January 6, 2020
“House at the Waterfall” breakdown: the winning entry of Twinmotion Community Challenge #2
When I finished modeling in SketchUp, I wanted to show my work to friends and family, and the best way to do this was by creating a movie, which is how I found out about Twinmotion. I picked it up instantly, and I was able to get the results I needed within the first month of using it.
My inspiration for this project came from seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. I love how the building is blended together with the waterfall, but because I wanted to create my own building, I also searched for a more glass-based inspiration and quickly found it in the iconic Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Things like mushrooms and tree stumps came from the Quixel Megascans library. It’s a great place for ultra-realistic nature objects. To bring them into Twinmotion, all you have to do is browse the Megascans library for assets you need:
Then go into the download settings menu:
And finally choose which textures you need for the assets. After downloading, just import the assets in .fbx file format into Twinmotion. They will automatically import as a white texture map. Go into the texture settings and replace all the maps with those that downloaded with the model. Then just place the model in the scene wherever you need.
There are no artificial lights in this particular scene, and a reflection probe is used in the background to make reflections look more natural inside the building. The image below shows the position of the reflection probe.
You can see the important lighting settings I used for this scene below. It’s worth noting that for close-up shots, one of the most important settings is the shadow distance—as you can see, I set this to 10m which is closest you can choose.
This makes shadows within 10m of the camera extra crisp, while the background has no shadows at all. Because I used a very high ambient occlusion and the depth of field (DOF) setting, I could set it to this distance without any negative consequences.
The sky in this scene was created using a dome sphere object with sky textures on it. You can find these textures with a quick internet search—this particular sky is from HDRI Haven. If you look closely, you’ll see I actually used two different skydomes; this one for exterior shots, and another that has more of a sunset feel for interior shots. There is a detailed guide on how to use skydomes on the Twinmotion support site.
The entire landscape for the animation was created in Twinmotion—no additional software was used for sculpting terrain. In my opinion, Twinmotion is all you will ever need for 95% of sculpting jobs.
To create mountains or cliffs in Twinmotion, like the one shown on the left above, simply open the Rocks library and search for the last item on the list. The whole mountain and a big part of the waterfall was created using exactly the same rock, which is scaled up or down and rotated many times to avoid obvious repetition. You could also just search for different rocks in the Megascans library, but I find Twinmotion rocks to be great quality.
Laying the grass on the roof above was straightforward. I added two primitives from the Twinmotion library on top of the roof, then clicked on one and selected the Isolate option in the object menu. This way, the only object I see in the scene is the one I’m going to paint, and the grass only goes on the roof and not on everything else.
As I mentioned previously, I modelled the building itself in SketchUp and imported that into Twinmotion. The process of creating the waterfall was probably the hardest part of my work and took the most time. First I had to sculpt the terrain:
Then I added two primitives with water texture and movement:
Then I had to add rocks:
And lastly I opened the Twinmotion particles menu and selected a waterfall effect, which I scaled down and copied 50 times all over the waterfall so it looks more fluid:
The lighting setup for almost all the exterior shots used the settings shown below. Pro tip: it’s worth using a higher field of view (FOV). In most scenes, I’m using a FOV of 85 or 90 as this gives a wide camera angle, and in most shots I’m also using perspective correction, especially when the camera is moving in straight lines.
The last thing worth noting is the camera work. In my opinion, it’s nearly always better to make many short clips with two or three camera stops and combine them into one movie, rather than creating one huge clip with multiple stops.
When I create interior scenes, I always need them to look good in my head before I even start—they must have the “wow” factor. Then I try to recreate the scene as best I can from that mental image.
Almost the entire building is made of glass in this project. That means no matter where I put the camera, it’s always going to show what’s outside—so it was super important to make the landscape look as good as possible.
I came to the conclusion that the look of the house should be ultra modern with minimalist interior design. Instead of putting tons of stuff in the interior scenes, I went for a small number of highly detailed assets.
The second important thing was materials. It took some time to decide which ones looked the best, as I wanted the ceiling and floors to be made from the same material. Wood textures in Twinmotion look particularly great, with very fine details in bump maps and reflections. I used the lighting setup below for these interior scenes.
For the bath scene, I used decals to create water pools on the floor, which adds an extra layer of reflection, and I also added some details to the walls. It’s also worth noting the high ambient occlusion, which I set to 100% in every single scene in the project.
Should you always do the same? Definitely not. In my opinion, ambient occlusion should be put as high as you can, but “how high you can” depends a lot on the scene.
The main disadvantage of using high ambient occlusion is that it creates shadows in the corners of the walls and ceiling. But in my building, you don’t really see the connection of the walls and ceiling because there’s so much glass. That means I can put the slider to 100% most of the time, and other times it’s my job to work the camera angle so these shadows are not visible.
The night sky in Twinmotion is great—there’s no need for a skydome. It’s important not to go overboard with lights in night scenes. In this scene, there’s only one omni light casting shadows directly over the table and it’s enough to light up everything, along with a reflection probe. The lightning settings for this scene can be seen below:
Most of the time on this project was spent in the modeling software and searching for interior assets. After that, it took me around 20 to 30 hours to create everything in Twinmotion. I was making a lot of small tweaks here and there, and made a few extra scenes which I had to cut in final render as there was no time to show everything. My hardware setup is a perfect example of how you can get great results in Twinmotion even with an old PC . I use an Intel i7 2600K (seven years old), 16 GB Ram, and GeForce GTX 1060 6GB.
As for my favorite thing about Twinmotion, it’s the ease with which you can create a landscape, and the great UI, which is so simple that anyone can use it—even someone who has got no architectural design background.
Want to create your own architectural animations? Twinmotion is available to download for free until early 2020!