August 19, 2021
3 min

3D Environments Tutorial – 140+ assets!

When talking about 3D environments, we usually think of a terrain, with all its parts already assembled, but we rarely think about the work involved in creating those parts correctly and that all of them are new and original.

While it is true, there are many online libraries with assets to either use paid or even free libraries. Nevertheless, when you start a work and try to create from scratch with all the right process, we realize the amount of hours of work involved in perfecting each of those parts that make up the final image.

A few years ago, when I worked for Forgotten Forest I made my first library, but with a different workflow, mostly defined by the kind of tools we had available at that time. Today it is much simpler and the possibilities are much greater now that there are more asset distribution systems, in Maya we have Xgen, MASH and Particles, in 3DsMax this ForestPack, mustiscatter, etc. Making the playback process much more versatile and the type of asset that can be used to generate variations on the 3D environmets.

Forgotten Forest – 2014

With this process in mind, we started the new tutorial for creating 3D environments on Patreon, where we started from scratch with a new gallery full of variations, focusing initially on the types of pasture. The first iterations were further explorations towards the initial objective of finding the correct shapes and distributions in how they would look once assembled.

At the beginning, we started the exploration using Pfx that will allow us to create a magnificent asset gallery for distribution, very similar to the famous workflow about 3D environments initiated by the CGSOCIETY forum post and also the work of Alex Alvarez in his Forest with Mental Ray series. In this case, we are going to use a different strategy to build our elements and divide them, although it is true, it will take us a little longer to build the assets. At the end, it gives us the possibility of being able to control the result in a better way and add a large number of variants to eliminate the patterns that we can find in our elements.

First, we will take the Pfx to find the bases of our plants, and then start distributing and configuring them to correctly generate the type of element we want to use on the 3D environments. The first parts of the tutorial focus mainly on the use of the grass and the Pfxs to create a better result. Giving us the ability to use it later in a much more complex structure, but with controlled variants to get good results.

We will continue to use the structure, short, medium and long grass for our distributions just as we work in forgotten forest, but this time we will create many more variants per distribution and we will find the perfect way to find the necessary filler in each asset. It is always important to control the type of element and much more importantly the proportions, grass should not be too thin if the purpose is to use it as filler in large areas, since this will have complications then in which it will be more difficult to denote the forms of grass and we will need greater density. You can even lose the volume of the distributed areas giving us a different effect to the one we had in mind.

Take the first lesson here of the 3D enviroments tutorial

This was our first result with a test gallery without many variations and controlling the density of the Blades, at this stage the whole gallery is complete in an initial state with 28 variations, all of a single leaf, i. e. the leaves have no branches. We use DJXUV to distribute the uvs through the leaves so that we can easily control the result and leave the process ready for the library, with a distributed modular UV that will allow us to reduce the cost in memory and work with random textures per sheet. This is going to help us considerably in the realism we are going to look for our scenes.

Once we have our gallery ready, we go on to generate the final variations, in which we extend to more than 120 grass variations to find an impressive gallery where it is impossible to notice patterns and control the areas is much easier. While proportions are important from the beginning, defining the heights and widths of each leaf, this will also allow us to vary more effectively the structure of our environments.

For this test we used only 9 texture variations, you an see some repetition on the blades, we will need to fix that on a further lesson and also we need to create some variations with thicker grass, as some of the blades here ten to be too thin for a massive environment, they fo work normally under low populated conditions, but when you use them to populate a bigger area and the camera is far away from them, you can see that some of the detail is starting to disappear on the 3D environments.

Then we will also work on starting our galleries of plants, including flowers, trees, shrubs and various plants to locate and distribute on our stages.   At the end of the tutorial, we will finish with an incredible amount of props that will allow us to create many environments in a relatively short time. I hope you can join us on this trip, and remember that if you like the content, subscribe to the page, and check our Patreon channel!