting Compositing

I begin by researching subjects that relate to the concept I’m trying to flesh out. I draw reference from various sources from western to eastern, as well African design aesthetics. These references help me to better understand the concept I’m trying to create and makes the process easier to work on. I also use my previous mecha designs as inspiration, using the work flows and techniques I learned from each piece.

3D World August 2015


2 Start to concept

I start to create concept sketches using digital painting and photo compositing techniques within Photoshop. I start by establishing a strong silhouette then work out the additional character assets, forms and values. Once I’m satisfied with the overall concept sketch, I then repose the character symmetrically using the Puppet Warp and digital painting tools accordingly, to serve as a reference guide when digitally sculpting.

the female form This character was part of a personal project to explore mecha design

3D World August 2015


Tutorials Create a space suit

Artist profile Chris Chui Chris Chui is a freelance character designer specialising in cloth simulation and apparel design. He works with both digital and physical cloth, tailoring custom apparel during downtime. www.mxnarch.

Topics covered Initial concept phase Marvelous Designer features Modelling with MD imported geometry 3D World August 2015


Marvelous Designer 4 | 3DS Max | Photoshop | Corona Renderer

Create a space suit in Marvelous Designer 4 Chris Chui talks through the essential features he uses in Marvelous Designer 4 to create complex clothing

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hen creating complex characters it’s important to optimise where time is spent. This ensures we get the best outcome in the least time. For me it’s essential that my characters are realistic and believable, while also having an appealing design. Marvelous Designer is my main tool and allows me to create believable designs in a comparatively short time. Marvelous Designer is a software that enables the simulation of cloth in a way that is easy to learn and mimics real-life garment making. Its revolutionary method of dealing with what essentially is a complex area of 3D has lead to its massive success.

The release of Marvelous Designer 4 was a game-changer that has enabled me to create character designs faster than I ever could before. These features ranged from simple bug fixes to massive overhauls in how it deals with geometry. Tasks such as editing one side of a symmetric pattern would require building one half then copy and pasting it over and over again to update a change. This one new feature enables users to have a clone pattern that mimics all changes and updates automatically. However, the biggest change is the one everybody has been anticipating since the release of the first Marvelous Designer. The software previously produced

triangle meshes as they are better for cloth simulation. However, this meant 3D packages would struggle to subdivide and edit these meshes. Marvelous Designer now supports simulation and exporting quad meshes which has enabled not just smoothing, but the easy editing on a polygon level for a boost in detail. The best part is I now spend less time with laborious tasks and more time trying new design options. It allows me to get more content to my clients for review and in shorter time too. Marvelous Designer is a software I use everyday and I could not produce the characters I do without it. For all the assets you need go to

Expert tip

Shortcuts are your friend Make yourself familiar with these handy shortcuts: Space bar – Simulate toggle G – Internal Polygon/Line [Ctrl]+[D] – Sync toggle M – Free Sew

1 Create mood boards

The success of a new project can be dependent on the references you gather, therefore I always grab references for anything I’ll need to design. In this case it’s the overall suit style, specific helmet designs, shader reference, decal reference and even fabric samples and patterns. I create a mood board with everything on a single page where I can draw ideas from without scrolling through folders. It takes a bit of time initially but it will pay off. 3D World August 2015


2 Explore ideas in 2D

If you’re stronger in 3D than 2D you may dread drawing, but it’s important to explore ideas. I’m not concerned with the realism of my sketches, but the flow of the design. I use lots of strong angled lines in my designs so I employ what fashion designers do and just draw line art. After I have a few iterations in the design I’ll do another variation in a different direction. Once I have a winner, I draw in the wrinkles of fabric and very primitively add in shadow.

develop VFX project

VFX project

Making Halo: Humanity Director Robert J Merritt shares the secrets of creating the ultimate Halo fan film with Ian Dean


Author profile Ian Dean 3D World editor Ian has been writing about video games, film and digital art for over 15 years and has edited eight magazines on the subjects. www.3dworld.

big fan of Microsoft’s Halo, Robert J Merritt found the closing moments of Halo 4 raised more questions than answers, and sort to solve its cliffhangers himself, with a little help from his friends. “Master Chief begins to question his humanity. He’s attempting to uncover the meaning of being human and he struggles to cope with the death of his companion, Cortana,” says Robert. “This is the beginning of an exciting and unexpected journey, for all of us.” The original idea for Halo: Humanity came from co-director and writer Dayton Neuburger. It was a film he had even intended to create in his own backyard, but soon realised he wanted to make something bigger. “Dayton proposed the concept of a fan film centred around Chief and we all got goosebumps and decided to pursue the idea as doggedly as possible,” recalls Robert. The goal of the project is to create a film fans can enjoy: “This film really is for them. Many Halo fans have wanted an actual film that involves more of Master Chief, and we certainly intend to cater to that desire,” enthuses Robert.

“Those of us working on this film obviously love Halo, but we also love filmmaking and video games in general. We are using our experience, and working professionally on Humanity, to make photoreal, quality assets,” reveals Robert, adding: “No Halo fan film has managed to take themselves this seriously yet. It’s what the Halo universe deserves.” The events after Halo 4 are new territories for Master Chief and the team want to take advantage of the undiscovered stories yet to be told. Unlike past Halo fan films, this one delves into the character of Master Chief rather than just what he does.

Fan power

The founding members – Dayton and Robert – are joined by Zack Smith and Martyn Tranter and were all active in the Machina community for years, telling new stories within the Halo universe. Once the concept was created the team started scouring the internet for artists to help realise the film in the best way possible. This led to bringing Togrul Alekperov, Milorad Petkovic, Matthew Hasbrouck, Christophe

Lacaux, Joshua Towns, Leonard Hemby, Onyx Lee and Richard Coleman onto the film. “All are incredibly talented and dedicated CG artists, passionate about what they do,” says Robert. “Togrul was actually involved with the Halo 2 Anniversary cinematics by Blur Studios as a freelance artist, while Milorad has significant experience with V-Ray and 3D work for commercials. We’ve also brought

We needed people who could really invest their time to make our assets as accurate as possible in concept artist Jason Brown (SkribbliX), storyboard artist C.J. Franks and music composer Maria Rubel of Dreamsfall Music.” Finding the right people wasn’t easy: “We’re facing a huge galaxy of challenges and finding CG artists was difficult as it’s such a demanding art. Since there is such a huge weight of lore behind Halo, we needed people who could really invest their time to make our

Halo: Humanity aims to be the most professional fan film yet made

3D World August 2015


Humanity is aimed at Halo fans and the creators are eager for it to reach as many of them as it can

A team of experienced artists were recruited to bring Dayton Neuburger’s idea to life

assets as accurate as possible. We really wanted people who were as passionate about Halo as us and able to put in the effort.” It’s that attention to detail that made Dayton’s original story so compelling: “It gripped us all; Master Chief was trained to be a war machine throughout the duration of his life. Cortana’s purpose was to maintain the social efficiency of Master Chief. After her death, his emotional response asks the question ‘who is the machine?’” The story focuses on Master Chief’s search to find a way to bring back Cortana, a quest that sees chinks in Master Chief’s armour emerge and the character unravels as his human side emerges and he confronts his loss. At the same time, the UNSC is searching for Master Chief to bring him back into action.

Halo to the Chief

Chaos Group, the creators of the rendering engine V-Ray, started helping Robert and the team in January. “V-Ray is the fastest and most efficient photorealistic rendering engine for producing the best results,” says Robert.

Video Copilot, an online VFX suite, is also providing help with stock footage for compositing. They too came on board in January. At the same time, Shotgun Software began providing crucial production organisational software. “Our creative crew are spread out throughout the world and we needed a reliable way of updating each other on changes and work in progress. We are eternally grateful for their contributions and could not make this movie without them,” shares Robert. For all of the 3D work most of the team uses Maya. When it comes to compositing and editing they are avid users of Adobe’s After Effects and Premiere, and for graphics they are using Illustrator and Photoshop, “so it’s Adobe city,” Robert explains.

Cortana trap

“The Halo universe is so vast, and finding a part that’s untouched and creating a story we envision will please fans, has been really rewarding. Halo’s stories have always been creatively portrayed and we want to emulate the same level of creativity in our own way.”

However professional the team’s approach, Humanity remains a non-profit project created by the fans for the fans, and Microsoft is in no way affiliated with the project, nor do they endorse it. “We are heavily following their Game Content Usage Rules to stay in their comfort zone,” says Robert who reveals that, “we are making this knowing that they can take all of our ideas and use them however

Many Halo fans have wanted an actual film that involves more of Master Chief they please. We completely respect their rights to their IP.” The biggest challenge was getting the project known and funding came from a Kickstarter campaign. “All we ask of our audience is for their support and excitement,” says Robert, adding: “We’re extremely grateful to the fans and want to make an amazing movie for them.” To see Humanity’s progress visit FYI

inside the longsword Recreating the UNSC’s star fighting craft

Togrul Alekperov was tasked with creating the Longsword. It took nearly 10 weeks to model and eight hours a day before it was finished – both inside and outside. “A job like that could potentially be completed faster depending on how much time you are donating to it, and how much money you have to throw at the problem. However, we were proud to show off his handiwork as a treat for all our Kickstarter supporters,” says a proud Robert Merritt.

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the humanity team Director Merritt’s enthusiastic creative backers Dayton T. Neuburger is the project’s founder, co-director, editor, lore enthusiast and writer. He loves Halo, philosophy, music and storytelling. Milorad Petkovic, 3D artist, is from Serbia and lives and works in Belgrade. He has very extensive experience in the VFX Industry. Togrul Alekperov is a self-taught 3D artist with over eight years’ experience in CGI. He specialises mainly in environment creation and visualisation. Zack Smith is one of the writers, an actor and lore specialist for the film. C.J. Franks is an experienced storyboard artist, illustrator, and graphic design specialist whose work spans films, book covers, and comics. Maria Rubel from Dreamsfall Music is a self-taught composer, who specialised in writing hybrid orchestral music for films and video games. Martyn Tranter is the project’s lead graphic designer. He is a fan of video games and movies. Joshua Towns, character rigger, was responsible for rigging the characters as well as skinning and rig improvements for the project. Onyx Lee (Keyi Li), is a medical animator dreaming of making space operas. Matthew Hasbrouck, 17, home-schooled, self-taught 3D artist, carpenter, firefighter, snowboarder… He’s always looking to gain new experiences.

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