Future Earth Overlook
Updated 3 years ago
2.4 K
This project is an environment set far in the future where Earth has been mostly abandoned by humanity with the exception of a handful of resorts, hotels, and some corporations who utilize the local resources. The scene will open in the office space of a room and reveal an overgrown earth with some futuristic buildings for the person to view while working.
I'm Jack McKelvie and I'm going to share my process for this environment that I'm calling "Future Earth Overlook".
I know I'm pretty late to the party but I'm making rapid progress thanks to the myriad of new tools in Unity since I've used it last.
I'm going fairly off the cuff and using very rough references here. Most are simply style guides more than anything. The goal with the project is to show off a nice interior environment while revealing a much larger exterior sci-fi environment.
This is my primary inspiration reference. I loved the mix of advanced sci-fi buildings balanced well with naturalistic elements in the scene. The buildings have a level of clinical care to them and at the same time they are effectively living in the world without taking it over.

This reference from the blacksmith demo is my reference for post processing. This demo has excellent post processing pulling out the natural colors in the scene and then overlaying cinematic post processing. It's very well done and I hope to achieve a similar level of quality.

This is my primary interior reference. I'm planning on doing something quite different, but I love the juxtaposition between the hard angles and smooth curves which I'll be focusing heavily on my interior environment.

In this update I'll be breaking down my lighting and post process setup for achieving a realistic filmic look without sacrificing the lighting's luminance accuracy, and the albedo's physical properties. One goal of mine going into this project was to produce accurate color and luminance representation from my lighting and albedo textures while still getting the artistic look I was shooting for.

The first step you will want to take is enabling linear color space in rendering settings instead of gamma. Linear color space is typically enabled by default, but it's incredibly important so you'll want to double check that this is correct. You can find the setting by navigating to "edit < project settings < player"

This next step is very important for setting up proper ambient lighting in your scene. Navigate to "window < lighting < settings" to find the lighting settings. Make sure you have applied a skybox material, and put your main directional light into the sun source. Finally change your environment lighting source to skybox, and then change the environment reflections source to skybox as well. Feel free to adjust the remaining settings according to your projects needs.

Next you'll want to navigate to "edit < project settings < quality". Here we need to increase the shadow distance to encapsulate the entire scene. Your shadow distance will depend largely on your target hardware/goals for the project.

Now to actual color grading. For color grading the mentality "less is more" is paramount. At this point, before touching any color grading, your colors and luminance values should be pretty accurate however you may want to make changes for your artistic vision. What I like to do is enable the filmic (aces) tonemapper, cranking up the post exposure to compensate for the general darkening of the filmic tonemapper, and then you can adjust the saturation to reduce the increase in saturation that's happened from the filmic tonemapper. This requires a lot of experimentation and is highly subjective.

While editing your post processing settings you should be sure to keep an eye on your waveform monitor at the bottom of the screen. This shows how you're compressing HDR into LDR color space. It's important for the top of the graph to reach 1.0 and the bottom to reach 0.0. However you want the graph to just touch these extremes. Pushing it too far will result in clamping in the blacks and/or clamping in the whites which is very bad. If you're not reaching 0.0 or 1.0 then you're not utilizing the full spectrum of colors in your scene and will produce unrealistic and artistically unattractive results. If you keep a sharp eye on this monitor and keep your range between 0.0 and 1.0 you'll be utilizing the full spectrum of color available to you in your scene.
In this update I made the interior portion kitbashing some of Vitaly Bulgarovs work mixed with my own. At the moment unfortunately there's some key areas with artifacts due to the screen space reflections.

In this update I did most of the exterior world building, updated my tonemapper to the aces filmic curve using the post processing stack version 2, dialed in post processing, and further developed the composition through a lot of experimentation.
A huge part of the quality that I'm achieving here is that I'm utilizing reflection probes. I see a lot of work that doesn't quite look right and often it's because it lacks the use of reflection probes or the post process stack isn't set up correctly to handle reflections at the correct quality.
Make sure to add a reflection probe and set the resolution to it's highest. Also be sure to increase the shadow distance to encapsulate your scene.

In the Post Process Stack be sure to increase your reflection quality to the maximum.

This update is simply setting up the basic project and a quick scene. This is with basic post processing enabled, but not much else is going on yet. I've been mostly messing around with balance, color, and shape composition to achieve a strong foundation to work from.


  • Post Processing Stack
  • Cinemachine
  • Timeline
  • The Blacksmith: Environments
  • Amplify Shader Editor
  • Fog Volume 3
  • Colorful FX
  • SE Natural Bloom and Dirty Lens
  • Gaia
  • Rocks and Boulders 2.0
  • Buildings by Vitaly Bulgarov
Jack McKelvie
Jack McKelvie
3 years ago
Thanks Raja, that means a lot to hear. I don't want to get my hopes up, but that would certainly be amazing if that happened.
This deserved to be in top 3. Great Job :). Excellent Post Processing!
Jack McKelvie
3 years ago
Thanks Jose, means a lot. This was definitely a project that I feel came together quite well once I got everything up and running.
Jose Rosario
3 years ago
Certified Unity Developer
Phenomenal work
Jack McKelvie
3 years ago
Thanks man :)