Reflection of Creative Solutions

For Creative Solutions I worked with the company BlackNorth, it was very different working for clients compared to university projects. It was more pressure working with a company and knowing that the work we do is important to them. We had the opportunity to create a game level for the Oculus Rift. They wanted us to design, model, texture and light an entire set in a hyper realistic style.  I was excited about this but a little wary as I had never modelled or textured anything to look realistic before. We were to create concept art by blending realistic photos together before starting to build the set.  I had never done this type of digital work before so it was a learning curve for me. I really enjoyed the digital concept art and felt by the end I had better knowledge and understand of photoshop.

The next stage of the project was modelling. I enjoy modelling in maya but I had never used Mudbox before. It took me a little while getting used to all the controls but once I got used to them Mudbox was amazing, it was like modelling with clay. I could make any shapes I wanted within seconds. Mudbox also allows you to retopolgise easily. I felt from using this software that a developed new and useful skills that I will be able to other softwares. We, as a group all worked on our own part of the set, then after every week we would bring the whole scene together to make sure that it fitted and looked like one final game level. As a team we had to make sure that our own set matched up with the next part of the set so that it all looked like one scene. To make this happen we all shared the same textures and lighting file. Communication was key in making sure that everything remained constant throughout. While working in this group I learned a lot of knew things from my team mates. I learned how make all the UV’s into one UV map and to bake Ambient Occlusion, Light and Colour and also learned about normal maps. We, as a team also experienced what it was like to just scrap and idea and start again, after 12 weeks of work was packaged up and handed to Black North, they informed us that they had altered the whole idea. We had four days to build a new set with low poly meshes but they wanted it just as detailed as the high poly mesh. At first I thought it was going to be impossible to do but because I had learned so much over the past 12 weeks working on the other game design it wasn’t as hard. In fact I really enjoyed making the low poly sets.

Overall, working with Black North was a good experience for developing new skills and seeing what industry is really like. I learned a lot of new thing that will help me in the future. I really enjoyed working with my team, we didn’t have any trouble and we got all the work done on time.


The Final Hurdle

We got told that they want us to model ice for the next meeting. I decided that I would make an iceberg, I gathered some reference images of icebergs to give me an idea of the shape to create.

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I then researched creating an ice texture in maya and found this video, it show you how to create an ice texture using shaders.

I firstly started modelling in Mudbox using the reference images I found to help me determine the shape of the model.

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Once I had the model finished I then exported it as an obj and imported it into Maya 15. I unwrapped the uv’s by using the 3D unfold tool. After I had the Uv’s I then opened them in photoshop. I used the same textures as I used of my set so that it would be the same style of work.


Uv textures

This was what the textures looked like on the model, just i was about to bake in the textures we got an update on our project….. The whole thing is being changed.

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Black North told us today that they want a lower poly game level. This image below is the file that they sent us to work from. They want us to create one square each of the level and keep the ploy count low.

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I had a look at some low ploy meshes and the textures that they had to give me an idea of how low poly meshes look. I found this website below where you can get low poly meshes, I had look at a few to see what way the uv’s looked.



I firstly modelled icicles, to do so I started with a cube and I changed the subdivisions to 2. The then extruded the face and scaled them in to create a pointed shape. I rotated some of the face to make icicles less straight.

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I used the sculpt geometry tool to make the plane bumpy and less flat. I raised the plane around the bottom of the icicle to make it look like snow had builded up.

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I then got to work on the crystals to make these I used a polygon cylinder and change the subdivisions to 5. In vertex mode I selected the middle vertex and pulled it up to create a point.

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After I had a few icicles and crystals made I then started to add them into the set and put everything together.

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I felt that the icicles were too harsh so I added another edge loop and made them rounded a little more.

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Once I had the set in place I unwrapped the set, I did this by using the 3D unfold tool. Once I had the uv’s laid out then brogue them into photoshop to add the textures, I decided that I would add some different colours to the crystals so that the set wasn’t all one colour.

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I then plugged the textures into the set. Once i had to textures in i could add the lighting. I added an ambient light to light the inside of the cave, I then used a area light to cast some realistic shadows. After I was happy with the light I then baked them into the textures.


Here are some close up renders of the set. I am happy with the outcome of this set but if they had given us more time I felt that I could have produced something better, I really enjoyed working with the low poly mesh, it was different and a lot easier than working with the high poly meshes.

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Uv Unwrapping, Texturing and lighting

We got feed back from Black North today and they really like our sets they loved the layouts of all the sets together and how each set looked on its own, now they want us to UV unwrap them and add textures to bring the sets to life. 🙂

This tutorial helped me last time while using uv unwrapping, it explains a simple process using the new Maya 15, 3D unfold tool.

I have UV unwrapping before so this time it was a little easier. I started with the easiest object to unwrap which it the the plane, I opened the “Uv Texture Editor” and then selected “Planar Unwrap”.

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I then started to unwrap the cliffs, to unwrap theses I used a new tool called 3D unfold tool. First of all you get this tool to work you have to plug it in, in the Plug in manager.

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Once I had it plugged in I opened the Uv Texture Editor and created a plannar mapping. I then went to edge mode and selected the edges along the bottom and up the back of the model. Once I had the edged selected I opened the Uv Texture Editor and Cut Uv’s. When the Uv’s were cut I then clicked on Unfold. It unfolded the uvs neatly. After I had the Uv’s unfolded I added the checkered textured to make sure that the uv’s looked ok and not stretched or twisted.

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For the tunnel I did the same thing only I cut the Uv’s along the roof of the tunnel.

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I used just a planar map for the canyon then relaxed the Uv’s around the entrance so the uv’s were not as compact.

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When unwrapping the rocked I used the same method as I used for the cliffs, I cut the Uv’s along that back and the bottom as theses places would not be seen in the game.

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Now that I have unwrapped everything I then selected all the objects in the scene, In the textured editor I selected Shell mode and clicked layout, this laid all the uv’s into one uv set, seen in the image below. Now that I had the Uv’s done and layout into one set I can now add textures to them in photoshop.

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Before I started the textures for set I did some research into realistic texturing.


I found this article that shows how to use bump and specular maps to make detail more realistic.



While researching I found this tutorial on how to create Maya 3D bump textures. It shows you how to create realistic textures by using the hypershade.

I then researched some snowboarding games as a reference for texturing. I researched a game called Deadly Decents. Some of the environments look realistic and the huge, diverse mountain ranges look great.


I like the coloured used in these images, the mixture of blue and white make the environment look realistic and it adds depth.




Creating the textures.

Now that I had some idea on what I would like my textures to look like, I got mu UV’s from Maya and bought them into Photoshop to add the textures to them. Below are some of the textures that used and blended together to create my own textures for my uvs.

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UV’s for my set


Snow Texture


Rock Texture


Ice and snow texture

To texture the uv’s I brought then into photoshop, I then used the images above and blended then together to make new textures for my set, I also used the brush tool with a textured paint brush in photoshop to add to the new textures that I made.

Once I had textured everything for my UV’s I got my baked ambient occlusion and added it to another layer on Photoshop. I then Multiplied this layer into the textured layer.

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Crazy Bump

Now that all the textures are done I needed to create a normal map for them, to do so i downloaded Crazy Bump. This allows your to drop in any image and it will create a normal map for you. It also allows you to adjust the depth and intensity of the maps. For my map I made the Intensity to 6.

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Textured UV6_NRM2

I plugged the normals map into the set by adding a file into bump mapping in the Attribute Editor and then baked all the textures.

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To baked the textures you go to rendering, the Lighting/Shading and click the Batch Bake option box. There are a few thing that need changed here.

  • In the color mode changed it to Light and Colour.
  • X resolution and Y resolution change it to 2048.
  • Click covert and close.


Once the textures are asked u then replace the baked textures with the old textures. Below are rendered images with the new baked textures plugged in.

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After sending my work off to Black North we got some feed back. They want us now to build up the sides of the sets and add more mountains so that you cant see into the distance.

I then duplicated my plane and mountains used then to fill in the gaps. After adding these new objects to the set I had to relay out my uv’s then retexture and rebake everything, this time it didn’t take as long because I had already done it before and it was easier this time round.

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The new textured uv’s with shadows.

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After handing over all our work we got some feed back, they said that they really liked our work and that the style was nice, the could see the same style the whole way throughout, which was great.

Black North then sent us a file with a space ship in it. They was us to take the shape and smash it over our sets so that it looks like the spaceships have crashed. Below are the new baked textures with the shadowing of the ships in it.

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This is what my set looks like so far with the smashed spaceship in the set. I am really pleased with my best so far.

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This is the fly through of my set, it is a quick a playlist to show perspective.

This is a rendered turntable of my set so far. You can see the new sides that I added to the set, a few more mountains and the spaceship.

Showreel and Website

I started work on my showreel, I have been doing some research on showreels lately. I have found some good examples of showreels below. Some of them are VFX and some are animation and lip sync showreels.

by Jonathan Cooper

by Dexter Studios Member Showcase

I then got to work on my showreel, I picked out all my strongest pieces of work and edited them together in final cut. I picked the music called The Arrival of the Birds to play in the background. Below was my first showreel I created.

After getting some feed back about my showreel I fix a few things in it. I changed the title at the start to Dynamics and 3D modelling. I created new pieces of work using Bifrost to create water simulations for the start of my reel. I also moved all my Dynamic and modelling work to the front as it is my strongest work. I them removed some animation that I felt weren’t strong enough to be in my showreel. I also fixed up and re-renderd some animations that I got feedback on and needed fixed. Below is the my newest showreel.

Now that I had my showreel done I got to work on my website.

I decided that I would used Square space for createing my website. I had a look at a few websites that the year above created to help me think of what layout I would go for. I created six pages for my website.

  • Showreel
  • Portfolio
  • Blog
  • CV
  • Contact

Here is what my website looks like, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and easy to navigate.

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From Pre-vis to High Poly Models

Today I started to create a pre-vis of our game level. Before we started work on building models we did some research in game design and development. Below are some websites that we looked at before starting.

I found this images that show the process of creating a game.


Before starting to build my pre-vis model I drew a birds eye view plan to help we know what all I need to model altogether there will be 4 to 5 part to do. Now that I had a plan for my set I could start blocking out models.

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I started with creating the Ice plane in Mudbox, as this was my first time using Mudbox it took a little while to get used to at the start but as I continued it got easier to use. I created the shape of this ice plane from images of ice field that I gathered.

1 plane


Reference Image


Reference Image

After I had the basic shape of an ice fields I then tried some colour effect in Mudbox. For these images below I added three different material presets to see what they would look like. The first image looked the most realistic, as it looked like soft snow sitting on top of the plane, the other two images stood out too much.

3 2  4

I decided the leave the plane grey because as a group we haven’t decided on textures yet.

After creating the plane the next part on my bird eye view plan was the ice cliffs that lead to the tunnel that then opened out into a canyon. I decided that I would build these assets in Maya as I only need to block out the models for the pre-vis, when I need to add more details later I will import the blocked models into Mudbox and add detail to them.

Firstly I created a simple rectangle box in Maya then moved the vertices on the side to create an indent on the edge. After I had that basic shape was done I then duplicated it and fliped it to create the other side of the cliff. Once I moved the two object together the indent that was on the sides of the rectangles created an opening in the middle. This is the entrance to the tunnel.

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Next I had to create the tunnel, I used the polygon pipe and scaled it to be the same size as that entrance on the cliff. At first the polygon pipe did fit the shape of the entrance so i had to select the vertices and match them up to that shape of the entrance on the cliff.

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Now that i had the cliff an tunnels matched up and in place o could move on the the canyon. To create the canyon I started with a large rectangle. I then changed the sun division to 20 each, once I had one that I selected face down the middle and deleted them.

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Now that the faces had been deleted I selected the edged and “Bridged” them together.

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When I had bridged each of the edges together to create a basic canyon shape I then selected the vertices and moved them inwards to make the side of the canyon look like cracked ice.

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I then placed all of my pre-vis set together to see that a run through was look like. This image below is a view of the whole “blocked set”

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This is a playblast of what the set would look like if the ship was flying thought it.

Adding the detail

Now that I have got my set planned and block modelled it is time to add detail to it and make it look more realistic. To do so I brought each item of my set into mudbox to carve more detail into it. I hadn’t really used mud box before so I watch a tutorial for beginners called Sculpting Basics Tutorial. This is the tutorial below.

Now that I know a bit more about the tools in Mudbox, I started with the cliff, below is the new model of the cliff that I made in moxbox.


I then started to create the canyon, I firstly started with a flat plane then used the “knife: tool to create the canyon shape, I then used the foam tool to add rock shapes and ice  bumps to the sides and bottom of the canyon.


The tools in Mudbox

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When I added the “rock” shapes I felt that it looked to harsh and didnt look realistic, I then used the smooth tool to smooth the edges down.

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This is what it looked like then I smooth it.

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Aidan in our group discovered a new software called World Machine.

The world machine allows you to create a realistic terrain then create a “stamp” of it, seen below. Once you have the stamp made it can we used in Mudbox. Which is amazing.

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This is what the stamp looks like when you use it in Mudbox, I am going to used this plane in my set as the ground.

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Now that I have this stamp i can used it to add epic texture to my work. Below I modelled a mountain and used the new stamp to add texture to it.

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Now that I remodelled everything and it was time to place it together. I imported all the mud box file into Maya by exporting them as “obj” files. I then placed all the objects together to recreate my set.

Below are some rendered to my set. I added physical sun and sky to make the renders that realistic lighting and shadows.

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Re – Topologising

Today in we learned how to re-topologise in Maya 15. We got taught how to used the “Quad Drawing Tool”. We got given a high polygon mesh of a head.


I gathered some images to help we see how a face would look like re-topologised and to help me while working on my face.

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I started to work around the mouth and kept my workflow in circles. I then worked my way up towards the eye.

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Once I had done half the face I then duplicated and flipped it to create a whole face. Once the face had been duplicated I then had to join up the vertexs to make one mesh.

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This is the low poly mesh below, i still need to do the head, neck , ear and eyes and merge  the vertex’s together.

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I really enjoyed this task of re-topologising, i found it fun to do.

Ice Environments

After the first week of doing lava concepts, Black North have no given us all the task of creating different Ice Concepts based on Emma’s work because her work was amazing.


Emma’s Work

I like the idea of trying something different after working with lava concepts for a week. I needed to do some research into ice concepts before I start because I had never really looked into it before.

I looked into the hobbit for some referencing and there ice scenes that they used.


I also looked into concept art for ice age.

Unknown Unknown-1 Ice_bowl_concept_art

I looked at an artist called “Feng Zhu” his work is amazing. I really love his style and how it looks so realistic and unique.

winter_travellers_by_andreasrocha-d4ij92a feng_zhu_07 8f6d2262a83eacebfc91bf4e628e7c19-d491jnt snowbase

Now that I have looked at different designs I have an idea what I wanted to create, I did some quick sketches before I got to work on photoshop. I did these sketches so that I had some idea of what to create in photoshop.

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For this concept below I tried to create depth of field, I found out a new tool on photoshop that allow you to focus on once place and the background or foreground would then blur out. I wanted to try this new tool so I added an iceberg to the fore ground and made it look in focus, toward that background it made it less focused to try and show depth of field. I then added the ship in the fore ground and made it look focused as well.


For this concept I tried to used the rule of thirds, I placed the ice mountains to the left hand side and made it lead just left of the of the page where i place a mountain, I did this to make the viewer follow the mountain side into the background. After I had everything in place I then decided to place the ships on the left hand side so that it doesnt take away from the environment.

IceConcpet 2.

In creating this image I wanted to do something different as all my images where based outside, I decided that I would create a cave to fly thought, at the end of the cave in the background I placed some mountains to add depth to this image. I also created a reflection to show that the ship were flying over the water.

IceConcpet 3

We had another meeting at back north and got feedback on our work, He said overall that our work has improved and that they were pleased with the results. They then gave us a new brief to do over the next week. They want us to create a pre-vis of a set using maya and mud box to model.

As a group we decided to print off some of our concept work and place them on the wall. We then gave each image a number from 1-12.


After we numbed everything we then decided as a group to plan the pre vis. So we called out numbers of the images that we thought would look good together.

For Example: Image 11 (open land) would then lead on to Image 2 (open land with a river and arches) which would then lead on to image 5 (more arches and canyons) then that would lead on to image 9 (inside a cave). 


This would then give us and idea of what to model and what the model would then be leading on to.