Hitachi Rice Cooker

Prop Breakdown

Greg Smith

GregSmith_RiceCooker_80s_Layout
195

Greg Smith

Associate Lead Environment Artist

Introduction

Hello! My name is Greg Smith and I am an Associate Environment Artist working at Arkane Studios Austin. I have been in the Video Game Industry for 3+ years, and prior to that I was a 3D Motion Graphics Artist.

I got my start in the Games Industry by working for Dekogon Studios in 2020 as an Associate Lead Environment Artist, where I had the opportunity to work alongside amazing artists for some notable companies (Epic, Artstation, Gunfire Games, Endnight, Adobe).

Story

The Hitachi Rice Cooker was my mom’s back in the 80s and still works today as if it were brand new.

On nights when I wanted to make a quick and easy dinner in my apartment, I became fascinated with the simplicity of how the rice cooker operated.

Design

I enjoy SubD modeling and a huge inspiration for my props was Raphael Rau. His process of conveying simple details through a photorealistic perspective is astounding. Other references and inspiration that I utilized during this study were magazine product advertisements and museum catalogs from the 80’s.

References

I started this process by first taking many photos of the rice cooker from all different angles, to have reference images for my software. As time wore on, I found that keeping the rice cooker next to my keyboard was the best route for me.

Photographs may have lens distortion issues and may not always be taken in the optimal lighting scenario, so nbeing able to have the rice cooker in front of my eyes was ideal (and a rare treat in the workflow of props to be able to handle the object you are working on in person).

More photos were taken for detailed references as I got to those areas, but most of the time I just looked at the rice cooker on my desk to interpret. Squinting, closing one eye, holding a thumb up to it, etc.

Blockout

Modeling – My High Poly model was constructed 100% inside Cinema 4D.

I have been a fan of Cinema 4D ever since I started using the software in college, and would highly recommend it to anyone with an open mind.

Since 2018, I have been using C4D’s Volume Builder for odd shapes that would take too much time to mess with in a traditional SubD pipeline. The only items I constructed using the Volume Mesher were:

  • The bottom lid access panel
  • One of the power cord ends. This system enables me to procedurally build out a layer stack of any type of geometry and create unified meshes without touching a polygon or baking edits down.
GregSmith_RiceCooker_Wireframe-1-scaled

Low Poly

The Low Poly mesh was constructed mainly from my intact non-subdivided mesh, but some were made from scratch when the mesh was not giving me a useful starting point.

I like to move to Maya at this stage to export my meshes and harden my UV seams. Once the Low Poly is constructed, I will send it over to Rizom for unwrapping.

UV’s

UV’s Rizom is, hands down, the best UV software I’ve ever used (I’ve gotten migraines from other 3D un-wrappers) so I recommend getting this for your workflow.

I keep everything in the same resolution, and I try to keep my islands as straight as I can for skew reasons (and for ease of use while texturing).

Baking

I baked this asset in Marmoset. I set up my ID maps in Maya and hardened my UV seams for a proper baked result. Baking is pretty straightforward, but it personally takes many tries for me to smooth out all of the issues.

I like to bake my maps in PSD 32-bit format to retain the most information possible for Painter.

Texturing

Texturing was done exclusively inside the Adobe Suite. Substance Painter and Designer were the main players, and I also leveraged Photoshop for alpha creation.

The Scratch Map used for the bowl and lid was created using a pretty simple graph in Designer.

Because I couldn’t get the proper look from outside sources, I found this to be the best way to “art direct” the look. Taking 2 Scratch Generator Nodes and blending them over themselves was used as the initial base.

Then, by creating a crescent-shaped scratch line, I used a Tile Sampler and a Radial Gradient Vector to populate the input circularly around the centroid.

In Painter, to really push the quality of the scratches in the lid, I used the BrFacet plugin from Ben Redmond (along with a few other polish settings).

The Rice Material was another side project to keep me busy whenever I didn’t feel like working on the Cooker. Creating 2 simple rice granules (one being simple and the other having some undulation) and then blending them over 2 separate tile generators was the system that got me 90% of the way there.

It is amazing how much can be achieved with simple, nuanced generators or sampler tweaks. The hardest part, in my opinion, was the color.

White rice is not exactly white. The albedo is a simple blend of noises, and the subsurface effect was attained in the rendering software (Marmoset) using a yellowish color setup.

GregSmith_RiceCooker_Rice_gif
GregSmith_RiceCooker_Final_Textures-1

The texturing of the Rice Cooker, while seemingly simple, was the complex part because I wanted to tell a story without adding rust or heavy damage.

This was originally my mom’s rice cooker, after all, and anyone who knows my mom knows she has always taken good care of things. As a storyteller, I feel it is my responsibility to not embellish any elements for the sake of trends or what it “could” look like.

Just when I thought I was done, I asked for critique from my colleagues and received plenty of notes that helped me elevate the prop to a more complete state.

For this reason, I highly recommend having others look at your props earlier rather than later. You’d be surprised at what your eyes can miss even when it’s sitting right in front of you.

That being said, certain elements of my iteration do not match the actual realistic version. I didn’t like the metal’s tone, so I darkened it.

The power switch is also slightly lighter on the actual device, but I took the liberty of making it a darker orange. Subtlety is where this texturing shines.

This piece was being textured while I was working on many other projects at Dekogon, so my thought was that it could have just enough detail for it to be included as part of a pack (rather than a stand-alone hero piece).

I used 1 texture set at 4k, and I channel-packed my Roughness, Metallic and AO map into a single texture for efficiency and ease of use.

Although the light switch uses its shader for transparent rendering, I believe a similar effect could be achieved with an emission Map if needed.

Decals

Most of the alphas and decals were made from scratch in Photoshop, using my photos as reference.

GregSmith_RiceCooker_Alpha_Gif
GregSmith_RiceCooker_Control_Panel

Graphics

Graphics like the front control panel were laid out in Photoshop first to make texturing easier in Painter. Like a printmaking process, I like to first divide the elements into layers in Painter (with similar paints staying on the same layer).

When you lay down 1 alpha properly in Painter, duplicating it in the stack and adding in the new color and alpha makes it much more believable.

GregSmith_RiceCooker_Switch_Before_After

Light Switch

The light switch was something that had to work hand-in-hand with the reflection system in Marmoset. Halfway through the texturing process, I realized upon closer inspection that the switch would need to have proper geometry and thickness to get the proper ray-traced lighting effects.

In Painter, I added 2 Noise Patterns in the normal to replicate the plastic molded grid design that appears from the inside (the outer surface is smooth to the touch). Messing around with the Transmission settings in Marmoset is where I finally honed in the final setting.

GregSmith_RiceCooker_Opacity_Gif

Opacity (Holes) – For the opacity, I laid down the Ambient Occlusion map in Photoshop (to draw out the Opacity Mask) to be imported back into Painter.

Polish

In the end, each object will get its touches within its folder to keep things organized.

I rarely add in micro details as a global effect. Only some slight nicks, finger grime, and soy sauce stains were added globally so that I could make the Cooker dirtier or cleaner from one point of contact (rather than having to go through each folder).

Each piece will also have its unique roughness pass, so when it comes to finishing off the prop, a simple levels node above it should be all I need to make certain areas shine.

GregSmith_RiceCooker_Marmoset

Rendering

In Marmoset, for rendering I utilized a sky HDR (first light in gif) to add some random bounce and then added multiple lights around it to give it more of a bright and archival look.

To finish, in Photoshop I added slight chromatic aberration to dirty up the crisp edges from Marmoset and added some grain using the Camera Raw plugin.

Conclusion

Thank you all for reading about my process! Please feel free to send me a direct message on Artstation if you want me to elaborate on any of the steps, or are just curious to know more about my workflow