After the clean, warm, picture-perfect quality of the Poolroom, I became interested in creating an environment that is more used, cold and worn. After deliberating, I settled on the following garage scene.
Unlike the poolroom, this environment is open and airy with the primary light source coming from the ceiling. It took some consideration to portray the shadows in a manner that does not dominate the scene. Originally lit only from above with rather harsh results, the scene lost some of its detail in very dark shadows. By adding interior lights -- and using source lights -- those overly dark areas come into view and showcase other features.
Still, I was looking for more flexibility with lighting, which is exactly what I got when Stingray 1.6 came out with an improved light baker. Now we see greater texture and depth -- the nooks and crannies become visible under improved lighting quality. Such advancements are exactly what keep the process exciting.
Details... Details... Details...
One of my favourite aspects of Stingray is that it handles the processes of importing, managing, and placing assets so that I can focus on the important stuff -- the details. As all environmental artists know, reality is best portrayed by the little things: hammers left on a workbench, a slightly open drawer, scratches and marks leftover from a hurried workday. These are the details that sell an environment.
With MayaLT and Stingray, the integration is tight and seamless, so creating such realities is no problem. (This is also true with Maya and Max). Tools like 'send to and from,' level sync and Shader-FX, give me the options I need to make the smallest of tweaks with ease. I can preview textures in MayaLT, make quick changes with level sync, and hammer out fine details like light-maps with 'send to' features.
Crafting a scene that feels believable essentially comes down to focusing on the detail in materials. I really enjoy working with textures, so I tend to spend time optimizing shaders, doing tests, and ultimately trying to find a harmonic balance between the lighting and the textures used.
Lighting and Reflections
My primary goal in this scene was to get the lighting right. I had some difficulty with it until I began working with Stingray 1.6, which made light baking a lot more accurate and even downright beautiful. Areas previously lost to murky shadows now add interest to the scene due to improved lighting.
This improved lighting, however, initially left me with the glaring problem of inaccurate reflections. The solution was to ensure that my reflection probes and shading environment were expertly set up. After doing some research and experimentation, and helped along by the new controls on Stingray 1.6, I developed the knack for making accurate reflections. If you're interested in Stingray reflection probes and want to learn how to set them up for yourself, I made a tutorial based on this garage project that can help you with your learning process:
Virtual Reality Conversion
The following scene was not originally developed for VR, but I have been building it out just for fun and it has become one of my favourite environments for it. Given the ease of making objects interactive in Stingray using flow, it has been a blast adding a variety of features that have made the environment all the more alive: The lifts move up and down, and objects such as hammers, metal pipes, and pallets can be picked up, moved around, and thrown across the room. Other details such as light streaming through a moving, overhead fan and the dust particle effect make the environment more rich and tangible. Once complete, I hope to make this scene into an asset that you can check out and have some fun with, too.