The main goal for me was to study 3D modeling and create something in a photorealistic style with a lot of details. The second goal was to improve my skills in texturing and making studio lighting and renders.
The last one was special for me because I really wanted to make the prop looks used, not new but in an exceptionally clean, bright, studio environment. To be honest, some friends advised me to put a photo sniper in the environment, a table, with objects and other things with the same theme and age.
But I resisted. Let us hope it is not wasted.
Originally, I started to do this project in Autodesk Maya, it was a time when I try to do at least some things in the 3D world.
However, the photo sniper project took me much more time than I thought, and I am glad that it happened. The reason is simple, I switched a lot of different apps, and try a lot of different methods and pipelines and it was the perfect project for me to learn a lot of different nuances.
Not perfect for real production, but it is a different story.
• Maya, block out stage, not important, but fair to mention.
• Blender, for creating Low Poly models.
• RizomUV, obviously for UV, with blender bridge, is magic, believe me.
• The beast Zbrush, for creating High Poly models, ZBrush boolean one love.
• Substance Painter for texturing.
• Marmoset Toolbag 4 for the final scene and renders.
• Photoshop with perfecting touch.
Inspiration was not a hard part because photo sniper exists in the real world, at least they were. The idea and technology are even not new and it is going to be surprising for a lot of people that it is incredibly old tech.
In Russia, we have an old and unique animater series “Prostokvashino” with lovely a homeless, good-natured country dog. He has a sense of humor. Does not like all sorts of “calculations, income”, which sometimes becomes a source of quarrels.
Also, in love with photos, and to take them he uses an old soviet photo sniper. The main photo camera is an old Leice copy from USSR named “FED 1”.
While researching, I found a lot of various parts from distinct brands, companies, and periods. Here I came to the idea that it is necessary to make a set of unusual parts and manufacturers and combine them in a unique way. In the end, we got a set of parts mostly from Russia & Germany.
Blockout & Modelling
The blockout stage is the hardest because we need to make fairly accurate and plausible proportions for the model. Visually nothing special but especially important. The more precise the dimensions of the model, the more plausible it looks even without textures and details.
Various parts were modeled in diverse ways. For example, the grip with a hole was modeled in SubD. Curvy and smooth forms are nice to model in that way, and they have much more control. Even in ZBrush that part was not sculpted and deformed only with Zmodeler very slightly.
The FED itself was modeled detailed on purpose to level up modeling skills, right now, of course, screws for example much simple and faster to do directly in Substance Painter.
Camera lenses were modeled in SubD and it is remarkably simple cylinders.
The complicated forms such as the main chamber between the camera and lenses (to be honest I have no idea what the name of it is, I just called it “chamber”) was modeled in Zbrush. Zbrush can do very-very good boolean that gives you a genuinely nice, clean, and smooth hard surface result.
Low poly modeling was straight forward however the main grip with a hole was done a little bit differently. Because it has an exceptionally smooth and curvy shape from SubD and the original model was super low, to make a new and nice low poly we need to apply SubD on level 1 or 2 (depending on the model) and fix some parts after.
With that approach, we still have a nice curvy and smooth model which follows a high poly shape and contains not have a lot of polys.
For UV I did use a cool app: RizomUV.
It is wonderfully comfortable to work with especially if you have a lot of details and complicated shapes. It looks a little bit complicated however I am used to a few shortcuts and all work can be done quickly.
It is easy to learn and even easier to master. For packing I used UVPackmaster in Blender, another live safer and very handy addon. UV Toolkit is an addon for Blender which helps me a lot during UV work and fixing some issues.
However, right now, while writing this post I am mainly using Zen UV, so it is worth to look and trying.
My goal was to do a very realistic-looking model with a lot of details. I decided to put each part on its own texture set. It is a lot of textures, however, for a personal project and with details in mind, it is fair. Optimization can be done, just a matter of time and needs, for now, we need juice.
For baking, I used two different apps, Marmoset Toolbag and Substance Painter. The reason is just for testing.
Complicated models are easily baked in Marmoset with correct naming parts and nice preparation you need just a few clicks to do an overly complicated bake with a lot of parts and intersections.
However, Substance Painter bake gives you a much cooler AO map.
This could be controversial. For example, the lenses I baked in Substance and the FED in Marmoset. Both are good.
Materials & Texturing
Texturing is the most difficult part after blockout. In this stage, you need to level up your observation, even more, to see details, story, and materials on references. And of course, I could not take it without challenging myself.
My idea was to create a model that looks old and used a lot, however, cared for and not damaged a lot. Of course, some dirt and very visible dust appear on the end, however, I believe that on the end the photo sniper looks as it should look in the museum of retro goods.
All graphic elements, such as logos, inscriptions, units of measurement, etc. were made in Photoshop. Some of them, even by hand, are not the most challenging part but are very time-consuming.
I did not use any Megascan materials or additional textures from the internet. However, I did use very handy Surface Imperfections. Buy it! Try it! Use it! Lovely details make your model even more realistic.
For Substance Painter, I switched the color profile on ACES_UE4_log.
Render & Lighting
Marmoset Toolbag is very handy and easy to set up for rendering.
I switched Tone Mapping to ACES to match it with Substance Painter looks and, I also changed the contrast a little bit higher to make the picture richer and juicier. Sharpen is also particularly good to adjust to make it punchier. Other effects can be done in Photoshop, such as Vignettes or noise.
For the background, I use a bright gray backdrop with a simple texture that imitates the canvas, this helps to focus on the main asset without any destruction and keeps it not super empty. The canvas texture I used can be found inside Marmoset as the standard.
The lightings are a combination of point lights and directs lights. Renders were done in 8k resolution and scaled down twice or bigger. I do prefer always render higher as possible and when I scale down it looks better.
It was an exceptionally long-way project as it was supposed to be. Do not be afraid to do experimenting and try different methods. Only in this way do you not only learn something new but also develop your understanding of how, when, and why you need to do specific moves and methods.
Constantly testing your work at any stage, prepare scene and lighting even if you are not started working with textures. Always save your screenshots at any stage of labor and keep them for reference. Some images are below from Unreal Engine, and some are from Blender render. It is always good to see your progress.
After finishing this project, I clearly see what I would like to change and add, however, it should not bother you a lot, it is an indication that you are growing up and you are growing up by doing things, an endless cycle which brings you a lot of exciting moments and hard work too.
Good luck! And always share your work!
I hope it was not a waste of your time.
Thanks a lot!
Originally the plan was different. Back in the day, I had my own concept and idea about a postapocalyptic world where the photo sniper gun is the primary tool for gameplay and story. Here is a slight glance at the old image and even some 3D models.
But sadly, plans were changed during development.