Lantern Slides

Game Development & Photography

After a day spent cleaning up the code I worked on an important aspect of the Abyss: the ability to change the time and weather instantly. The game still has a very limited set of prototype artwork, but this is a satisfying milestone to reach. I can now explore and generate random atmospheres with a button press! This is essential, not just for Wylde Abyss but also Lantern Slides.

Created a new set of far higher cliff faces to surround the abyss with. Which often conveys a convincing sense of height when you peek over the edge at the distant rocky sea below.  Oculus Rift vertigo inducing fun in the future perhaps…

Created a new set of far higher cliff faces to surround the abyss with. Which often conveys a convincing sense of height when you peek over the edge at the distant rocky sea below. Oculus Rift vertigo inducing fun in the future perhaps…

Added in a few new elements to round off the basic Abyss generation. Distant mountains surround the island adding some scale and interest to the horizon, crepuscular rays for the sunlight which look great when the sun ducks behind a mountain, and grading changes for some extra variance between world iterations. Also some polygonal clouds, which are just for testing at this point. I’m pretty sure they will end up having to be recreated using textures so to retain the contrast between the hard polygons of the environment and softer sky.

We have a world to scan

Lantern Slides: Camera and slide test within an environment of scanned objects. (Unity3D)

We are crossing a technological boundary. The 3D scanning technique known as photogrammetry is becoming increasingly accessible. Utilising (many,many) photographs to create high resolution 3D meshes via specialised software and services. I have noticed its use with increased frequency in larger productions over the past year. It is also seems to be gaining popularity among smaller independent game developers and 3D artists.

youtube The Vanishing of Ethan Carter - Animating gifs! The Astronauts on Photogrammetry - EDGE

youtube Cyberpunk 2077

The static character in the CyberPunk 2077 trailer though reworked, augmented and relit, is essentially the original scan that originated from a studio like Infinite Realities. Taking that model to the next level of an animated character is a considerable amount of specialist toil. As the grim but well realised Witcher trailer shows, what works well as a still can resist a photorealistic transformation to full-motion. Photogrammetry at this moment is suited to the representation of static worlds. Which makes it seem like an ideal solution for environment objects, props, statues, terrain and so on.

youtube The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt

This will most likely get some media attention. The new easy-CG-wizard-magic that will once again nerf the labour value of 3D artists everywhere is here. Modellers should watch out this time. Just as motion capture scattered the aspirations of thousands of trained animators like a torrent of reflective ping pong balls over a capture studios floor. Of course It turns out that didn’t happen, in fact it broadened the capability of animators. These technologies always augment our skill-sets and have many applications as a method to each project’s needs.

youtube Get Even -

What does the interested artist require? Enough photography experience to ensure you are capturing usable images. A half-decent camera and lens, though any modern dSLR will do. Time to explore the world looking for suitable subjects in suitable lighting. Time to process the resulting photographs for processing and time to let the software create the model. Then repeat as you learn what works and what does not.

Source photographs for a tree. No twigs or branches creating noise. A low-frequency detailed shape in soft light so will scan very well. Though the background will require masking out. (Adobe Lightroom)

VINE : Tree photos to realtime ready model.

VINE : Door source photos to Agisoft Photoscan - Agisoft PhotoScan. Very powerful photogrammetry software. Excellent results. I am currently learning this for use on Lantern Slides.

Rustclad - traditional mediums

What is suitable for scanning? Rougher surfaces with a lack of specular highlights. A shape or volume of low or medium frequency detail, and all in diffuse or consistent lighting. No glass! Metal can be risky as the shifting highlights and reflections confuse the image matching stage. Windows can resolve to curious looking portals that contain their reflections. If you need to scan that shiny object, consider if you are wiling to spray paint it to a matte & mottled finish. Then re-create the material in the renderer.

Tree stump object, material and lighting test.

Once the hours of processing are complete photogrammetry doesn’t directly give you anything you can use in a realtime renderer. The raw mesh is too dense and the textures too wasteful. Best to think of it as a replacement for that high resolution sculpting stage, there is the usual amount of optimisation work to do. The mesh needs a low-polygon UV unwrapped counterpart. The diffuse, specular and normal textures are still to be baked out and edited. The odd hole or artefact in mesh or texture patched up. Then the satisfying work begins. Import these objects into your art package or game engine of choice and with the careful application of materials, lights and special FX begin to make them part of your world.

Creation of diffuse, specular and normal maps from a photo source.

A realtime 3D ready facade of an old building. (Blender)

Lantern Slides: terrain and scanned object landscape lighting test. (Unity3D)

Lantern Slides’ object testing environment. Checking materials created using Marmoset Skyshop. (Unity3D)