Hobby Corner

Prop Breakdown

Nikita Uvarov

Render3
267

Nikita Uvarov

Prop Artist

Introduction

Hi! My name is Nikita Uvarov, and I am a Prop and Environment Artist. I started my journey by getting an art education. It was at University that I began studying 3D, and that's where I developed my interest in my profession.

Over the past few years, I have worked in various studios, doing diverse and interesting work.

Now, I am a Freelance 3D artist and mentor/teacher, and I really enjoy it! In the near future, I would like to find a truly interesting project and work full-time again.

Goals

To create this work, I worked hard and studied new things. I would like to express my gratitude to my colleague from the first studio, Maria Alekseeva, who was my mentor early in my career.

Thanks to her, I was able to reach my current level and perform more complex tasks, becoming a higher-level specialist. I had many interesting tasks in my practice, covering various directions.

However, my favorite direction is hero props. Working on them is fascinating. For some AAA hero projects, props are made for the cinematics pipeline, which doesn’t necessarily require making them too low-polygonal.

You can show the smoothness and elegance of the shape, making them pleasant to look at in close-ups.

Project & Tools

Now let’s talk about the job itself. I originally wanted to create a complex scene that would evoke my most pleasant memories.

Zbrush, Blender, SP, Marvelous Designer, 3ds Max, RizomUV, Marmoset Toolbag, Photoshop.

Before starting, I would like to share a quote from a wonderful game that inspired the atmosphere of my work:

“We have witnessed – and, in fact, on several occasions incited – many great and weighty events. After all toil, I believe we deserve a bit of a rest.”
©️ Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy – (The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine).

The work was created according to the cinematics pipeline. Hero props in the scene can also be used in a first-person game. The grid and shading are made for these conditions.

The story of the work is simple. My friends and I played Baldur’s Gate 3 and discovered the amazing world of D&D. That was the spark that ignited my desire to create something similar.

The game was so fascinating with its world that we played for two weeks with breaks only for sleep.

Fortunately, it was August, a vacation. It was from that wonderful time that the creation of this work began. Most of the time was spent on the presentation. I had to push myself and study the tools to achieve the desired level of realism.

I admit, the project has become personal for me. While working on this job, I lost friends with whom I discovered the magical BG3 game. We had the best time together. But let’s not dwell on sad things.

Let’s move on to our pipeline. I will explain everything in more detail!

References

The first task was to understand and determine exactly what I wanted to do. I was inspired by the game. But how to convey this atmosphere became a challenge. I was playing on a PC platform, but including several computers and monitors in the scene was not a good solution.

Therefore, I decided to make a Steam Deck and a DualShock 4 for an artistic solution. In my opinion, they are the most artistic and allowed for several artistic plans and separate story scenes.

I looked for references to objects and ideas for the scene, picked several options, and started working!

I chose well-known models, so finding all the necessary angles and exact dimensions to reproduce them was not difficult.

Scene-referens

Blocking and High Poly

For me, these two stages have become one. High poly was made in Blender for creases and then polished in Zbrush. In my vision, finding the form is the most important part of the job.

If you make a mistake at the beginning, then everything you do next will be in vain. Creating interesting hard surface shapes has been my job for a long time, so the pipeline was familiar and pleasant for me.

Low Poly

I use this pipeline to create low poly models because it gives a visually pleasant topology. With this pipeline, I get an interesting smooth result at the low poly stage, even without a bake.

I did many low-level tasks for ordinary props and environments, as well as for the Nanite system in UE5. These are good pipelines for their tasks, but I wanted to show the aesthetics of the shapes of the Steam Deck and the DualShock 4 joystick designs.

UV

At this stage, my task was to achieve the same texel density for two objects of different sizes. For the portfolio presentation with 4K textures, my texel density was 60 px/m. The UV of the Steam Deck does not look filled because the largest island sets the texel density size.

Cutting the Steam Deck in these places was the optimal idea. The main task was to make it beautiful so that the seams on the UV did not complicate our work further.

For the joystick, I made a rectangular sweep to match the texel density of the Steam Deck. I had done this task on a previous project, so I thought, why not?

For many years now, I have been using a combination of Blender and RizomUV for UV mapping. Using them together, I can achieve excellent results in the shortest time. Their functionality is quite simple.

UV-texturing

Baking

The next stage is baking, which is straightforward. The main thing is to perform low poly and high poly correctly, and there will be no problems.

I used Marmoset Toolbag with baking groups. The model was baked successfully, and no additional edits were needed in Photoshop or similar software.

Scene

Even before the texturing phase, it is important to remember that we want to make a large multidimensional scene. Therefore, even now, without materials, we need to consider secondary issues.

I want to say that I did the scene layout and texturing simultaneously. I explored several options for building the scene. I spent a lot of time creating an atmosphere.

It was necessary to make many minor passes on the same pipeline to make the scene richer and more interesting. My task was to create a multi-level composition that could be divided into several small scenes to be considered separately.

I wanted to give the viewer the opportunity to look at the work for a long time and discover something new each time.

There was a problem: there was not one main object in our scene, but several. Therefore, it is only possible to create multiple plot compositions within the same scene and then rearrange props for different renderings.

Some might say this is chaos and that there is no center of composition. I disagree. Each frame is exposed individually, using its own artistic techniques for a beautiful frame.

If we talk about the whole composition, perhaps my love for the works of Hieronymus Bosch played a role here. (Joke)

scene-wireframe

For the stage, I wanted a Steam Deck set because of its similar name to the Steam Deck. My old friends often confuse them, so I thought it was an interesting idea.

Moreover, on Steam Deck, I showed my favorite games and programs used for the project. Naturally, the main question was where to place all this. I needed a table badly, so I had to create one too.

By combining generators, photo screens, smart mats, and hand painting, I achieved an acceptable result.

Small shapes appeared in the scene. Now, it was necessary to create a more massive background, including speakers, a BG3 artbook, a lamp, and more.

I enjoyed creating an interesting wood material for the speakers. As a bonus, I added more food. Isn’t it nice to eat delicious food while playing a good game? Snickers, honey, and burgers were added.

Snickers and the Burger followed the full pipeline, while Honey only involved blocking and procedural texturing during rendering.

We added various little things like the D20 cube from the D&D collector’s edition of BG3. The art book was also taken from there. Have you realized yet that I’m a D&D fan?

For added beauty, I included fabric and a figurine of a favorite character from an old cartoon. I made the fabric in Marvelous Designer because Blender doesn’t handle realistic folds well.

I arranged everything in the frame to create a compositional triangle for the overall scene. To add to the chaos, I scattered UNO cards, resulting in a pleasing mess at the composition stage.

Render8

Texturing

In my opinion, this is the most difficult but interesting stage of the work. Sometimes the simplest geometry can become incredible after texturing.

To create realistic PBR textures, you need to give your best. It is necessary to create a multi-level complex material, often manually. Even if you have smart materials, you cannot use them for the entire model. You’ll have to work hard to get something complex.

An important task when working with textures is not to make them look like generated textures.

It’s important to use a few grunges to add interesting roughness and not rely on just one. This doesn’t happen in real life.

First, I created a database for our future props. It is important that the viewer understands what is going on in the scene and what kind of material they are seeing.

The next step is to add stickers. I’ll tell you a secret: everyone loves them. I like all works with stickers. This is the secret of success! After that, we can add realistic traces of use from real life.

This step should be performed as accurately as possible. For artistic presentation, roughness should be clearly visible but not overwhelming.

Neat combinations of different grunge masks, saturation levels, and blending modes can give you a good result. And, of course, do not forget about color variation. Without it, you will not be able to achieve any realistic moments.

Texturing is a trial-and-error stage. You try many options and keep the most interesting ones.

Rendering

We are making the final composition. I put together the entire finished scene in Blender, which is familiar to me, to figure out where to export it for a good render.

Now that we have a ready stage, I’ll tell you what to do next: look for a more suitable rendering engine to create a beautiful picture.

first-test-render

The choice was between Cycles and Corona Render—two different renderers in two different programs. I’ll tell you a secret: I set up the scene in both renderings.

Therefore, what is in front of you is a combination of my efforts. Unfortunately, the file in Corona Render no longer wants to run, so I’ll show you an example from Blender.

BS-one-from-final-render-scenes

Creating lighting was the most challenging part. However, I made beautiful shadows, atmosphere, and acoustics, and pressed the render button.

You can see the result now in front of your eyes. I rendered several frames in Marmoset. I told you I tried many renderers and chose the best shots, didn’t I?

The job was difficult, but I want to say that no matter what happens, you must not give up. Keep going toward your goal, and you will succeed!

Thank you very much for your attention! I hope to see you again!