Art by Rens: Stunning Photogrammetry with Substance Designer

Pierre Bosset on February 27 2018 | Photogrammetry, Scans, Substance Designer, Unreal Engine, Stories

My name is Rens, and I’m a 3D artist, environment artist, and technical art director. I have worked in 3D for 14 years, eight of which professionally. Over the years I’ve worked with various studios including DICE, Epic Games, Sony and V1 Interactive.

I’ve been part of several projects including Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4, Battlefield Hardline, and Paragon.

I’m currently working on closing the gap between offline, pre-rendered cinematics and exploring the possibilities of real-time graphics.

“it’s possible to get incredible results without feeling limited”

Photogrammetry brings speed, accuracy, natural structure and a level of detail that is near impossible to match by hand. You can now create within hours a high poly model that would have previously taken days to complete. It replaces the texture process and allows for very high resolutions.

I don’t see it as replacing a traditional workflow, however. Instead, it provides an alternative. Being a good artist means you know when to make use of the tools that are available to you. You still need to be able to build things by hand, as not everything can be scanned or captured.

To have the ability to translate real-life objects into 3D is an art in itself. It takes a lot of effort to get the process right. I made many mistakes in the past and created several hundred captures, each time updating a small part of the process. Finally, I achieved the quality I have today.

As it’s possible to get incredible results without feeling limited, I think there are few remaining issues. Creating the in-game asset is still time-consuming, however. This is either done manually or, preferably, through decimation. The decimation or reduction tools still have a long way to go, though. Having tried many, I mostly found the same results: lots of triangles with odd shapes or that connected incorrectly.

“Substance Painter plays a big part in cleaning up photogrammetry.”

I use Substance for a variety of work. For hard surface and non-natural objects, I make use of Substance Designer and Substance Painter. I work with smart materials to quickly lay down the foundation. From there, I spend time manually painting the details to finish it up.

To create the texture atlases for plants, I use top-down photography and process them using Substance Designer’s multi-angle nodes.

Substance Painter plays a big part in cleaning up photogrammetry. Most models have a few bad spots or contain things you may want to remove. Being able to clone and project, I can paint away parts in the texture or cover areas that I missed in the scan.

Being able to develop with smart materials and to paint directly on a 3D object becomes easy. My project makes use of presets; with these, I can texture my work and get it in game quickly. Any iterations that need to happen are fast as Substance works well with other software.

The most significant impact on our industry will be how it pushes the next generation of games and graphics. 4K and 8K graphics are unforgiving and require a lot of detail. As every flaw becomes visible, integrating photogrammetry to produce high-end content will play a key role. I think we will see a lot more game and film productions capturing large environments to enhance and speed up their work.

My setup:

Dual 1080TI in SLI (using single GPU for real-time work).

Intel Core i7 5960X.

Asus X99-E WS.

Corsair 64GB DDR4 2400MHz.

Acer 28" Predator XB281HK G-Sync 4K.

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