GUILLAUME DESCHAMPS-MICHEL, LIGHTING & POST PROD IN UE4
We spoke to Guillaume Deschamps-Michel, who works as a 3D & Lighting Artist at Arforia Studio in Paris. He also founded his own indie game studio Digit Fox Games with a friend one year ago. We interviewed him on his forest scene in unreal and his expertise in digital lighting and post production.
How did you originally get interested in 3D?
As far as I remember I have always wanted to work in the video game industry, or at least in CGI animation. When I was 13, I played Rayman 2 on my playstation for the first time. For me this game was a revelation and I knew that I wanted to work in the 3D world. After high school I went to a CGI animation school but I realized that it was not what I was looking for. Therefore, I then went to a specialized school having a real time and video game focus. After my graduation, I decided to become an environment artist and I got my first internship at Cyanide studio where I worked on Styx: Master of Shadows and Blood Bowl 2. That was a really great experience for me ! Then I decided to become freelance and for 2 years now I specialized myself in environment lighting for architectural visualization. My indie studio allows me to still work within the gaming industry, making games that I like, testing new technologies and softwares and of course working on personal projects, like the forest on which we are going to talk about.
Tell me a bit about the process for your forest scene. How do you begin your lighting setup?
This is quite simple. I wanted to make a real-time and dynamic lighting so I used a directional light set to dynamic and a Skylight with an HDRI map to have a more interesting lighting and atmosphere. I always start a project by setting up a lighting that I like with some blockout to see what it could possibly looks like at the end.
What kind of lights do you tend to use in your renders? Which lights achieve the best result?
It depends on the render. When I am making an interior architectural scene I am only using baked lighting because it works better in interior scenes. Regarding exterior scenes, such as the forest, I wanted to test the power of dynamic lighting, and I think that it works really well. Moreover, using baked lighting here with all the assets would take days to render.
Why do you choose Unreal engine to render? What benefits do you think this has?
I’ve used unreal for more than five years now. I had the chance to learn it in school with UDK and I found it very powerful ! When unreal 4 was launched I immediately bought the monthly license and started to test it. For me there is a better visual quality with unreal renders that is complex to achieve. It takes me some time to find a good workflow. The main benefit is the photo realistic quality of the render you can achieve in a fast time.
In your video breakdown of this piece, you change the time of day. How did you do this? What was the most difficult part?
For the daytime, I use a blueprint that I bought years ago. It is a blueprint that gives you full control of the sky in Unreal. It gives me the ability to set a time of day (either day or night) and to adjust as I wish the atmosphere that I want. The most difficult part is when you want to push this a little more to have something that is really realistic. For example, the shadows of the clouds on the assets of the scene give so much more depth.
Are there any challenges with lightmaps and baking your lighting? If so, what? How do your resolve this?
There is no lightmap in the scene. Everything is dynamic and nothing is baked. It allows me to work fast and to see the result immediately.
You created textures using megascan data; tell me about this process.
Megascan data are really powerful ! They have a library of materials that you can download and the powerful thing with it is to blend different materials to create unique ones. All Megascan materials are scanned so you have really nice details on every texture you make. Moreover, you can do almost everything with the material library, this is really quick and awesome. For the forest I used it for the ground, I created in Unreal a blend material to separate the grass zone with the dead leaf zone of the ground. These two materials were created using Megascan and I made a blend material in unreal to paint the ground of the forest like I wanted.
Your scene has a wonderful sense of depth and atmosphere. How did you set this up?
All of this is created with post production and post process, I used bloom and combination of different option to achive this.
What kind of post processing did you incorporate into this scene?
In Unreal post process is, for me, the most important thing. It gives you the control and the full power of post-production. For this scene, I used a lot of options, like contrast and saturation. I also created a LUT (used for color correction) to have unique colors and atmosphere. I added some grain and vignette effects to focus the look where I wanted. And of course I added bloom and depth of field. As I wanted the scene to be as realistic as possible, I used DoF to create that blur effect that we have when we focus our look on something and that everything around is blurry. The last thing I had is the Unsharp mask, and I think that this is the most important thing, as it allows me to sharpen the scene so it looks less blurry. I know that not everybody likes it but I really do and I think this makes the scene more real.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get in to the videogame industry?
Yes of course. What’s important is to create all the time, test new things and ask advice from people working within the graphic industry. Also, to post your work on Facebook groups or Artstation to see what other artists tell you that can help you. And of course always be aware of what is new ! The gaming industry is always in movement, and new software appears every years which helps artists to work faster, so always be up to date !