TANK T-30: PRE-PRODUCTION
I’ve been eager to do another 3DS Max project for a while and with most of my assessments done I’ve finally had the time to do it. After doing a conventional Treasure Chest not too long ago, I want to attempt a more realistic model this time around with an importance on learning more about the texturing and mapping process. So I’ve decided to do a WW2 tank T-30. It’s relatively harder than my previous models.
Initially I wanted to create a T-30 Tank from WW2 era combining styles from Call of Duty. So excited, but I digress. I went through a lot of blueprints exploring different tanks from the WW2 era but I’m not sure if it’s my high standards, nothing I came up with was aesthetically appealing. Nothing. I just didn’t feel any of the designs.
Whilst I didn’t get much specific information, I did learn that models should be saved as an ‘fbx’ file in order for the materials to stay with the model when it’s imported into the game engine. Unity works in scale of meters so 1 unit in Unity equals 1 meter which is handy to know when modeling to size. Unreal uses something called Speed tree to import models. As for the specifics, I did find some very convoluted information about polycot’s but it seems to apply more with mobile games than anything else. Game characters seem to sit around 5-10,000 polys with game props ideally under 5k poly’s. Due to the various conflicting information though, I think I will only understand when I actually start playing around with it.
Now it’s off to model it.
TANK T-30: MODELLING & UNWRAP
The majority of this project was actually fairly straightforward to model. After setting up the reference image I blocked in the main shapes in a couple of hours.The most difficult piece was the detailing on the tank.
I used the Symmetry modifier for the first time which saved a lot of time. What Symmetry does is whatever geometry you change on one side is automatically mimicked on the other side. This way everything is aligned and sized perfectly and saves me half the workload. I became concerned when I finished the body however because even though the basic shape was blocked in, when it came to smoothing it added just over 5,000 poly’s to the model and that was only on two samples. I now understand the battle modelers have when trying to maximize quality with as few poly’s as possible.
Another thing I learned about smoothing is that if you don’t have a few extra edges around any hard corners then the smooth process will turn your model into a big blob. Because Turbosmooth uses averages to smooth out the model, I had to create a couple of extra edges where I needed a defined corner.
Once all the modelling was done, I deleted any unseen poly’s and began the unwrap. For the most part the Unwrap was uneventful. With all the added geometry on the body I just had to be more cautious than usual about where I was cutting it. I did use more Unwrap tools then the previous project however, like the relax tools and the flatten mapping tools as well as the projection tool. Once I had all the pieces lined up and placed on the texture it was time to try my hand at creating a normal map.
TANK T-30: TEXTURES & MAPS
I had high expectations for how realistic I could make this tank look with the maps and textures. But unfortunately, my ambition far exceeded my talent this time around. I started off by creating some high poly geometry for the wheels that’s located on both sides of the tank.
Even though I was fairly happy with how the geometry turned out, baking it into the low poly object turned into a disaster. I’m not exactly sure where it went wrong thus my inability to address it, but I suspect it has something to do with having the wheels on both sides. It’s seems that the undersides of the wheels were been baked even though they shouldn’t have been seen by the projection cage. Nothing I tried worked and after about three to four hours trying to figure it out, I had to move on.
After this I took the UVW into Photoshop and began the texturing process. For the diffuse I created a dark green finish for all the body components slightly altering the darkness of the color. After I finished the diffuse I wanted to try my hand at creating a specular and a bump map to make up for the botched normal map attempt. For the bump map I simply reduced the saturation so that the texture became black and white with a few small tweaks here and there to emphasize some spots on the wheel and body. For the specular I reduced the saturation again but also adjusted the brightness and contrast on the various areas of the texture so that the body wouldn’t reflect light at all while the metal parts did.
With the specular and bump done I added some gloss parameters to the wheel and rim of the tank to give them some more emphasis when hit by the light. Once the gloss was added I made some final tweaks to the values and considered the texturing process done. Overall I’m not happy with how it turned out; I have a lot more to learn with the texturing process in order to create realistic models.
TANK T-30: LIGHTING, RENDERING & COMPOSITING
With the texturing process finished I moved on to lighting my scene. I haven’t really dabbled into lighting seriously yet, but whenever I’m in Unreal engine it’s always something I enjoy fiddling with. It’s my opinion that no matter how good your project is, it is either made or broken with lighting. For this project however I was happy to settle with three lights. I started with a spotlight which would shine directly on the tank revealing most of the information. Then I created a Rim light to remove the silhouette and give it a subtle highlight from behind. Then a Fill light completed the scene giving the tank a barely noticeable yellowish hue on the side. I had animated the tank to rotate on the spot so I didn’t have to worry about moving lighting or the camera at all.
With this done it was time to render the scene out, however with this project I wanted to get some practice with creating a proper demo reel. This includes several animation passes with the model in its diffuse, shaded and wire frame modes so that viewers and potential recruiters can see how the model was constructed. This required using the ‘Scene States’ tool in 3DS Max so I could easily switch back and forth between the model states in order to render much quicker. I did run into a few minor issues because I kept forgetting to add my normal and specular maps to the passes before I clicked save.
After about 6 hours, the renders were complete and I threw the image sequences into Adobe Premier for compositing. I was actually running short on time unfortunately so I simply threw the diffuse, shaded and wire pass’s together added a title for each sequence and then created some fade-in and outs. Overall I’m happy with the tank, I learned a great deal about texture and mapping processes and also scene states to help with the rendering process. The texturing process was a big letdown for me as I got nowhere near the quality bar I wanted to achieve unfortunately, but I know now this all came down to lack of experience and knowledge. I’ll be using the time I have over the break to learn as much as I can about all the modelling processes.