Thesis Production Update #4

General / 27 August 2020

Thesis Production Update #4


It's been awhile since I've made a post on my thesis progress! This has been a wild, crazy summer for multiple reasons. I moved from one quarter of the country to the other (for a dream internship at 343 Industries) while working through a summer quarter of classes! Above you see a test capture of some footage from within my scene. A LOT has changed since I last posted. And I am close to the final results.

(Image above is the establishing shot of the village)

Catching Up:

The last time I posted a blog update, I was roughly playing around with blocking out a beautiful corner of my scene. I have since decided to build off of that beautiful corner instead of using the original city layout of the Scandinavian Village. I preferred the newer composition found within the beautiful corner. 

(Image above is a shot of the Farmhouse)

Focal points of the Scene:

Going forward, I would like to focus on the development of 5 focal points in the environment:

  1. The Establishing Shot/Overall Environment
  2. The Hilltop
  3. The Farmhouse
  4. The Marketplace
  5. The Church

All of these focus shots are at different stages of development so far. As foliage is the most recent addition to my scene, I feel like the general aesthetic and establishing shots are really close to where I want them, but closer hard surface details for the marketplace and church are still missing to an extent. The next few weeks will shift my work away from the establish shots of the village/hilltop, and instead begin to push the marketplace and church so that they standout as narrative elements that showcase the culture of the Scandinavian People

(Image above is a shot of the Hilltop)

Skies, Clouds, Trees and Rocks:

I've really spent a lot of time implementing natural assets into the scene to give it a believable outdoor look. The sky has been continuously adapting to my changes in lighting, and I've utilized sky-cards throughout the sky to create a sense of depth to it. As I continue to change the lighting slightly I will also continue to develop the sky further. Skyboxes have always been an area of environments that have fascinated me, especially as a fan of Bungie and their brilliant skies created in the Halo and Destiny franchises.

As I began to utilize quixel megascans foliage assets, my environment really started to become more grounded. Having dynamic grass on the ground really allowed the lighting to show through the environment much more clearly than it was previously. Similar to the sky, I will continue to develop the foliage and make additional passes to the environment over the final few weeks of development.

(The Church is still only blocked out in the back left of the village. The development of the architectural assets for it will be my immediate focus going forward)

I essentially have another 10 weeks to further develop the environment along with finish my Thesis Research Paper. But I will likely submit my final works within the next 5 weeks so that I can focus on my internship this fall. My immediate attention will be on fleshing out the village and building the church. Along the way I'll make additional environmental changes as well.

We're getting close :)

Thesis Production Update #4: Material Updates, Raytrace Tests, and Beautiful Corner Setdressing

General / 25 May 2020

1. Introduction

Over the last few weeks I've spent time going back to all of my architectural assets and redoing the bakes, textures, and materials. I wanted to make sure they were far enough along before I went too far ahead making set-dressing assets. During this time I decided to build a new "Beautiful Corner" village away from the original scene as a means to work on defining my color pallets and lighting settings a bit better.

2. Updating Architecture Materials and Building new Assets

The Walls, Windows, Doors, Trims, and roof materials all were updated during this time. I wanted a better wood texture, and I think it's getting there but I'm likely going to tweak things more as I go along. Wood is very difficult, and in my scene wood is such a significant part of most assets, so It is important to get right. A couple of new assets were built as well, including new trims with "animal style" patterns and wooden fences.

3. Updating Terrain Blend Material

The terrain material is another aspect that I updated during the last few weeks. I wanted to create more realistic looking ground, and this meant I needed stronger grass and dirt shaders. I also brought in some water/puddle decals from the epic marketplace to help create some reflections on the ground in areas of my beautiful corner shots.

4.  Beautiful Corner

I blocked out and assembled a scene in a new area of the same landscape as a little "playground" for testing materials and assets together. Over the next 2 weeks I will continue to fill out the beautiful corner with my updates and newer assets, and will slowly begin bringing these assets into the main village scene over time. I decided to also try to implement raytracing now that Unreal Engine 4.25 is out. This is an early lighting pass without the lighting built, but I will be working raytracing as the project goes along in order to create the most beautiful lighting possible, and to keep up with industry trends.

Thesis Production Update #3

General / 07 May 2020

First Pass - Terrain Material Blend Layers




This was a shorter update where I began developing the layout/urban plan of the city as well as building the first pass at blend material layers for the terrain. In the city I now have the option to blend between grass, rock, and dirt path layers.


Thesis Production Update #2: Modular Architecture

Work In Progress / 23 April 2020

Architectural & Modular Beginnings

At the beginning of production I started to build the modular architectural components to my village, in addition to furthering the blockout and terrain modifications.

Domestic Homes

I started by created variations of wood walls (stand width, thin, and with a window), doors, windows, trusses, trims, and columns. Using these modular pieces I can slowly develop a means to create a large number of different home variations through modularity. The materials are still in the prototype stage and will be pushed further over the coming weeks as I develop more modular architectural assets

This image shows two building prototype variants utilizing my modular pieces so far.

Every building is designed so that it has a unique look on every side, this allows me to copy entire building designs throughout the village but rotate them to be seen from different angles. This gives the illusion of more building types (when in this case I currently have just two different designs)

I also just barely began the creation of set-dress assets, here a barrel can be seen in the environment.

My next post will showcase more modular models, set-dress assets, material changes, and major changes to the terrain, including blend layer materials.

Thesis Production Update #1: Pre-Production

Work In Progress / 06 April 2020


1. Introduction

I'm Tyler Klimek, an Environment Artist currently finishing his last year in the graduate program at the Savannah College of Art & Design. I'll be receiving an M.F.A. in Visual Effects to compliment by B.F.A. in Game Design & Development, and over the course of 2020 I will be working on my Graduate Thesis. I plan to utilize this space to post updates on the production of the visual component of my thesis. These updates will happen frequently, with at least one a week from now until November, 2020. The title of the Thesis is:

1a. Breaking The Use of Cultural Stereotypes & Clichés in Environmental Storytelling

Clichés and stereotypes are over-utilized today when portraying various cultures in the visual 3D medium. The over-use of these clichés remove many important aspects of a culture, causing it to be miss-represented, and creates a dissonance in the realism and immersion of the story. By exploring the details that are lost by negative classifications and clichés, environment art can successfully allow the ability to immerse a viewer in a more authentic representation of a culture while breaking the stereotypes.

1b. Thesis Written Component

The written component of the Thesis will consist of an analysis of the clichés & stereotypes found in games & film, with specific examples from both industries. The written component will aid in the development of a fully immersive & explorable 3D environment that depicts authenticity and niche thematic elements over clichés.

  • This research will showcase how the under-represented aspects of a culture & it’s history can provide more accurate storytelling.

  • Realistic depictions of cultures will be researched for the most authentic knowledge of lifestyles, people, culture, & architecture

  • Comparisons to other clichés in media (Film and game)

  • The negative impacts of clichés & stereotypes for all cultures and people

1c.  Thesis Visual Component / Scandinavian Case Study

In order to showcase the ability to break-through the common clichés and stereotypes found in media, I will be utilizing a specific case study on one culture in particular, early Scandinavia (9-11th century). While research on general clichés and stereotypes will be utilized to compare to specific research on Scandinavian culture, the visual production and the majority of these blog posts will focus on breaking through Scandinavian clichés & Stereotypes through the production of a real-time unreal engine 4 environment set in 11th century Scandinavia.

  • The stereotypes surrounding this culture will be broken by utilizing two specific thematic & niche elements of the culture; the religious divide between Paganism and Christianity, and the domestic lifestyles of the women who spent their time in the settlements while the men were raiding.

  • This research done on breaking clichés & stereotypes will showcase how the under-represented aspects of the Scandinavian (and Nordic) culture & history can provide a fuller understanding of the culture.

  • Scandinavian culture clichés typically revolve around the constant depictions of the Viking/Conquering aspect of the society. There is significant domestic qualities to the culture that rarely are shown in media

Inspirational concept art

2. Scandinavia Unreal Environment

The creation of my real-time Scandinavia environment will focus on three main focal points;

1. A domestic Scandinavian Village run by a female ruler with emphasis on niche elements of the culture. This is where my focus will be during the early stages of production as it's the most important element of the environment.

2. The exterior of this village focusing on the natural aspects of Scandinavia and depicting a shrine of the pagan goddess Jord

3. The interior/exterior of a Christian Stave Church

Inspirational concept art

3. Brief Storyboards / Cinematic Camera Progression

Here are some extremely brief storyboards I set up to sort of plan out the flow of the planned cinematic I will make once the real-time environment is finished. I plan to start at the village exterior, showcasing a forgotten shrine of the pagan goddess Jord, and from there move into a prosperous, domestic Scandinavian village being ruled by Aud the Deep-minded, a significant female power in this culture. Moving through the village the cinematic will eventually make it's way to the Stave-Christian church, creating that transition between the old pagan religion and the new-founded Christianity-based religion that pushed it out.


4. Blockouts

Here are some brief blockouts I made showcasing an example of a village layout I had in mind. While things will change in the massout and as I begin building assets, this is a good start to at least begin imagining some cinematic compositions within the environment.

A shot looking at the forgotten Pagan shrine of Jord, as the appealing village and beautiful Christian-church linger in the background

Entering the Village we will see homes, clotheslines, market stalls, and many things that are the product of a well-maintained domestic society

At the center of the village we will see a statue of Aud the Deep-minded, the female ruler of this settlement, surrounded by a market and a beautiful windmill in the background spinning in the wind to add dynamics to the scene.

As the cinematic moves past the market it will work its way to the edge of the village where the Christian-stave church  sits upon a hill

5. Conclusion

My next steps going into the next week will be the following:

  • Continue finding and compiling research and learning about Scandinavian culture

  • Continue finding and compiling research and learning about the clichés and stereotypes in games and film

  • Begin writing the Thesis paper/written component of the thesis

  • Push the blockout/massout a little further in the unreal scene

  • Begin production of the architectural/modular assets of the scene (walls, doors, windows, fences, columns, etc.)