The winner of Gnomon's 2021 Winter Term Showcase Jae Won Rim has told us about the workflow behind the Antique Photostudio project and showed how the materials for the camera were created in Substance Designer.
Hello, everyone. I am Jae Won Rim, a 3D Generalist based in LA. I was born and raised in South Korea and moved to the U.S to study in 2014. I come from a fine art background specialized in Sculpture, but I found my interest in CG a few years later. So, I went to Otis College of Art and Design, studying game art. I worked as a Game Artist for about two years and decided to go to Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games & Animation for more knowledge. I recently graduated from Gnomon, finishing their 3D generalist track in 2 years.
The Antique Photostudio Project
Antique Photostudio was created for the Demo Reel class at Gnomon that was taught by Miguel Ortega. I was looking for inspiration for my Demo Reel and I found an older model of a 3D foldable camera that I made in a hard surface modeling class in 2019. And I thought it would be nice to finish this Camera and also give it a surrounding environment.
I got my ideas mostly from real photo references. My search keywords were “warehouse”, ”photo studios”, ”antique, ”classic”, and “art studios”. I looked up big environment references first and once I got the idea of how to start, I began looking into assets. I tried laying out assets in my head and imagining what it's gonna look like and making variations of interior concepts.
Setting Up the Room
I started with the room structure, including walls, floor, windows, ceiling, and so on. I textured the room roughly and set the lighting to feel the mood. Then picked prominent props for reference and started modeling them. To meet a tight deadline, smaller minor assets were used from 3D asset websites.
Doing research and finding proper assets took me a bit more time than I thought. Most of the minor assets used were not UV out properly and not textured. So, I had to UV and retexture most of them. Maya was used for modeling and Megascans were used to bring in the foliage. I was working on multiple projects at that time so time management was very crucial. So, I was trying not to take more than two weeks to work on assets, set dress, and block out the scene.
Luckily I had somewhat of a base to work with initially from my modeling class, however, there was much more refinement needed for the final look.
First, I gathered references for “Folded Camera”. It would be great to find all-sided images such as Top, Bottom, Side, Front, Back. However, I couldn't find the perfect image, so I tried to find as many images as I could. Second, I modeled and UV layout the redesign in Maya. Third, I made new materials in Substance Designer.
This is the node graph I created for the leather part. When I was making this material, I was still not used to using Substance Designer so, I started based on leather texture images. So, I decided to make all the materials for the Camera from scratch for my learning purpose.
The next material was Wood. There were a lot of tutorials on how to make wood in Substance Designer so it was easy to start. After hours of practice to understand the tool and nodes, it got quicker to make materials and parameters for customization.
The third material was difficult to create because I was not sure about the red part of the camera. The red part of the camera is like fabric, but also like paper. There was no exact tutorial I could follow or learn to make this particular material. So, I had to watch two tutorials on how to make fabric and paper to kind of mix and match.
Blue Chrome was quite fun to make. Once I finished the base part I just needed to add more details on the top of it such as grunge, scratch, dirt, and mold. Then have all of it come together and make it control the level of dirtiness
Yellow Bronze had a similar workflow as Blue Chrome.
Black Iron material was like creating metal, the workflow of this material is creating detail on the top of the base step by step, and based on the pattern you create, you can make Diffuse, Roughness, and Normal.
As you can see from the image, I made six different materials that can be customized. There are a lot of learning resources online so that people can learn easily. After creating these materials in a week, I brought these materials into Substance Painter for the rough texturing of my camera.
After finishing materials in SD, I imported those materials into SP. The first image shows raw materials that I made in SD on the camera. And the second image shows added rough details on the top of base materials. I baked geometry for curvature, AO, thickness, and so on for applying a masking tool. After creating the detail, I created those into smart materials and posted on Substance Share so people can use them. I exported not only regular textures: Base Color, Roughness, Metallic, Normal, Height, but also baked textures: Curvature and AO.
Once I finished texturing in SP, I wanted to add more micro detail. I imported those textures, including baked textures, into different channels in a texturing program called Mari.
I usually start texturing Base Color first. I like to use node graphs for creating textures. It's easier to see the process and control. Mari is a heavier program than SP so, when I use Mari, I set the viewport in Basic or Flat for a faster frame rate and to keep it from crashing.
After finishing Base Color texturing, I copied the node graphs from the Base Color and pasted them into the roughness channel. In the roughness channel, I made all colored textures into grayscale. Since I know that white is Max Roughness and black is Min Roughness, I could imagine how the Roughness Map would work.
Normal channels also have similar processes. I copied and pasted the nodes from roughness and swapped imported textures into Normal Maps.
First I used clean base procedural textures for both ceiling, walls, and floor. I created the camera in Maya for texture projection and rendered the image without any props and brought the image to Photoshop and created masks using raw texture images.
I made different materials for crack, dust, mold...etc for adding on top of base materials. I blend them together and mask them out using Perspective Cameras in Maya. For base materials, I grabbed textures from Megascans and textures.com. I edited the base textures in Photoshop when I needed adjustments.
Assembling the Scene
First, I grabbed a bunch of references, imagining old dusty studios. I wanted to make a studio that has oriental and European vibes together. I used a lot of European furniture, but most of the photos are oriental photographs. I wanted the studio to look small and clustered, so I tried to put in as many items as I could. It takes time to create assets to fill, but I wanted to block out the scene beforehand so using the downloaded free assets dressed the room temporarily just to see the mood, and help set up lighting. I picked assets that look important in the scene beforehand and made a priority list to work on those final assets first. After finishing all the asset creation, I swapped temp assets with the new-made ones and adjusted the location here and there.
Setting up different layers helps to control the post-production process in Maya V-Ray. I made three different render layers: Beauty Layer, Light Select Layer, and Fog layer. In Beauty Layer, I render the sequence for Sunlight animation. To make sure, I rendered the beginning, mid, and end frames to check the lighting works properly.
In the Fog layer, I created fog and override materials into a surface shader which is just pure black. The fog is rendered based on the sun moving.
In the Light Select layer, all the rest of the light except sunlight is rendered. So that I can manipulate lighting at the post-production level in Nuke.
Separating render layers and generating render passes are crucial parts of creating the mood that I want. It helps shorten the work time and makes it easy to manipulate the lighting.
And this is the final look of it:
The main challenges are time management and fixing problems after finishing rendering. At that time, I was working on three other school projects and working for a company. Therefore I couldn’t waste time to meet the deadline. Also, I found the flickering issues/fireflies after the full render, so I had to create other render layers for problematic objects. Then, combine those new renders into the scene in Nuke. I worked on the project a day or two every week for 11 weeks.
Miguel Ortega gave me great art direction and techniques throughout my Demo Reel class in Gnomon. He gave me an efficient way of the work process, projection technique, and compositing skills. Not only this project, but also my other projects are heavily influenced by him. Without his help, I could not have made great pieces. Also, I would like to give a special thanks to David Mooy, Hard Surface Modeling teacher who helped me with the initial folded camera 3D modeling.