I´m Sebastian from Stuttgart - Germany. I´m a 3D artist working in the fields of architecture visualisation. I do realtime graphics as a hobbyiest. One of my favourite artists is Simon Stålenhag.
INSPIRATION | REFERENCE | CONCEPT
I figured, his very moody images and his fictional semi futuristic society, fits the topic of the challenge perfect. Even knowing which direction i was going for, i still had a hard time to pick which concept i wanted to realize. In the end it was technical feasibility and a bit of "neon" which led to my choice.
I did start pretty late. As always time is the limiting factor. So as in the original neon demo, i wanted to avoid as much modelling and texturing as possible and rely on assets to approach this concept. Most of the Assets i owned already and just a few were purchased for the purpose of the challenge.
In the end, the only thing that i was creating from scratch were the shop buildings. I found nothing what could act as them as easily as the spaceship for those hanging cables in the neon demo.
I do not want to give this a story because Stålenhag did already. I really encourage everyone to add his artbooks to your library. The concept i used, is from "THE ELECTRIC STATE", i did back on kickstarter a while ago.
Since time is the enemy, i wanted to visually breakdown what assets i had to create/ gather. This helps me a lot to see how far i´m behind. I did use some third party assets for example the character. He his from humanalloy.com and he was a too good match to the concept to leave him out. If it was not for the sake of the challenge i would have tried to model a lot of this things from the concept in all its detail (and maybe i will). but since this is not the idea of the challenge but rather a rapid prototyping approach, i made some compromises. One major and one of the more prominent things in the scene is the warmachine itself (if it is not the human character). I ended up using the "Orbital Reentry Craft", turned it upside down and used half of the seat as anchors.
BUILDING UP THE SCENE | LAYOUT
I always do start my scene with the more technical assets, since they are the very base but already give me a bit of the moodiness i am going for. I do not feature it in the final video but all my scenes rely on enlighten and have a dynamic day and night cycle. Kode80 Clouds, True Volumetric Lights + Atmospheric Scattering from Michal_, Microsplat, OCASM´s SSMM, Post Processing Stack v1, to start it of. Good thing is - they are all free! A commercial must have for me are Next-Gen Soft-Shadows from Psychose Interactive Inc..
This is my basic setup. To get a feeling for the size and to do my first blockout, Unity Cubes, Ethan, some free Snow Mountains and a car from Beffio´s Car Paint - Pro asset, were a big help. I love the Screen Space Reflections and i really would love to see them working in VR. I know it is difficult to achieve in VR - but do it, please!
LET IT RAIN
An important aspect of my scene is the rain. All those volumetric effects gave me a thick atmosphere already but it still feels dry. UBER Shader for the car, umbrella, etc., Micro Splat Puddles and Megascan surfaces with some Quixel Mixer Liquid, gave me wet surfaces with ripples. Particle rain and Splashes but also some textures for decals (damage on the machine) where used from the Unity Particle Pack and the 2017.3 Particle Example Scene (cigarette smoke etc.).The rain particles still gave me a hard time. I wanted them to be very prominent around the light sources. Even with the new very nice particle surface shader, LPPV, etc., i had a lot of problems achieving this (not catching enough light without overbrighten erverthing, sorting, performance etc.). After watching dozens of (very good) Tutorials online, it still did not look the way i wanted. "Da Rain Fx" (Screen Space Rain effect from "NEON" project) is the soultion, but even after bothering the Unity guys on multiple occasions they did not want spread the magic. I did not have the time to troubleshoot any more or to write my own shader code. So Shader Forge saved the day. My own solution still needs improvement but i´m kind of proud of it. I have the rain very visible around bright areas and controlable visible in those darker areas, faking a light scattering effect - still particles, but material is coloring in screen space. Cherry on top was the Rain Drop Effect 2 as wetness layer on the lense.
SO EVERYTHING WAS A BIG ASSET PUZZLE?
Kind of - yes. I don´t want to mention all assets but i have a full asset list at the bottom. Using Speed Trees from the Standard Assets Pack is nothing out of the ordinary i guess. I did use Advanced Terrain Grass but with more time i really could have pushed the quality of those details a lot. By the way, the trees in the very distance are done with the DX11 Grass Shader. Even with all those different pieces, the original concept is recognizable in my end result (i hope). As mentioned, the only thing i had to do from scratch were the shops. Super simple geometry with emissive texture for the interior and a lot of decals for the exterior (Dynamic Decals, textures.com, megascans.se). The scattered objects around the shop are all free assets from the store (see asset list).
WHAT WENT WRONG
I watched hours of tutorials regarding cinemachine with timeline. I was using it for the first time and was impressed how easy some things are now, i had to code before. Those are amazing tools and i had a basic setup for my cameras working. A very crucial point was that i used the v1 post processing stack. Every shot in my scene needs to have its very own PP stack (i have still a bug where i get overbright pixel throwing a lot of artifacts, so i really had to finetune these settings on a per shot base). Using those different stacks with the new volumes is super easy to do (with the new post processing volumes etc.) but not with the version i used (no CM PP extension etc.). After participating at the Creative Prototyping: The Neon Project Walkthrough i tried to update to the new Post Processing Stack v2 and latest cinemachine. The Unity compiler tought that was no good idea, throwing dozens of errors at me. In the end i used the Recorder to capture my shots. Even if this disqualifies me, i wanted to mention it. Updating those crucial systems within a running project did never work out for me (feedback). After deadline i´ll update all those system and will revisit this. I even consider to model the machine from the concept.
I want to thank all those developers and creators for their great work and the assets they are creating. I also had some very good feedback from friends and the community (mostly reddit). Last but not least i want to thank YOU for this great tool called UNITY!