Cavalry Sabre – Prop Breakdown – Abdallah
Hi, my name is Abdallah and I work in CG Animation as a Junior Texture/Lookdev Artist. In my free time, I like to create assets that I find interesting and improve my skills. Two years ago I started learning 3D Art at Seneca College where I studied Game Art and Animation.
My goal with the ‘Cavalry Sabre’ project was to recreate the feeling someone would get if you were to see the prop in a museum. I wanted to showcase a weapon that had some age to it but was very well taken care of and retained most of its identifying qualities. For my references, I looked at the lighting situations in museum online galleries like the MET and collected references for my prop from auction websites. I find that auction websites tend to have the best images to collect references from because they showcase objects from multiple angles to show off all their unique qualities.
The most important stage for me is the blockout, where I completed it inside of 3DS Max. At this stage, I am thinking most about proportions and what I will include in the final model.
Once I’m happy with the blockout, I export the mesh out to zbrush where I begin to add the bulk of the wear and identifying markings to the prop.
For the Cavalry Sabre, I wanted to add as much of the wear details in ZBrush to push my sculpting skills.
Here are some brushes I used:
In addition to those brush packs (which I can’t recommend enough), I used the Flakes brush to create a lot of the wear on the wooden grip, the Standard Brush, Dam Standard and Trim Dynamic to add chips and cracks to the Sword and Scabbard metal bits. To paint some of the wear and alphas away, I utilized Morph Targets and the morph brush to add and subtract the detail I was sculpting. Once I’m happy with the subdivision level, I store a morph target to revert to in case I am not happy with the result.
When using my alphas for the identifying marks and text, I made sure to set my mid value correctly in the Alpha toolbar, in my case since the alpha’s background was pure white I set it to 100. And I set the focal shift to -100 in the brush settings to avoid distortion.
I used Substance Painter to bake out my maps. I bake 4k maps with ‘Bake by mesh name’ enabled. For ‘bake by mesh name’ to work, make sure you have the correct naming for all your meshes. In my case, it was _Low and _High.
When texturing the Cavalry Sabre, I begin by setting up folders and base materials for both of my texture sets. Each subfolder is broken down again based on what they modify.
One of the most important things for me when texturing metal is building a believable and interesting diffuse. I tried to do this by slowly building up fill layers masked with grunge and smart masks. Each layer introduces a slight color change, each set to overlay so I don’t affect the values of the base metal layer too much. To break up the procedural grunges, I hand paint elements out using paint layers. I repeat this process for the roughness and metallic layers as well.
To create the ‘brush metal’ look, I added some anisotropic noise from substance painter, following an excellent tutorial on Artstation learning by Jason Ord, “Substance Painter: Pushing Your Texturing Further”.
I increased the scale and the tiling and adjusted the rotation to fit my reference. I masked out each part that had the brushed metal look to them because they needed different values and rotations to match my references.
When building my rust layers, I tried to think about where rust or damage would build up in real life and try my best to emulate it. I wanted to have a realistic rust texture that I could use as a base and build on, and I was lucky enough to find one that fit my needs on Quixel Megascans: “Rusty Gas Tank Metal”.
Texturing Time Lapse
Once I am happy with my texturing, I export my files into Unreal Engine 5 and begin setting up my scene. To create a scene with a uniform backdrop, I Inserted a sphere into my scene and scaled it up so it was several times larger than my mesh.
To create the effect of a uniform colored background, I built this simple material inside of Unreal, set to two-sided and unlit, so that the background stays the same.
Afterward, I input some console commands that will enhance my depth of field quality, render quality and sharpen my images. Depth of field console command: r.TemporalAA.Upsampling. Thanks to William Faucher’s depth of field video:
Image Sharpening: r.Tonemapper.Sharpen (you can change this further based on your needs, I used 0.75) so in my case (r.Tonemapper.Sharpen 0.75)
For lighting, I like to switch the lights depending on my shot and what I’m trying to highlight in the composition. I use a key light, two or three fill lights, a light from the bottom and top and some point lights depending on the shot to call out some smaller details.
I animated the scabbard and sword moving inside of Unreal, I like to switch the frames to linear to make sure the animation doesn’t speed up/slow down so I can edit the timing later inside of After Effects.
I used Unreal Engine’s Movie Render Queue to render my animations. I override Anti-Aliasing and use Temporal Sample count 64 to cut down on the noise in my images.
Huge thanks to Games Artist UK for inviting me to write this article! And thanks to my friends and the Mentorship Coalition Discord for their feedback and guidance.
You can see more of my work here: https://www.artstation.com/abdallah