06 October 2020

Antique Rotary Phone – Prop Creation – Jefferson Smith



Hi, my name is Jefferson Smith. I am a recent graduate from Gnomon and a 3D Environment Artist at Ascendant Studios. This is a breakdown of my modern antique rotary phone.

About the project/Reference

I started this prop like most projects I do. I gathered a bunch of different real-life props that I found interesting and eventually settled on this modern antique rotary phone. My main goals for this project were to focus on my texturing and lighting. Once I knew I was going to be doing the antique phone, I started gathering more references to this specific phone.



I spent most of my time in Maya. I did all the ornate detail using sub-d modeling. After everything was modeled out I took it into Zbrush for a final pass. I dynameshed a few parts as it would have taken a lot longer to make some parts seamless using sub-d methods and to me would be less efficient to do in Maya manually. I did some slight sculpting on the dynameshed seams so its less of a perfect angle and then did a few other minor adjustments.


Retopo, UVs and Baking

Retopology – There wasn’t really any traditional retop work since there was very little work done in Zbrush besides slight cosmetic changes. Originally had a 4k tri count in mind but as the project went on I realized I needed to add more and ended up with just a little below 7k tris, using only what I thought I needed.

UVs – For UVing this prop there wasn’t anything special. Everything was on a single UV set, I stacked a single small shell and scaled-down some shells if they wouldn’t be seen or weren’t as important, especially since there’s a decent amount of smaller detail that I want to have more UV space so it bakes more clear.

Baking – I used Marmoset Toolbag to bake. I baked by name since I had a lot of different parts and didnt want them to intersect with each other. Since I had a lot of detail that was going to baked down to flat faces, like all the ornate parts, so Marmosets skew painter really came in handy. The maps I baked out were Normals, Normals (Object)/World Space Normals, Position, Curvature, AO and a Material ID. There are a couple of things I change when baking in Marmoset. I make sure the AO has “Ignore Groups” and “Add Cavity” are on, and I make sure “Flip Y” is on for the Normal map so its DirectX and NOT OpenGL. You may or may not need or want these settings, this is just what I normally do in my workflow.



For texturing I set up groups for each seperate material and color code them, and in this case attach black masks with color selection since I baked an ID map. Since my materials were fairly simple the changes over time were more subtle.



I always have trouble with lighting and this project was not much of an exception. I think It’s important to throw your prop, character, etc into your final lighting program fairly early in the texturing process so you can go back and forth and see how it’s looking. Especially with metals, you really need to see what your final lighting is going to roughly look like so you know how your textures are reading and what you might need to change.

Throughout the lighting process, which started around halfway through the texturing process, I went through three different lighting scenarios/setups in Marmoset. I tend to do a lot of experimentation when doing lighting so restarting multiple times is not foreign to me. My main lighting setup had a key light, which was a spotlight, a fill light which was Marmosets “Tokyo Takeshita” skylight, because I liked what all the hotspots were giving me, and then I had two rim lights. I also had a very subtle fog in my scene to add a bit of atmosphere.


“Control” lighting – I love Remedy’s “Control” and especially its lighting and atmosphere. I thought it would be a fun little experiment to try and match some of the screenshots from the game. For the most part these are lit the same way I did my main lighting. Since these were more for fun I kept these fairly simple. The main difference between the four “Contol” lighting setups and my main lighting setups was the fog is much more cranked up to really emphasize the atmospheric look from “Control”. It was also a nice coincidence that a similar old fashioned phone is an important prop in “Control”



I also used Marmoset to render. I’ve rendered a lot of my stuff with Marmoset and I’m not sure what I’d do without it. It’s super easy to use and renders even high-resolution images relatively fast. Way before rendering I go through the camera settings and adjust a couple of things such as the field of view and tone mapping. As the texturing process progresses I go back and adjust the camera settings to see what I’m getting. Towards the end, I will go back and adjust other settings like the flare, distortion, sharpening, bloom, vignette and grain. For my final renders, the main settings I adjust are turning on local reflections and enabling GI.


Feedback/thoughts at the end

I had a ton of fun working on this prop and am overall pleased with the end result. Some things I realized when I finally wrapped up the project was I would not have cared as much about the polycount and would have gone higher in some other areas, especially if that area would have created good parallax. Ultimately the end result should look as best as you can make it at that time, and I wouldn’t suggest making something super lowpoly like I was trying because in my experience the tri count is less worried about than the overall end quality of the project.

If you’ve gotten this far thanks for reading and I hope you were able to take something away from my rambling.