Environment Repurposing – NCCA / Frontier Developments Masterclass Project

Another project I undertook at the NCCA was titled “Masterclass”. In a nutshell, this was a project where industry members / companies set a brief to the students for the project, and acted as tutors for the project. Out of the list of briefs set, I decided to embark on the Frontier Developments “Environment Destruction” brief. Frontier Developments, among other successful titles, are the force behind the classic Elite games, and more recently Elite Dangerous, ” the definitive massively multiplayer space epic”. Their brief set, was to take the provided scene file of a spaceship hull, redesign the environment as if it were attacked by space pirates and then visualise the hull post-attack – I decided to go with the attack being provoked with a laser cutter attack into the hull itself. Below are a few test renders I made of the environment given to us.

The provided materials and shaders were setup for real time rendering within DX11 shaders, but being more confident in rendering out of Maya than in real time I converted their shader network into Mental Ray MIB shaders and went from there. Based on my concepts of the environment, I decided a dangerous glowing red atmosphere would instill the concept of ruin, both from emissive lighting and glowing molten metal.

Using the drawovers and re-concepting of the environment, I took aspects of their hull model and adapted them to have a more destroyed visual design. As well as this, adding in additional assets such as the cores of cut materials and broken off surfaces was vital. Texturing and shading the materials came next, although this was a minor task in consideration of new assets as there was a short timescale as well as a small amount of fresh new assets.

One aspect I did find useful though was the use of cards and texturing with alphas. The inclusion of damage textures onto clean walls with tiled textures lead me to placing mesh cards dotted around the environment, and then texturing with an alpha channel and normal maps to make it appear like the damage was set into the surface.

As well as all this, as part of the brief i had to provide the scene rendered with 2 lighting setups – one as if the ship was in the middle of empty space, and one as if the ship was in the immediate vicinity of a star. The darker of the two was mainly setup with emissive lighting being filled in with bounce light as well as area lights, whereas the star version was reasonably similar but also included alterations to the existing light setup with the addition of a directional light to replicate the harshness of a nearby sun shining through the windshields of the hull.

To add something else to the piece, I also decided to research into animated textures. In my concepts, I had the idea of having the screens / monitors in the hull being still functional, but glitching and fading in and out of control, causing contrasting and flickering blue lighting coming into the scene. To do this, I took the provided textures into photoshop, and edited them as desired.

For the glitches I then took the edited textures and translated all 3 of the RGB channels in various directions to give a Chromatic Abberation sensation to the screens, as if the process of rendering the hologram screens was breaking down/ I then used Photoshop’s animate functions to animate the RGB translations with differing intensities and keyframes, and exported these into a looping image sequence.

Finally, once I had rendered all the assets with the final lighting setups and textures, I took the renders into Nuke to composite and tweak the renders, for instance adjusting values to be more in balance with each other using multichannel 16bit EXRs, render passes and custom multimattes, as well as adding in a space nebula backplate. Final composites can be seen below, and a video of the final outcome can be found at the top of the this post.

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