Urban Environments

Research and Development


Project Proposal – General Overview


What Time Period and City are you choosing for your alleyway and why?

For my project I have chosen to produce a scene set in 20th century New York – winter in the late 1940s/ early 50s. I found this appealing because of my interest in gangsters within this time frame; both ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘The Godfather’ (set in New York) are among my favourite films and in addition to this, Al Capone, one of the most famous gangsters in history was born in New York. These points all made me believe I could create a good story behind the scene in which I am creating.


What is the backstory to this environment? How long ago did these events happen?

The characters in my story are part of a young gang like the South Brooklyn Rippers, the Forty Thieves Juniors and the James Street Boys (gangs that Al Capone was part of in his youth). They are approximately 14 years old.

During the 50s there was fear of an atomic attack. Below is footage of an air raid drill in New York where the streets are cleared. Under the impression that this is simply a drill, the leader of the gang in my story sees this as an opportunity to loot shops and so leads his gang down an alleyway to the back entrance of a Luncheonette (basically a diner). The gang only realise this wasn’t a drill when it’s too late. My story is set in the immediate aftermath of these events.


In depth notes for storyboard:

  • The boys run towards a gate leading to an alleyway and boost each other over it
  • As the rest of the boys help each other over the gate, the ‘leader’ of the group runs off towards the end of the alleyway, staring into the back entrance to the Luncheonette
  • The rest of the boys catch up with him, and he explains how it would be easy to loot the it because everyone has cleared from the streets
  • One of the younger boys (the leader’s little brother) is quite hesitant, reminding them the streets have been cleared for a reason and that they need to get back before they’re locked out of their houses in the event that it’s not a drill. The older boys tease him, so he stubbornly goes forward with the break in
  • The oldest boy picks up a brick and smashes the back window of the diner (could add a JPEG behind the window to show the inside of the place?)
  • The boys fill their pockets with all the money/ items they can find
  • When they finally go through to the main street, they realise they’re too late to get into their bunkers. They ‘duck and cover’ (a PSA at that time) – even the older boys exchange a look of unease that this is no longer just a drill. Extreme close ups to show world coming in on them at this moment
  • Final frame is white from the light of the atomic attack. Alternatively, could end with the older boy apologising to his brother for not believing him (this would mean the environment wouldn’t be in the aftermath of an atomic attack)


Where does this environment fit in with the overall section of the film or game? – How did the characters end up in this location and why?

When the air raid sirens sound, the group run into the alleyway in order to hide from the police escorting people to safety. The leader of the group wants to break into the luncheonette under the cover of the air raid sirens.


How will your environment look? – Think about the time of day, lighting, Colour and texture. 

My environment is supposed to be set immediately after the events shown in my storyboard (although my setting is on the outskirts of where this attack hit so the environment hasn’t been completely destroyed). The alleyway is supposed to have been quite run down in the first place, with the paint peeling from the fire escapes, graffiti on the walls, and rubbish on the ground.

The window of the back entrance to the luncheonette will be smashed from the characters in my story smashing it with a brick to enter it.

As my environment is supposed to be set in winter, this means there will be snow and dust (from the explosion) in the air.

I might consider using a cold colour palette for my environment, allowing me to highlight how cold and uninviting the scene is.


Sound Effects


What are diegetic and non-diegetic sounds?

  • Diegetic: sound that can be heard by the characters in the scene’s world and has a source on screen
  • Non diegetic: sound that cannot be heard by the characters in the scene’s world and does not have a source on screen


Diegetic sound in my storyboard:

  • Dialogue – the characters talking to one another


As I am planning to add a bit of snow to my environment and as my model of the alleyway will be set following the characters leaving the alleyway, I may want to look into adding some footprints into the snow from when my characters run down the it. Alternatively, if I don’t want to model footprints into the snow, I could say it snowed over their footprints so they can no longer be seen.


  • Sound of brick smashing through the  window and dropping to the floor again:



When the camera pans around my finished model, I could play the sound of the glass smashing when it shows the broken window, explaining why the window is broken and highlighting the story behind the scene


As the characters in my scene climb the shutter gate, this means it is likely to make a noise when they climb it. Playing this sound as I pan around my model when it shows the gate could be a good way to evoke a ghostly feel, as though the characters are still there in this empty space.


Non-diegetic sound:

Playing the Duck and Cover PSA over my model could be a good way of highlighting the time period in which my environment is set (as this PSA was released in the 50s). It could also explain why the environment looks like it does as it’s set in the aftermath of what the PSA describes.


The air raid siren is important to the story behind my environment, as it highlights the incoming danger the characters are about to face. As my environment is going to be set after the attack that the air raid sirens were warning about, this will help serve as an explanation as to why the lighting and overall look of the scene looks like an atomic attack has occurred.


Ethical and Legal Considerations


Copyright – Are you creating something too close to an original idea? Do you have the rights to all the textures and models that you are using in your scene?

I believe I have created an original idea and as I am making my own models I don’t need to worry about copyright in that regard.

When I come to texturing my models, if I decide to download an image instead of painting it as a texture myself for whatever reason, I will need to ensure that I have the rights to use any textures I haven’t made myself.


Trademarks – Have you got permission to use certain branding within your scene? 

Some of the shops in my research sheets tend to have Coca-Cola signs in them. As this is a trademarked brand, I will need to consider replacing this with a made-up brand (the Fallout series has ‘Nuka Cola’ for example).

Additionally, as I want to have ‘Duck and Cover’ posters in my environment to help foreshadow the incoming danger the characters will face, I may need to design my own version of this, in the event that it is trademarked.


Confidentiality – Why is it important for people working on your project to sign agreements?

If I was working on a professional project, I may decide to get others working on my project to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). NDAs are legal contracts that prohibit developers from external discussion of a project without permission, hence preventing unwanted leaked details about the game being revealed to the press or public before they are meant to be revealed, which can damage marketing plans and hype fans up too soon.


Ethical Considerations- Responsibilities around age ratings and target audience, generalization of race and sexual orientation.

 Depiction of crime – in my story, the leading characters are members of a street gang like Al Capone was in when he was young. The characters smash their way into the back entrance of a Luncheonette to take any money/ food they can find, thinking it would be easy as they the air raid sirens are only a drill. It is important with regards to ethics that the crime that the characters commit is not glamorized, which may make audiences want to copy the actions they see presented. To counter this, Tommy’s younger brother, Greg, almost acts as a moral compass, advising against attempting to loot the Luncheonette and going back home. Additionally, the fact the characters then find themselves stuck outside in the midst of an atomic attack highlights the fact they shouldn’t have been committing this crime in the first place and should have taken note of the warning the sirens gave.

Depiction of violence on a global scale – as previously mentioned, the end of my story suggests an atomic attack, which was a genuine concern during the 50s (hence the ‘Duck and Cover) PSAs. As this is a sensitive subject to some extent, this may mean the age of the target audience will need to be raised, even though in my storyboard I have used a blank panel and a sound to present this and have not actually shown the attack on screen. As my target audience are likely to be fans of games like ‘Fallout’, which is set in the aftermath of an atomic attack, and fans of gangster films like ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘The Godfather’, I believe there would be a market for my project in mature audiences.

Portrayal of the characters – the characters in my story are meant to appear to be of a lower class, with the fact they’re robbing a luncheonette when there are air raid sirens going off highlighting their desperation.  It would be important not to generalise all lower-class children in the 50s being gangsters – one boy called Greg clearly disagrees with what the characters are doing and even decides to walk out of the alleyway when the other boys walk into the shop to loot it.


Research Sheets


Location Moodboard:


  • Frank Oscar Larson Photography: A number of images featured in my moodboard are taken by Frank Oscar Larson. I was drawn to the New York he presented in his photos as his photo of an alleyway at night with a book shop at the end has an almost sinister feel to it, while his other photos can depict a different side of New York, with groups of children sitting on a windowsill or lifting each other up (which also acted as good scale reference). Having these two sides of New York in the 50s to reference was extremely useful, given that my story depicts young wannabe gangsters.
  • Bruce Davidson Photography: Another photographer that shaped my moodboard was Bruce Davidson, who followed a gang of teenagers around Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 1959. One of my favourite images of his was the photo of two children standing in front of a wall covered in graffiti (left image, third row), which acts as good reference for the graffiti I will be adding to the walls of my building.
  • Al Capone’s birthplace (second row, left image) – while this photo wasn’t taken in the 1950s, it is useful for me for reference as not only does it include a fire escape (which I will be modelling in my environment model), it is also useful to use as a reference as to show the snow will have built up on the fire escape, as I intend on adding snow to my environment.
  • Screenshot from ‘Goodfellas’ – As Goodfellas is set in New York, I found this screenshot useful in deciding how I can make my alleyway look somewhat intimidating with the shutter gate, as at this point in the film, a character finds out they are a target to get killed.
  • Luncheonette (first row, 4th image) – This image inspired me to add a Luncheonette to my scene as I find this image encapsulates the era of New York I am attempting to portray. This image also inspired me with regards to the way the advertisements appear on the walls, with tin signs and frames.


Asset Moodboard:


Row 1: Fire escapes

Alongside my reference images, I also collected some information on New York fire escapes, as I believe having this information as well as the images will help me create a realistically textured fire escape:

  • New York apartments above the ground floor were required to have direct access to an outdoor fire escape until 1968.
  • 1929 law required fire escapes made of rust-prone materials to be covered with ‘two or more coats of good paint in contrasting colours’, which allowed owners to know when to coat them again
  • The maximum distance allowed from the lowest fire escape balcony and the ground was 16 feet
  • A drop ladder isn’t required if the distance from the lowest platform to a safe landing is 5 feet or less


Row 2: Rubbish

  • Bin bags were invented in 1950, green and intended for commercial use. The first bag manufactured for home use was in the 1960s.

After finding out that bin bags were invented in 1950 and intended for commercial use, I needed to consider other ways to show rubbish in my environment, and as this is the back entrance of a Luncheonette, I looked into 1950s food boxes. In my research sheet, I have included multiple angles of a Campbell’s soup box from the 50s, which will act as good texture reference, especially in the corners where it has been damaged.


Row 3: Shutter gates and 50s newspaper

The images of shutter gates will be useful not only when I come to modelling the shutter gates for my environment, but also act as good texture reference as I can see the rust on the gates, which aids in making the area look run down/ post-apocalyptic.

Having a reference to a 50s newspaper heading regarding an atom bomb will be good to reference when I make a newspaper to be seen on the ground of my scene.


Row 4: Tin Advertising sign

Lithographed tin signs could be placed outside and not get ruined by the weather. They allowed for colourful imagery on them. As my environment is set in the back entrance to a luncheonette, there may be a tin sign advertising some kind of food/ drink or an old sign they dumped outside with the rest of their rubbish.


Atmospheric Reference:


For my atmospheric reference, I looked into the film noir aesthetic, the menu screen of ‘L.A. Noire’ and a Christmas scene from ‘The Godfather’. These images were helpful as they allowed me to consider different ways in which I can present my environment, with film noir using low key lighting, or having my scene quite well lit, as shown in the screenshot from The Godfather.

As I want to clearly show the models I make for my scene and with the events in the storyboard (which my environment is immediately following), this means I am wanting to go for similar lighting to that shown in The Godfather screenshot.

However, the film noir images are still useful to me, as they got me to consider how the light would come into the alleyway and how it may look. Additionally, the second picture on the first row shows the same weather conditions I will be attempting to create for my environment.


‘Duck and Cover’ reference


Out of all the posters I could have in my environment, I believe the most important is a poster that gives the same message as the ‘Duck and Cover’ posters, as this explains a lot of the story behind what has happened in the alleyway I am modelling. As discussed in the ethical and legal considerations section, I am hoping to make my own ‘Duck and Cover’ style posters, and the above reference will be useful in creating a convincing poster.


Primary Research


My final moodboard is my primary research. While my environment is set in 1940s/50s New York, I was still able to create this moodboard to act as texture reference for when I come to adding texture to the fire exits in my scene, as they are a similar material to these railings. I chose to take photos of these specific railings as I like how the paint is coming off and even seem to have some kind of fungus on them. As my environment is set after an atomic attack and wasn’t very well kept in the first place, using these railings will be extremely useful to reference when texturing them in Mudbox etc.

I have also included pictures of a rusty sign that was on the railings in my moodboard too, as like the railings, I can use it as texture reference for any signs (like the tin advertising signs I had looked at in a previous moodboard).


Concept Sketches

Before concepting, I wanted to make a quick moodboard of environment concepts to make sure I present my work professionally. As I am a big fan of Telltale games, I decided to collect examples of environment concepts made for their games.


  • Joyce Xu Xu’s concepts are useful as in one she portrays a diorama of a room from the game, with notes such as the size and cleanliness of the room. The other concept I have included by Xu is also useful as it has a strong focus on the lighting of the scene, so it could be useful to do some of my concepts in this style if I have time in order to highlight where the light sources are from the beginning, so when it comes to lighting my scene, I will know exactly what I am trying to achieve.
  • Jason Courtney Courtney also portrays a diorama of a room and has also included a floor plan and black and white concept to the side of this diorama. A floor plan could be useful, however, as my scene is outside in an alleyway, I don’t think it will be very necessary. Similar to Xu’s concepts, a black and white concept will enable me to focus on the lighting of the environment. Courtney’s other concept is also interesting, as it removes the walls and focuses on the assets included in the scene, and adds a character into the scene to use as scale reference.
  • Robin ChyoChyo’s concept will be useful to reference should I need to design a label for a tin in my environment
  • Jesse Maccabe & Gray Rogers – both of these artists have used scale references in their concepts which I aim to do.
  • John Grelloseeing Grello’s concepts greatly shaped the style I approached my concepts (especially the linework).


From the research I did as part of my FMP earlier this year, I knew that sometimes concept artists will make a quick blockout of the concept in 3D software like Maya and then sketch over it in Photoshop. Here, I did the same thing, which was extremely useful in quickly getting the perspective of the overall pieces correct, allowing me to focus on the details within the scene.

Quick blockouts I made in Maya before taking them into Photoshop

My concepts:








As with my concepts, I wanted to look into real storyboards before making my own to know how much detail to add and how to present it. To do this, I watched the following storyboard by Tamara Go for ‘The Walking Dead: The Final Season’:




This was extremely useful to see when making my own storyboard, as it highlighted to me that storyboards aren’t detailed when they’re made in a professional setting and can be quite rough, so long as they’re communicating the events in the scene.


Traditional storyboard:


In my storyboard, I tried to use cinematography to creatively incorporate the environment into the scene, with shots being filmed behind fire exits and gates, as well as filming reflections through the glass.


Digital storyboard:

After making a traditional storyboard, I then took this into Photoshop to paint over, giving me the final result:



Week 1: October 7th – October 13th


Setting up

This week I started modelling the concept from my pre-production phase. Upon opening Maya, I set up a new project directory whereby all files related to my project will be saved. I did this by going to File > Project Window, where I was able to set the name of my project and see all the additional folders which will be created within my project directory. Among these folders is a ‘Scenes’ folder (for saving my Maya scenes), an ‘Images’ folder (for saving UV screenshots and eventually, the images from my batch render), and a source images folder (for storing reference photos I add to my scene).


Having created a project directory, I then adjusted my preferences. This involved enabling the autosave function from the Files/Projects tab. Here, I was able to make Maya autosave every 30 minutes in a folder of my choice. This meant that if Maya crashed at some point during my project, it would minimise the amount of work I lose. From the preferences window I also enabled infinite undos and in the settings tab was able to change my working measurements from centimetres to meters.


The final step before modelling my environment was to add a person to my scene. To do this, I went to Windows > General Editors > Content Browser. Here, I could select a character to add to my scene. I added the male model into my scene as I know this model is around 6ft tall and therefore useful to use as scale reference, ensuring that my scene stays in proportion.



Having set up my project, I could begin modelling my environment. First, I added an image plane (View > Image Plane > Import Image) featuring one of the concepts I made in the Research and Development phase and scaled it to the size I wanted to make my environment. Next, using wireframe on shaded, I added a cube to my scene and scaled it to the same size as the concept on my image plane and deleted the faces I didn’t need, which meant I had to reverse (Mesh Display > Reverse) some of the faces remaining on my cube.



I created the windows for my scene by:

  1. Adding multiple edge loops to the plane I wanted to add my windows to in order to create the basic shape I wanted the windows to be
  2. Extracting (Edit Mesh > Extract) the face from one of the outlines I made for the windows in the previous step. I then deleted the faces in the other window outlines as I won’t be needing them as I will be duplicating the window I make now and putting the duplicates in the empty spaces.
  3. Slightly extruding the face I extracted previously for thickness
  4. Adding additional edge loops for the borders of the windows
  5. Extruding and adjusting the offset of the faces where the glass will later be placed to make the wood have more shape
  6. Extruding the face where the glass will be inwards
  7. Removing the outer face and flipping the remaining face if appropriate.


To make the faces for the glass actually look like glass I created an aistandardsurface shader which I could then apply to any objects in my scene that are also made from glass. Because glass has no weight or colour I set these properties to 0 under the ‘Base’ drop down as well as increasing the transmission weight. Finally, I made sure to deselect the ‘opaque’ option underneath the Arnold tab for the object my shader would be applied to.

Fire Escape

Next, I started to work on modelling the balcony for my fire escape. I initially added multiple edge loops and bridged the gaps to try and make the bars for the balcony. This resulted in the balcony looking very two-dimensional and I aim to remake this next week.

When modelling my first ladder, I modelled the hand rails before modelling the steps. To make the hand rail, I initially attempted to make it using an EP curve and then converting this into a polygon, but this didn’t achieve the look I wanted so instead I made the hand rail from a cylinder which I extruded multiple times to create the smooth curves seen at the top and bottom of it.

As for the steps, I modelled one step from a cube that I had added some edge loops to in order to create the shape I was basing them on from my reference images. Once I had modelled the step, I duplicated it, making sure to hold the Shift key as I positioned it where I wanted. This meant for the next few steps I was able to use the ‘duplicate with transform’ option, which allowed me to make all the steps an equal distance apart. After using the duplicate with transform option once, I used the g key to quickly repeat this action for the final remaining steps.

Dust Bin

  • Started by creating a cylinder and increased the number of subdivisions, lowered the subdivision caps to 0 and adjusted the scale to fit my reference image (which I had already scaled to be a sensible size with regards to the human model I added to my scene initially)
  • Deleted the top face of the cylinder as this wasn’t needed. I kept the bottom face as one of the bins in my scene will be knocked over and have the base visible
  • Extruded the bottom face and scaled it slightly, then I repeated this step before extruding the face in the centre of the base and moving it in slightly before using the Poke tool (Mesh > Poke) so that it wasn’t an ngon


  • With the base completed,  I then focused my attention on the ‘main’ section of the bin. I added two edge loops and scaled them into position so that they would be an equal distance apart.
  • Next, I selected every alternate face on this part of the bin and extruded them inwards slightly based on my reference image and then bevelled these edges slightly to make them smoother
  • I then selected the bin in object mode and extruded it to add thickness to the bin
  • Added two pairs of additional edge loops on the top and bottom and extruded them to make some of the shapes I saw on my reference


  • To make the lid, I made another flatter cylinder and increased the number of subdivisions. I then extruded parts of the lid out based on my references.
  • Next I pressed the ‘b’ key to enter soft select mode and slightly raised the lid upwards.


  • For the handles on the side of the bin, I first created a cube and scaled it. Next, I added multiple subdivisions and bevelled the edges (Ctrl B/ Edit Mesh > Bevel)
  • Used the soft select mode again to move the cube outwards slightly
  • To make the handles themselves, I selected the EP Curve tool (Create > Curve Tools > EP Curve Tools) and made half of the shape I am trying to make for the handle. I then made a circle (Create > NURBS primitives > Circle) and moved this underneath the starting point of my curve
  • I then selected the circle followed by the curve and clicked on the ‘Surfaces’ tab. I pressed the square next to extrude to open the options. I made sure that the output geometry was set to polygons and that the result position was ‘at path’.
  • Finally, I mirrored the half of the handle I had made to create the full handle

Week 2: October 14th – October 20th


This week, I started by remaking the balcony, after last week I commented on wanting to change the way I went about modelling it. To do this, I created a cylinder and reduced the number of subdivisions to an appropriate amount. I then duplicated this cylinder with transform and repeated the action across the entirety of the balcony.


Shattered Glass

To make the shattered glass for the window of the Luncheonette in my scene, I started by creating a plane and randomly added a series of edge loops to it. With my plane selected in object mode, I then went to the FX menu > Effects > Shatter



Next, I deleted several of these faces to make it look like the glass had been broken and applied the glass shader I had made previously. Finally, I duplicated some of these tris to try and make it look like they had fallen onto the ground when the window was broken.



  • Started by extruding the plane which will serve as the wall I want the arch to be on to give it thickness
  • Added an edge loop on each side of the wall to create the pillars for the arch
  • Deleted the faces on top of the two ‘pillars’
  • Selected the edges around where the faces I previously deleted were
  • Selected the bridge options (Edit Mesh > Bridge). Here I switched from a linear path to ‘Smooth path + Curve’


Cardboard boxes

  • Added a cube to my scene and scaled it into the shape I wanted the box to be and deleted the top and bottom faces
  • Selected the edges of the box and bevelled them to make for smoother sides
  • Extruded the top and bottom edges to make the folds of the box
  • Deleted the faces of one of the bevelled edges
  • Slightly extruded the edge where the gap was and then extruded again to make a tab for the box
  • Folded the flaps by rotating and moving them accordingly


As I had specified in my brief that I wanted my scene to be snowy, this resulted in me researching ways in which I could add snow to my scene. Firstly, to add some snowfall, I created a plane which I scaled to fit my whole scene. I then moved the plane above my environment and rotated it 180 degrees, as the top of the plane needs to be facing the ground of my scene for the snow to fall down. I then selected the FX menu and clicked on the ‘nParticles’ drop down and selected the options box for ’emit from object’, which allowed me to ensure the emitter type was set to ‘surface’ and that the speed was set to 1.

As these particles play as an animation, I needed to set the number of frames for the animation, which I set to 5000, as this will give me longer to look at the animation and see what needs adjusting.

Next, I selected my particles and adjusted some of the attributes. As shown in the below screenshot, I reduced the particle rate to 8.242 particles/sec to reduce the amount of particles falling into my scene, as I wanted to make sure I didn’t obscure my models. I also reduced the speed to 0.500 to slow down the particles. I then altered the lifespan of the particles from ‘live forever’ to ‘constant’, with a lifespan of 40, as this enabled the snow to reach the ground of my scene without continuing beyond my environment.

To create the snow build-up on the ground of my scene, I first added multiple edge loops to the ground plane and selected the faces I wanted to cover with snow and then duplicated those faces. With the duplicated faces selected, I went to FX > nParticles > emit from object options. Again, I set the emitter type to ‘surface’ and this time I set the speed to 0. Having selected my particles, I went to the nucleus tab where I was able to set the gravity to 0.

Next, I played the particle animation and paused it at a point where I felt I had the level of snow coverage I wanted. With my particles selected, I then went to Modify > Convert > nParticles to Polygons. Upon doing this, my particles disappeared. To fix this, I went to the Output Mesh tab in the attribute editor where I was able to decrease the threshold and increase the blobby radius scale accordingly. Unfortunately, while this method created the snow I wanted, I am aware that it greatly increases my tri count.


Week 3: October 21st – October 27th


Remaking the walls

  • This week I realised that the way I had made the walls for my environment initially could be improved, as I realised the way I had made them before had produced some ngons after performing a mesh cleanup (Mesh > Cleanup) as shown below:


To remake my walls with better geometry, I created a new plane, moving the original wall backwards, and adding edge loops to my new plane to make the outlines for the windows, being careful not to delete any edges I need to prevent creating ngons.

When modelling the curved arch at the top of the windows I had initially used the bevel tool. This time, I created more edge loops and adjusted the vertices to make the curved shape I wanted. I didn’t need to remake the windows as they were made as a separate modular asset. Similarly, when making the arch on the other wall, instead of using the bridge tool, I added some edge loops and again, adjusted the vertices into the shape I wanted to make


After doing this, I believe I have greatly improved the geometry in my scene, and performing a mesh cleanup no longer draws any ngons to my attention.



I did a majority of my UVing phase during this week. When UVing, I switched my workspace to the UV editing workspace, as this enables me to access my models and UV tools efficiently.

As I UVd my models, I frequently used the ‘Cut and Sew’ and ‘Unfold’ drop down options in the UV toolkit. These tools enabled me to stitch edges of my UVs together, making my UVs a lot tidier. I would also use the ‘Straighten UVs’ and ‘Straighten Shell’ options, as these again, made my  UVs tidier.


When I was stitching my UVs together, I also found it useful to have the shaded mode on my UVs to ensure they were facing the correct way, and if they were shaded red this meant I needed to flip them (Modify > Flip).


For objects like the balcony which were made from multiple duplicated objects, I would UV about 4 of these to provide some variation, and then apply these 4 textures across the rest of the duplicates.

With regards to texel density, I ensured objects that shared the same material had the same texel density. I checked the texel density under the ‘Transform’ drop down in the UV toolkit, which allowed me to ‘Get’ and ‘Set’ the texel density for my UVs.



Normal Mapping

To make a normal map, I first needed to find a texture for the material I am trying to make a normal map for. Next, I made a displacement map in Photoshop by selecting the channel boxes and selecting the channel which had the most contrast (in all cases this was the z channel for me). To save this channel as a displacement map, I selected Ctrl A > Ctrl C > New Layer > Ctrl V. I then saved my displacement map as a JPEG and imported it into Mudbox to use as a stencil.

Upon opening Mudbox, I needed to make a tiling plane, which I was able to do by simply going to Create > tiling plane. I turned the wireframe on in the display menu and increased the subdivisions to level 5. I would then sculpt over the stencil and export it as a normal map, and when I was back in Maya I was able to add it to my object in the aistandardsurface shader I made for whichever object it was under the geometry tab, selecting ‘Tangent Space Normals’ and then tiling it however many times I deemed necessary.

This week I have only created the normal map for the brick walls, but in the coming week I am going to make normal maps for the other materials using the process pictured below:


Week 4: October 28th – November 3rd

I started this week by creating the rest of the normal maps I wanted to add to my scene. Below, I have included images of all the displacement and normal maps I have used to add further detail to my environment:



Painting UVs

I tried to paint most of my UVs, with the exception of the shutters, windows and the Coca-Cola poster (which I had initially wanted to draw myself but didn’t believe I had enough time to do it to the level of quality I would have wanted – I did adjust the colour in Photoshop to make it look duller and more appropriate for my setting – I also chose that poster as it made sense in a snowy scene.

Collection of the UV textures made for my scene


This week I also converted the snowfall animation in my scene into polygons using the method used with the snow on the ground of my scene so that the snowfall appeared in my Arnold renders.


Week 5 – November 4th – November 10th


Lighting Research

I started this week by doing some research into lighting my scene. This included watching a GDC talk by Vivian Ding regarding the in-game and cinematic lighting of ‘The Last of Us’ ( https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020475/In-Game-and-Cinematic-Lighting ). Being that this is a post-apocalyptic game, I decided this would be useful with regards to lighting my post-apocalyptic environment. Below I have included some of the notes I took from this talk:

  • The sun and the sky are the major light sources in the game. Most of the environments are lit only by bounce light
  • Bounce light – the illumination of indirect lighting creates soft shadows in the ambient, and interacts with different surfaces to show specular and light direction. Shows the beauty of the subtle details in modelling and shading.
  • When finding reference images for lighting, they found images with ambient light only with no direct sunlight and took note of how the light reflected off the surfaces (spec)
  • Provides an area with general illumination. Irradiates a comfortable of light brightness. Contrasts with directional lighting. Light that is existing in a scene. Can be found everywhere, like at home, in hallways and warehouses.
  • Orange light on the ceiling and the tar in the reference photos are from indirect light. Sunlight scatters
Some of the reference images used for lighting when making ‘The Last of Us’


Lighting my scene

In order to have my scene show in the render view, I needed to add some lights to it. For this project, I have used HDRI lighting. I did this by:

  • Adding a Skydome to my scene by going to Arnold > Lights > Skydome light. I then scaled the skydome to cover my whole environment
  • After adding a skydome, I went to https://hdrihaven.com/ , where I was able to find a series of HDRIs I could use in my scene. This would allow the lighting information from the HDRI to be transferred to my scene
  • Applying my HDRI image to my skydome and scaling the camera to 0 so that the image doesn’t appear in my render. I then adjusted any other attributes I wanted to change.


For my scene, I tried using two different HDRIs to see how they differed in how they lit my scene.

I had initially tried to find a snowy HDRI as I have a snowy scene (pictured above). While I felt as though it lit my scene well, it didn’t have any atmosphere to it.

The next HDRI I found however, did create an atmosphere, which resulted in me deciding to use the HDRI shown below as opposed to my previous one.


As is evident from my screenshots, I have included the test renders I made when testing my lighting next to my HDRI screenshots. To make my test renders, I went to Arnold > Arnold Render View and in the Arnold Render View window, I selected Render > Run IPR to make the render appear in real time.



Animating the camera

My final step for this week was to animate my camera moving around my scene for 125 frames.

Before animating my camera, I first looked back at the intro for ‘Fallout 3’, whereby a camera moves through a scene in a similar way to what I want to achieve in my project. During this intro a camera slowly reveals the story.

This influenced the way I animated my camera as I decided to start the animation on the ‘Duck and Cover’ poster before going on to reveal the rest of the environment. It also influenced the sound for my animation as the camera begins inside a radio in Fallout 3, where we assume the music is coming from. Similarly, I have started on the ‘Duck and Cover’ poster and am going to play the Duck and Cover PSA over my animation.


Having an idea of how I wanted my camera to move in the animation, I then added a new camera to my scene by going to Create > Cameras > Camera. To look through my camera I went to Panels > look through selected.



I then set the number of frames to 125 and added keframes to my camera’s movement by pressing the S key. After I had animated my camera I realised my animation was running at 24fps as opposed to 25fps. When I initially tried to alter the fps, Maya would crash. I resolved this by opening my outliner and deleting any leftover nParticles or nuclei. After this it no longer crashed, but was still playing faster than it should have been for 25fps. Again, I fixed this by going to Preferences > Time slider > Playback speed and setting the playback speed to 25fps x 1. This then fixed my animation.



Week 6 – November 11th – November 15th


Batch Rendering

This week I focused on rendering my project for the hand-in on the 15th. My first step was to batch render the animation I had made the previous week.

To batch render my project, I first went to my render settings (Render > Render Settings). Here, I set the image format to jpeg, ‘name.#.ext’ instead of single frame and set my renderable camera to the camera I had animated previously. I was now ready to batch render my project by going to Render > Batch Render.


The first couple of  attempts to batch render were unsuccessful, even though Maya said it had finished rendering. Eventually, I decided to export my scene as a Maya ASCII and imported this into a new scene and set a new project, which fixed my problem. After my batch render had completed I copied the renders into the Images folder in my original project.


Premiere Pro

Having  completed my batch renders, I was now able to import the image sequence into Premiere. Upon opening Premiere, I created a new project and kept the original settings. Next, I right clicked and selected ‘import’. From here, I selected the first frame of my image sequence to import and then ticked the ‘Image sequence’ option. This meant that each frame wouldn’t be imported into Premiere individual jpegs, and instead one video.


With my image sequence imported, I dragged it into my timeline and imported the audio from a Duck and Cover advert and marked the section of audio I wanted to add to my video, before dragging it into my timeline.



As the audio I had added to my timeline was longer than my video (and I needed to slow my camera down anyway), I selected the rate stretch tool. This enabled me to make my video as long as my audio.



I also decided to add an exponential fade to the end of my audio by going to Effects > Audio Transitions > Crossfade > Exponential fade and then adjusted the effect to play as long as I wanted it to in my timeline.


Using a similar process, I was also able to add a fade to the beginning of my video; Video Transitions > Dissolve >Cross Dissolve.



Having finished editing, I was then ready to export my project; File > Export > Media…

From the render settings, I set the format to H.264, and the preset to YouTube 720HD and set the basic video settings to Match Source. With these set, I then exported my video.




Still Renders







My project went well with regards to my time keeping, which I believe is demonstrated throughout my consistent blog updates detailing the work achieved and also in having the project handed in on time for the deadline.

I believe another strength of my project is that the end result looks like my original concept (comparison shown below).


One of my favourite aspects of my model is how the brick wall appears as a result of the normal map I made for it. For next time however, it could be worth considering how to make the textures align with the normal map, as I painted the wall one solid brick colour, but as I didn’t know where the normal map would be placing the edges of the bricks, I didn’t add the cement between the bricks on my textures. Additionally, while my brick normal map went well, I would ideally liked to have all the normal maps I made for the different assets visible, as in my final renders the other normal maps aren’t very visible.

Having mentioned UVs, I believe this project has helped me to improve my UV workflow, as in previous projects I hadn’t sewn edges together when UVing, which I have found in this project enables the UVs to look much more like the models in the UV editor, not only making texturing easier, but also making it so that different faces of the same object aren’t different unless I want them to be.

To improve upon my work in the next project, I will consider how a real camera would be able to move when animating my camera. In this project, I slowed down the camera using the Time stretch tool in Premiere, but next time I will consider when animating the camera within Maya how fast a real camera would be able to move (heavy, limited by tracks etc. Only exception would be in a fight scene where the camera is moving a lot to mirror the scene).

Another way in which my environment could be improved on is by finding a way to make the snow in my scene more realistic with regards to the realistic aesthetic set out in the brief; although I had attempted a tutorial to make the snow look realistic, I didn’t manage to get it to work. While the method I used to create snow for my scene worked, it may be worth finding another way to create snow, as the method used in my project resulted in the snow considerably increasing my tri count.

Next project it may also be worth considering taking my models into Mudbox, as with the balconies for example, I had initially set out to make the paint look like it was peeling off, but as I hadn’t taken my model into Mudbox and actually sculpted the paint peeling off, it didn’t achieve the look I initially wanted.


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