February 13, 2015

Building Unreal Paris

By Benoit Dereau

I first discovered the 3D world through the Hammer map editor that I used mostly for fun. I then joined a 3D school focused on architectural visualization for two years. I continued to train myself on realtime technologies and got hired by the studio Arkane as Level-Architect to work on Dishonored (powered by the Unreal Engine 3).

A year later, I left the gaming industry to come back to architectural creations, and level design got back to its place: my hobby. I created the Unreal Paris project because I wanted to combine the knowledge accumulated in these two branches of the computer graphics industry to produce an architectural interactive experience that would appeal to me and my friends! :-)

The main purpose of this project was for me to master the incredible UE4 tools and to complete my portfolio. I subsequently made a YouTube video showing my work on the Polycount forum. I clearly did not expect to see this video to be distributed so widely over the internet!

How long did this project take?

I worked on this project for seven weeks. This includes my introduction to the engine and various tests and research carried out to better understand the behavior of the Unreal Engine 4, in particular the calculation of light and material management.

What is this demonstration for?

Always being torn between the pleasure of making architectural images and creating environments in a real-time engine, I decided to merge the two with this new version of Unreal.

Here are some pictures showing the various stages of the most interesting scene illumination:

Lighting 1

Lighting 2

Lighting 3

And Sound Design in all this?

Sound Design is often the most underrated section of development. At the time of 8-bit & 16-bit games, sound design illustrated emotions that developers could not easily create because of the boundaries of visual capabilities, lack of resources or time. It is still true in a project like this; the sound design holds some significance. Today, games are approaching photo-realism, and sound design is used to illustrate what happens on the screen (animation, effects…). But in this scene, one of the main drawbacks for me was the lack of life in the environment.

The challenge for Mael Vignaux was therefore to transcribe acoustically what is not seen, without hindering navigation. The solution he brought to this problem was to suggest life without showing it’s actually not present. By creating sounds that disappear the closer you are to their source, the visitor is attracted to certain room. But once he arrives in the room, the sound disappears, leaving him to appreciate the surrounding static environment.

Unreal Engine 4 for architectural visualizations?

One thing I know for sure is that this engine will appeal to a lot of graphic designers specialized in architecture. The scenes of presentation provided by Epic help to quickly assimilate the rules of operation and engine conditions. PBR technology, which is one of the major advancements introduced in UE4, will enable people with experience in high-end rendering packages (Mental Ray, Vray, Corona, Octane, etc ..) to exploit their knowledge, light their scenes and (especially) create the shaders faster. The transition from traditional real-time rendering is done with much more fluidity and intuitiveness! This success is confirmed by the choice many computer graphics studios have recently made to switch to the UE4.

Benoît Dereau’s folio : http://www.benoitdereau.com/

Mael Vignaux folio : http://www.maelvignaux.com/