Military Radio Station

Prop Breakdown

Pavlo Kazanovskyi

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Pavlo Kazanovskyi

Hard-Surface Artist

Introduction

Hi everyone!

My name is Pavlo (Paul) and I’m from Ukraine. I’m 32 years old and currently live in BC, Canada.
I have been interested in 3D art since 2013, but I was too busy to choose it as a career.

Goal

When I choose a project, I never have just one goal.

Usually, I try to reach at least a couple. The first, probably the main, was to try CAD modelling. Previously, I made models only in the subdivision pipeline.

The next goal was to develop my high-poly modeling with ZBrush. Last but not least, I wanted to improve my texturing skills.

Software

  • Plasticity – CAD modeling
  • ZBrush – High poly
  • Autodesk Maya – Low poly, high poly, UV
  • RizomUV – UV
  • Marmoset Toolbag – Baking/rendering
  • Adobe Substance Painter – Texturing
  • Adobe Photoshop – Texturing/alphas

References & Inspiration

I was looking for an interesting object for my next project when my friend, Andriy Shymanskyy, came up with a brilliant one.

He showed me this radio station, and I loved it. So, I started collecting references. This first step is crucial, so I spent one day searching for good photos.

Luckily, the object was common, and I made a huge reference board.

REFERENCE

CAD Modelling

Usually, I begin with blocking, but this time I had a lot of good-quality blueprints. So, I jumped into Plasticity and began modeling.

Why Plasticity? I had never used CAD software. I compared Fusion 360 and Plasticity. Fusion 360 seemed too complicated to me, and Plasticity was very user-friendly for a new user. In Plasticity, I finished quite quickly and was happy with the result.

Then I didn’t know that the real pain would come later when it would be necessary to clean the model for low poly.

High Poly

After Plasticity, I started making the high poly model. The main goal was not to leave long straight lines. Every cm (inch) I tried to damage somehow, but it needed to be logical, not just random damage.

This stage is mostly boring because I used just a few brushes like TrimDynamic, Move, and sometimes ClayBuildup, Planar, and Polish. For cracks and dents, I used alphas.

There are some interesting moments I would like to mention. The back of the “Power Supply” and “Transmitter” has organic shapes as well as rubber insulation.

I tried to do it in Plasticity first, but it is still in alpha, and there were no tools to do it (or I simply didn’t know about them). So, I went back to good old Maya, made it there, and exported it to ZBrush to finish.

I knew that “rubber insulation” would be in close-up shots, so I spent a lot of time making it perfect (I hope I did). I had 3-4 variants of it as well as the cracked headset detail.

Low Poly

This is the most painful stage! I hated it, but it had to be done. I exported the mesh from Plasticity to MOI. Then, with a little setup, I exported it as OBJ to Maya.

There was no goal to achieve as low a model as possible. I optimized it, but I wanted nice and smooth edges.

I don’t know what to say about this stage, except you have to delete all vertices and edges that don’t affect the shape, and that’s all.

And don’t forget about the outer radius and inner radius (which I did sometimes).

If you have a big circle with a big number of edges, equal at the inner and outer radius, it is worth trying to reduce the inner radius so that it looks equally rounded as the outer one.

LOW-POLY-EXAMPLE

UVing

When low poly is done, it’s time for UVs. This is one of my favorite parts of the work. UV mapping is like a puzzle game for me. I do my UVs in RizomUV at the start and finish in Autodesk Maya.

I wish, but in reality, I exported from Maya to Rizom back and forth like 1000 times. Rizom has really good tools for UV, but it is not convenient for me to straighten shells with triangles.

My main goal in this stage was at least 80% coverage of UV space, and everything that could be straight was straight.

I also made unique UVs, but some objects that are either small or do not appear in the frame at the same time were made with overlaps.

There is a tip you could use when you want to achieve a certain texel density, but your shells just don’t want to fit in the square. You should just scale it.

Bake

There is nothing special here. Just proper names for low and high and bake. Of course, in such a big prop, you might find some issues in the bake, and then you take a step back and fix them. Every time, there are three most common things with baking:

  1. Is something wrong with naming
  2. Is something wrong with low poly or UV
  3. Is something wrong with high poly

I bake all maps in Marmoset Toolbag, except “World space normal” and “Position.” These two I bake in Substance Painter. Usually, I bake maps twice as big as I need and then downscale them to normal size. This method sometimes saves more details on the map.

Bake_01

Texturing

The texturing process started with creating alphas. I made a lot of them. Some of them I took from references.

I worked with the Metal-Rough pipeline. I split the asset into multiple texture sets.

Before I started texturing, I connected Substance Painter and Marmoset so I could see my textures with proper lights and Tone Mapping. The main goal was to achieve the most realistic textures I could make.

The basic texturing rules I followed are:

  1. Like with everything else in creating a model, in texturing, I move from bigger to smaller.
  2. Each new layer should answer the question: Why here? How did it appear here?
  3. No layer should completely overlap the previous one.
  4. Alphas and stencils are better than a fill layer or generator.
  5. Anchors everywhere!

In some cases, I used opacity, like when I worked with duct tape, a note, or to make holes inside the speaker.

Every time I added a new layer, I checked how it looked on each map, like Roughness, Base Color, or Metal. In my opinion, if your model looks “flat” on one of these maps, you will get a bad result in the render.

So, the texturing process is the same as everyone else’s. In my project, I tried to work with great concentration on details. I devoted a lot of time to those parts of the object that are almost not visible in the rendering or did not get there at all.

I tried to make the textures interesting, so I added some easter eggs. I know exactly where one is found, so I will give a hint to those who like riddles.

One more will be available only to those who can read Ukrainian, and the third is located at the back of the object.

I worked on every detail so much that I even had more than 20 bolt variations. And that’s just high poly and low poly. On the textures, I made every bolt, except for those on the overlaps.

I know it’s excessive and not done in real projects—they just bake the bolts. But I wanted to achieve the best quality for my own project. Now, I can give you one piece of advice: don’t do like me.

For the final touch, I made my custom Dirt that I could paint wherever I wanted.

Render

Rendering is a very controversial topic for me. A lot of artists like it, but I don’t. When I was just learning, my mentor used to say, “Rendering is the best part – it’s like a reward for everything you’ve done.”

I do not agree. In my opinion, a render can either beautify your work or destroy it. I hope I didn’t spoil my work with my rendering.

For each frame (shot), I set the light separately, usually with 3-4 directional lights. Also, for close-ups, I slightly reduced the width of the lens. I used the following settings.

Render_01

Conclusion

In the end, I would like to say that I believe I have achieved my goals. I feel that each stage of work brought me some new knowledge. It was not an easy adventure. Sometimes I regretted deciding to make such a large and detailed prop, but the result pleased me.

Would I recommend making such large-scale props for a portfolio? No, unless you want to test your strength and challenge yourself.

Shoutout to the guys from the Discord group “Skill HUB UA” who supported and helped me. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to GamesArtist.co.uk for the opportunity to share my experience!