MODELLING TERRAIN IN GAEA
07 TERRAIN BASE
Start by clearing any startup nodes and add a Range node, increasing definition to 60%, this will up the detail a little. Leave everything else as default. Adjust the seed value until you get a result you like, this image uses 2,420.
08 CREATE CANYONS
Next add a Canyonizer node to create large canyons in the terrain, perfect for placing the river and city. Set Formation to 42% for the overall size of the canyons, Streamline to 37% to soften the edges, making embankments rather than deep cuts, and set Maximum Depth to 44%, affecting the overall depth. Finally, set the seed to 78,290.
09 ADD AN EROSION NODE
Now we need an Erosion node, set its Duration to 13%. This simulates the length of time the terrain has been exposed to erosion. Set Inhibition to 16% – this value affects the amount of material being carried down and maintained from the peaks. Set the Random Sedimentation value to 200%, which is used here to create more variation in the sedimentation. Leave this value lower if you want to maintain more of the valleys from the main erosion parameter.
10 CREATE SOME MASKS
From here we are going to use a series of Data nodes to create masks that will be used for texturing both in Gaea and 3ds Max. For these to work, right-click the Erosion node and choose ‘pin as underlay’. Refer back to the reference and check where the rock formations are and aren’t covered in grass. The Slope node should be used to capture the steeper rock formations, this will be used to mask out the rock from the grasses. Set the minimum value quite high, above 60°. Flow can be left as default.
11 COLOUR MAPS
Creating the colour maps is very simple in Gaea. First, make the dark rock material. Add a Satmap node, change the library to ‘Rocky’ and select the ‘0033’ Satmap. In the Satmap editor, change the out point to below 50%. Add a second Satmap node for the grasslands, under the ‘Rocky’ library choose ‘0324’, leave the in and out points the same, and set the bias to 71%. In pre-processing check the reverse and jitter checkboxes.
Next, these two Satmaps will be combined. Create a Mixer node, plug the grasslands Satmap into the first input and the dark rock into the second input. Use the Slope node in the mask slot. In the Mixer node, make sure that the blend mode is set to blend and the ratio is at 100%. This should create the effect of the grass not growing on the steep rock faces.
From here on you can make any changes you like to the terrain and Gaea will update them. Now that the look and texture is sorted, you can create the other mountains. From this node tree, simply replace the initial Range node with a Mountain node. Create a few mountains and ranges to fill out the terrain and to match the blockout and concept.
12 EXPORT DATA MAPS
To export the Data maps, select the nodes you wish to export, right-click, and choose Mark for Export or press F3. To export the mesh simply add the Mesher node to the last Geometry node; in the Mesher properties you can select the file type and polygon count. For close mountains a detailed mesh is important, but something lower resolution can be used for distant land masses as the detail will be lost anyway.
Under the build tab you can change the file type for the textures and utilities. This image uses 8K for close mountains and 4K for the distant mountains. Both are 16-bit TIFF files.
Once the maps and meshes are exported, you can then import them into 3ds Max and replace the blockout meshes.
13 MEGASCANS ASSETS
This portion of the tutorial focuses on the ledge the character stands on. Some Megascans assets are utilised here as they are close to the camera and are high quality, which works well when under time pressure. The ledge is one of the ‘Huge Icelandic Lava Cliff’ assets as it has some nice stepping detail.
14 IMPORT MOSS
The moss is also from Megascans, but you can use your own assets or source them elsewhere. Import them into the scene on an appropriately sized plane, cut out each piece of moss and detach them – there is a handy ‘Detach Elements’ script you can download to make that a little easier. Once you have all the pieces separated, align the pivots to the base of the moss stems, rename the objects to something you can easily pick later on (for example SCA_G_ MOSS_XXX) and place them on a separate layer for scatter objects.
15 CREATE SCATTER MASK
This next step can be done in either Zbrush, Substance Painter or 3ds Max. 3ds Max was used for this project, the steps are as follows. Select one of the rock elements used in the ledge and apply a new material to it, this will preserve the material sent over from Megascans Bridge. Choose Tools>viewport Canvas. A dialog window will pop up, click on the paint brush icon and choose to save the mask to the diffuse colour. A map size of 2,048 works well as this is just a loose mask, then save it into the folder structure. Once that’s saved, 3ds Max should automatically open up the layer window to start painting.
First, add a new layer and set the colour to black and use the paint bucket to fill the whole mesh. This will serve as the areas where no moss will grow. You will now no longer see the mesh – to fix this, just turn that layer off. Make another new layer above that, this time with a white colour, and start to paint the areas the moss would grow. Using scatter in the brush will help add some variation to the paint. Once you’re happy, turn the black layer back on, right-click to exit the viewport canvas mode, and choose to flatten the layers down. This will be the mask for Forest Pack to scatter the moss.
16 SCATTER THE MOSS CARDS
Create a Forest Pack object and select the ledge element you were just masking. Name it Fp_moss_ Scatter_01 to keep the naming tidy. Under the Geometry tab, delete the default plane object and choose the ‘add from list’ icon. You can search for the prefix of SCA to easily identify the moss cards. Select them all and add them to the list. The size of the cards will determine the size of the moss scattered cards. If they are too large or small, simply change the global scale to suit. Expand the Surfaces tab and set the mode to UV. Next in the Surface tab, change the direction between normal and up (this image uses 41). This orients the meshes. By default, Forest Pack will scatter the cards perpendicular to the polygon, however, this is unrealistic as the moss should grow more vertically.
Open up the Distribution tab and apply the mask to the map slot. This should have an immediate effect on the scatter placement. Next, change the density (this image uses a value of 0.5m). If a dialog window pops up saying that you have exceeded the display limit, simply dismiss the window. Instead, open the Display tab and increase the max items number.
17 ADD VARIATION
Open the Transform tab and turn on the translation, rotation and scale options. These were left at default, but feel free to change them if you want. The moss should look something like this (see above).
18 MODEL THE CHARACTER
As this tutorial is more about the environment, and there are already quite a few great tutorials for character modelling out there, I will keep this section brief.
For this concept you only see the character from the back, so the character’s face need not be too detailed, and he’ll be heavily covered in clothing. This figure is the Nick Human Male base mesh that ships with Zbrush and a scan of some clothing from Polygonal Miniatures on Artstation.
From here, pose the character, and sculpt some more facial detail. Add some fiber mesh hair, which will be exported as curves for Ornatrix.
Import the clothing into Substance Painter and mask out the separate elements of the clothing to change them, for example to create more contrast with the environment.
19 KITBASH ELEMENTS
Kitbashing is a fantastic way to produce a high-quality concept when under a time budget. Kitbash3d has a great kit to match the original concept of a steampunk city, which was used here.
Start out by thinking with volumes, like in the concept phase. Set the viewport to Flat Colour and Performance Mode, to have a clean flat grey to work with. Start by combining shapes together and get something appealing going. Don’t be locked down to the existing groups. Using symmetry to modify existing shapes can be a fast way to create some variations.
Once you’ve got a silhouette that you like, bring it into the terrain and start to integrate it into the mountainside. Add some smaller details such as cables, rail lines, ziplines and more piping.
Create a wall around the city and an interior ground plane. Next make a Forest Pack object and apply it to the floor. This will be used to scatter some smaller homes.
Select all the small houses that you want to scatter and rename them to have a SCA prefix, so you can easily find and add them. With the forest selected, open the Geometry tab and add the scatter homes. Adjust the scale to suit. The city is supposed to be huge, so keep that in mind when scaling the homes. Open the Distribution tab and change the Scatter Type to Grid 1 and adjust the units so the homes aren’t intersecting with one another. Next open the Transform tab and turn on translation randomisation, keeping the settings low, again so the homes don’t intersect. Do the same for rotation and scale, making sure the rotation X and Y are set to 0 so the houses don’t tilt.
Create splines around the city buildings, these will be used to cull any homes for that area. Open the Areas tab and choose the ‘add new spline’ icon. Set it to exclude and add the splines you just drew. Next add a geometry object, this can only be set to exclude. Choose the mountains or any geometry that may be intersecting. Alternatively you can add a paint layer and paint them out manually.
20 LIGHT STUDY
The lighting is quite simple in this scene, utilising an HDR and a sun. Setting up HDR lighting in Corona Renderer is very straightforward. Open the Render Settings tab (F10), click on the Scene tab and scroll to the Single Map rollout. Load the HDR of your choice. For this image, Peter Guthrie Skies 2003 Dusk Blue was used.
Do a render test and make any adjustments that are required.
In this scene the HDR was too saturated and too bright. The Output Amount was reduced to 0.35 and the saturation was reduced by 50.
While the scene is rendering, adjust the sun in the HDR to match the existing sunlight.
21 TONE MAPPING
In the VFB turn on Tone Mapping. Set the Exposure to an appropriate value (this depends on the HDR). For this scene a value of -3.2 was used. Next is Highlight Compression, set this to 0.8. Leave the White Balance at 6,500K. Set the Green-magenta value to 0.02; this value is very sensitive, less is more. Lower the Contrast value to 0.8. Lower the saturation to -0.05. Set the Filmic Highlights to 0.5 and the Filmic Shadows to 0.3. Leave the Vignette off, this will be added in post.
Turn on the LUT rollout. Kim_ Amlan_photographic_02 has been used in this scene, with a value of 0.5, but of course feel free to choose your own.
To create fog for the scene, draw a box that covers the entire area. Make sure not to cover the camera as Corona won’t render fog with the render camera inside the volume. Change the object properties on the box to ‘Display as box’ so it’s not covering everything. Apply the Coronavolumemtl to the box.
In the Absorption rollout set the distance, a lower value will make the fog denser. A value of 1,600m works well for this scene.
Set the Scattering colour to a blue (R164, G189, B206). Change the Volume Mapping to Inside Volume and increase the Step size to decrease the render times at a quality cost. A per-scene balance is needed. A setting of 4m worked well for this scene.
In the Absorption Colour rollout add a Coronadistance map, this will be used to control the height of the fog relative to an object.
In the Distance From box add the ground plane. Under Output Transform set Colour near to a grey (220, 220, 220), as pure white will clear the fog. Set the Distance near to 80m (this value will be scene scale dependent).
Next, add a Noise map to the Colour near rollout. Set the black colour to a dark grey (10,
10, 10). Change the Noise type to Turbulence. Set the Noise Threshold High to 0.246 and the Low to 0.2. Finally, set the Levels to 10 and the Size to 2,500.
23 IMPORT AND ORGANISE
Import the passes into Photoshop, then separate the layers into masks and passes. Group them in a way that keeps things organised and tidy: it’s also helpful to colour code the groups. A useful way to group layers is:
• Passes: the separate render elements • FX: atmospherics, LUTS, and adjustments layers • Utilities: masks
24 RAW ADJUSTMENTS
On the raw render layer, making sure the image is a smart object, use the Camera Raw filter (Filter>camera Raw). Using this, adjust the white balance, contrast and highlights until you are satisfied. Tip: if you click on the black arrows on the histogram you can see a visual cue if the whites are blown out or if the blacks are too black.
25 FINAL TWEAKS
Set the Direct Lighting pass to screen, add a mask and paint in areas that have direct sunlight, but need a little boost. Here it was used to push the edge lighting of the distant mountains.
Set the Reflection pass to screen and paint in areas that you feel could do with a little more reflectivity, for example the Zeppelin and city domes. Set the Translucency pass to screen and paint in areas of the vegetation you feel need to stand out a little more, but don’t go too heavy. A hue/saturation adjustment layer can be used to control the colour of the greens, making sure they don’t get too saturated.
Next is adding in the Volumetrics and Zdepth. Set the Volumetrics pass to screen and mask in areas just above the water so it emphasises the look of mist over the water. Now take the Zdepth pass, set it to screen and an opacity of 20% and invert it. Adjust the levels to clip the foreground fog whilst maintaining the background fog, until the fog in the background becomes denser. Add a photo filter with a cool filter (82) and Alt+click between the photo filter and the Zdepth layer so it only affects that layer. This should tint the fog blue. Adjust the opacity until you are happy.
Next is the FX. The low-level cloud cover has been sourced from a variety of cloud cutout elements. This is image specific and to your own tastes. If you want the clouds to be less intense, lowering the opacity doesn’t look very realistic. Instead, adjust the levels for that cloud to decrease the whites. This way the cloud will become less dense rather than globally less opaque.
Pre-compose the layer (Ctrl+alt+shift+e) and make the layer a smart object, applying a filter from the Nik Collection (Filter> Nik Collection>color Efex Pro 4>Pro Contrast). This balances the colour contrast and the dynamic contrast quickly. Alternatively you can use the default curves and colour temperature in the Camera Raw filter.
Lastly, create a vignette by adding a curves layer, increasing the midtones and masking the edges. Then duplicate the layer, invert the mask and reduce the midtones. This should create a more realistic vignette than the default option inside of the lens correction tab.
Now just save your image and you’re done! •