Change of plan

Our entire set for Black North was optimised and packaged up, which we then handed over to them and they seemed pretty happy with it. At our most recent meeting we were told that a few more blocks of ice were needing modelled and textured…

Below are a few images I looked at to see how ice would react to light (is it transparent, is it solid) and how the surface of the object could look: scratches, cracks etc…

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I then used the tutorial below as a guide/starting point for texturing the ice model, the results were achieved by using a ramp shader and noise map:

Starting off in mud box, I created a rough shape from a cube…

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I then brought the model into maya, where I started applying the techniques from the link above, but also making a few adjustments of my own to fit the requirements of what Black North were asking for…

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first render:

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I felt that the render above was a little plain looking.. there was no colour, nothing interesting about it, so I tried to change that. I duplicated the model and resized it so it would fit inside itself,  then changed the colour of this smaller model to a light blue and gave it a slightly brighter ambient colour, in the hope that the extra light might bounce around a little inside the larger object. The transparency of the object was also adjusted to make it more solid/ visible through the first model.

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I still wasn’t happy with the colour, there was too much blue – no other colours were present, so in an attempt to fix that I placed a cube inside the smaller model, which was less transparent than the others and I gave it a grey colour. Im a bit happier with the render below as now there are a couple of colours bouncing around.

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We then received a message from the guys at Black North to say that the game had been changed and could we create a new level based on the new designs, giving us 4 days to create the level so it was going to be a bit tight with time. The file below is the example we were given…

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This time our set would be 7 tiles that would join together (we will create one each.) This time the models were to be as low a polycount as possible, this being the main reason the game was changed, and we would still be sticking with the ice environment.

I started off by modelling an environment in mud box…

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which I then brought into maya and retopologised using the quad draw tool (remembering not to press three to smooth the model as it will be taken into soft image when we pass it on) :

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Unwrapped the UV’s by firstly unwrapping using the best plane, decided where my seams would be and cut the UV edges before finally using the 3D unwrap tool. These UV’s were obviously a lot easier to unwrap compared to the previous set…

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This time regarding textures were decided we would go for more ice rather than rock and snow, seeing as the panels looked like they were some sort of cave. Below are some of the textures I experimented with…

13-scratched-ice-texture-free-hi-res 10422269_862539437136109_6774744961511944772_n Chiseled Ice clay_snow1 ice_texture___2_by_agf81-d4p2kkm ice_texture2998-1 ice-texture--1033-1 Ice0021_L snow_texture1550

Before settling with the textures below:


Originally I had ice walls and banks of snow at each side but it just didn’t look right, so I switched it to be snow walls with banks of ice which just in general a lot better.

The ambient occlusion was baked in:

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And multiplied over the textures in photoshop:

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A normal map was also created using crazy bump:

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Then it was onto lighting the scene, I added an ambient light with a rather low intensity to give some basic light. I wanted my light source to be coming form the ice.. as if it was giving off light that was then being reflected by other bits of ice. So to create this I added in a few spot lights, all different in size (penumbria and cone angle) intensity and colour giving the results below.

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Once I (and the rest of the team of course) were happy with the lighting, the light and colour were baked in:

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Fly through:


The Cave adjustments…

It was mentioned at or last meeting with Black North that the inside of the cave/tunnel wasn’t very exciting, as it was all one texture, so it was suggested that I could light the inside of the cave to give the impression that light was leaking through cracks in the walls. So I’ve went back and rebaked the scene to include this feedback using spotlights of various colours and sizes to create the leaking light:

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Now that our project with Black North is coming to an end, there only a few things left to do. Firstly we need to put a sky around the set, this was done by enclosing the whole set in a sphere and changing it’s colour to blue. Any gaps between/in sets were also filled using photographs from members in the team who had previously been on holiday, some clouds were also added in on planes, to give the effect of flying through clouds and low lying fog…

Some of the clouds were also animated, along with the main sky image: to give the illusion of a realistic sky movement.

A link to the group playplast, again the quality of the playblast is still pretty low as we don’t have the time for a high quality one:

Also needing fixed was the entrance of my tunnel, it was too harsh, so I created an extra bit of geometry to act as a snow overhang…

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The texture doesn’t quite match the rest of the set yet because the lights need to be baked in, this will change once I place my new set into the file with everyone’s set as the lights are still present in that set, they haven’t been baked.

The work can also be found at:

some rendered stills of the finished work:

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The next step was to insert wreckage from previous levels into our ice environment, the wreckage was sent to us by Blacknorth along with the textures, all we needed to do was place the geometry into our set, reapply all of the textures in the scene and then bake the light and colour, doing this meant that the wreckage would now cast shadows. Making sure that we ships had a separate texture map to that of the landscape, they stressed that we keep them separate. We’ve also been told not to go crazy with the wreckage, they don’t want it absolutely everywhere…

I decided to use the wreckage to cover up areas where my textures were stretching, mainly in the mountains at the beginning…


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When placed in the scene I then deleted faces and parts of the geometry to make it look like it had crashed into the set, remembering to change the ship material from a phong to a lambert or else it will reflect the set around it…

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Then the lights were brought in and the set was baked:

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Link to an updated turntable with the wreckage:

A playblast of a run through of my set…

A couple of playblasts of the entire group environment, showing our progression throughout the assignment, the curves still need a bit of tweaking and some textures are still being adjusted. The quality of the playblast has also been lowered due to time restrictions, we didn’t have enough time to render out a high quality curve, this was only to get a general feeling of the environment…



The feedback we received from our textured sets was that the light source wasn’t consistent across each set, we would need to bring all 7 sets together into one scene and create a lighting set up from there so that the light will always be coming from one direction. It was also pointed out that real shadows will have hues and shadows… they aren’t completely black and grey. We were also to consider filling in the gaps in the scene, so that if a player on the oculus rift spun around 360 degrees that there would be nothing strange looking, no seams in textures, no half models… etc.

I started by removing my previous textures and modelling some extra mountains in and around the canyon and end of the set…

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Again I unwrapped the set using maya’s 3D unfold tool, making sure the seams are placed somewhere they won’t be seen and I’ve also deleted any faces that aren’t needed.

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The gaps are now filled in…

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When moving my UV’s onto one texture map again some were to small, even when they were scaled and moved but compared to an earlier post I now only have two texture maps, one for the landscape and one for the smaller assets…

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I’ve also retextured my entire set ad I wasn’t happy with my previous attempt, I feel that this time I have found much more suitable textures and as a whole the set looks a lot better than before:

Textures along with the Ambient Occlusion bake multiplied on top:

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This time in the textures I have a softer blend between different areas of the set, there is a better transition between the textures. The snow that covers the rock on the mountains is much better placed and better brushes have been used to blend between the two.The texture of the arch was also changed to another material, I used a frozen lake that had been scratched to texture it, following the feedback from the previous meeting. Along with creating the new textures, new normal maps were also created through crazy bump but still using the same settings as before: intensity of 6 and a sharpness of 6.

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I felt that my set was still a bit too ‘open’ towards the back…

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Scott had a huge mountain landscape that he had modelled which he allowed me to use in my set as a background, I then created my own textures and normals map for it (this time an intensity of 8 was applied with a sharpness of 6)…

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We fixed the lighting by importing everyone’s sets into one scene:

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once we created a lighting set up, everyone then got a copy of the file, deleted everyone else’s sets bar their own, meaning that when we imported our work back into the scene they would still be in the same position and the layout wouldn’t need too much adjusting. We have used ambient lights, directional lights and area lights along with multiple colours to create the illusion of real shadows with real hues. Again the light and textures were baked in.

The baked textures…

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HD turn table of my own set:

Some rendered images…

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My textures

Before jumping into creating my textures I decided to do a little bit of research…

Digital Tutors had a great little explanation of how to fake high levels of detail without the extra geometry…

I think normal maps, tiling textures and decals will be the most helpful to our work, below are some notes of what the website covered along with the link…

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The CG society also had their top ten tips to texturing…

I’ve also found some good examples of texturing on objects that we will be texturing throughout our own sets:

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Some of the websites I took my textures from, making sure to download the highest resolution possible to reduce the chances of stretching…


Before starting any baking, I decided to have a go at some texturing, just with a couple of rocks and a bit of lighting…

10993431_10206288000943087_422217695172909092_n 11001858_10206286776312472_3589790332113789329_n 10898038_10206286779752558_4125333347414047872_n 11025190_10206286779712557_3493977422743146407_n

I also have applied bump maps following the tutorial below…

I saved my UV’s as a UV snapshot meaning i could then bring it into photoshop where I would apply my texture, remembering to hide the UV layer when saving so that it would appear as part of the texture…


For repetitive objects such as rocks and icicles I have used two textures, making sure that they are well dispersed across the scene so it is not noticed that the textures are the same. On larger surfaces I have tiled the same texture across it’s body but used a snow layer as a decal to break up the pattern along with the use of various brushes to interrupt the pattern.

Once the textures were complete in photoshop before saving we also had to multiply the AO maps on top of the corresponding section. Below are my textures…

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When loading the textures into maya we made sure to make the necessary changes to make sure that we were still working within a linear workflow. Before baking we also created normal maps to apply to the models to increase the detail, this was done using crazy bump, where we loaded in our AO_colour (texture files) and selected the shape to the left…

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I found that an intensity of 6 and a sharpness of 6 gave a good result.

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A lighting set up had been created by Aidan and then shared around the group, once imported all that was left to do was bake the light and texture, this was done the same way as the Occlusion the only setting that needed changed was what was being baked: light and colour! After baking, the lighting was deleted and gamma correction was enabled (render tab beside cameras, option box for viewport 2.0) Also in render settings> common tab> enable colour management, srgb was selected in the bottom option and linear srgb selected in the top. One final thing to check was that no incandescence was connected to the scene.

A couple of Renders of the set:

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Link to the turntable:

Link to group playblast:

I’m relatively happy with how the textures turned out but I am definitely going to improve them for next week, it was pointed out that the arch should be something other than snow… possibly ice? something that suggests there is a background story to the landscape. Overall there is room for everything to be improved and I feel I could do a much better job.

Preparing to texture

Seeing as we are all relatively new to what texture baking is, the link below explains the attributes of texture baking in maya, making it a little bit easier for us all to understand.

before baking in our Ambient Occlusion we had to set up a linear workflow, we’ve done this by following the tutorial below…

Fortunately our tutor had already gone over setting this up when talking about uses and benefits of multiple render layers and passes…

The first thing we had to do was to apply an ambient occlusion and bake it to our mesh, the AO bake would then be found in the render data folder of the current project, mental ray> light map…

One problem I had was that when I combined my UV’s all onto the one map, some of them were too small to texture… and the textures when rendered were very blurred…

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So for the time being I have multiple maps… the icicles I was able to group onto 3 maps, rocks onto 4, and the rest of the models were each on their own, so I had 19 altogether… however this problem is solved later on in the week!

My Ao maps…

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The settings for the AO were, samples: 124

To bake the AO go to rendering in the drop down menu to the top left then lighting/shading>batch bake (mental ray) and settings are as follows:

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Then convert and close!

I also decided to do a little research on texture maps, to gain a better understanding:

some notes I took from Digital Tutors, with the link below:


I also had an issue of 3D artist, that had a section entitled ‘A beginners guide to texturing’ which I found extremely useful as it went through and explained the different types of maps that can be used and why they would be used.

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UV unwrapping…

After showing our high poly sets we were then given the next step, texturing, lighting and  baking them into the mesh. First we will unwrap the UV’s for each of the models, then  export the snapshot’s to photoshop where we will create our textures. We will have to bake an Ambient Occlusion into the mesh and then multiply this over the texture file in photoshop. Before applying the texture maps to the set we will set up a linear workflow, then apply the textures (and bump maps) and bake the textures along with the lights. Rendering it as a turntable.

Time to get stuck into the unwrapping…

Maya 2015 has a new unwrap tool, unfold 3D, which makes things a lot easier. You highlight the UV’s that need unfolding, hit apply and close… maya will unfold it, and before unfolding you can highlight and cut where you want to place your seams… then unwrap.

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The video below explains it a lot better…

So I started with the easier shapes, anything made form a plane…

Mountains: Firstly I used planar mapping to unwrap the UV’s in the y axis, before using the unfold 3D tool, making sure to remember to change the map size to 2048! I then checked the shape of my UV’s by applying a checker texture…

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I then repeated this across anything that wouldn’t have a seam, all the objects that are created from a plane…

Front adjoining panel: Planar unwrapped in y and then applied the 3D unfold tool…

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Canyon: planar unwrapped in the y axis followed by 3D unfold:

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Side panels, one is an instance of the other:

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Cave wall:

this time it was planar unwrapped in the Z axis first before using the 3D unfold tool…

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The cave roof and floor, both planar unwrapped in Y and then 3D unfolded…


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Rear panel:

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and finally the ice field:

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I then moved onto the objects with seams and trying to figure out how I would hide those seams…

The arch… Firstly I planar unmapped the arch in the Y axis and then in the texture editor I highlighted edges until I figured out where I wanted my seam to run which was along the back edge of the object, polygons>cut UV edges, then I used maya’s 3D unfold tool…

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Ice wall: for the wall I unwrapped it in the X axis and cut along the top of the shape, where i would have the seam be, I’ve also deleted the faces on the bottom of the shape seeing as they won’t ever be seen by the player, meaning i now have two separate shapes in the texture editor, so I went back and planar unmapped the back of the model in the Z axis…

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I used the same technique for each individual rock, so I’ll not post an explanation and images for each rock…

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With the rocks firstly I deleted any faces that would not be seen by the player,

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Then unwrapped using the planar option in the y axis, and placed my seam to run along the back of the image..

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This was done to every rock, every icicle and the two panels in the canyon…

The view the player will have…

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Seams hidden around the back of the model…

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Seam hidden at the back…

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I also managed to unwrap the UV’s for the large tunnel I had modelled, although I’m not sure that it will be getting used in our environment, again applying a checker texture to look for any signs of stretching and any seams.

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