Art Spotlight: Antique Telegraphic Realiscope

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About Jeremy Horton

Hi my name is Jeremy Horton. I have been a CG generalist and animator for 20 years working in Bristol, UK on a variety of natural history and science documentaries.

Back in 2013 I started learning Unity and taught myself to code, even releasing a few mobile games along the way. When VR became a thing with the Oculus DK1, I became very excited about the possibility of creating content and games for VR.

I released a VR game called Ballooning Adventures on Gear VR and Oculus Rift. This was quite a lot of work and I got a bit bogged down by the coding and testing side of things.

Inspiration for the Antique Telegraphic Realiscope

I decided that my next project would be more about creating good content and less about complicated game logic.

So in that vein I am creating an old Victorian curiosity shop that I am going to fill with many strange and wonderful inventions. The exhibits will be interactive, but I will mainly focus on making them look great.

I expect it to take a while to produce. It will be an ongoing project that will give me a chance to improve my skills as an artist and hone my use of Substance Painter and other emerging tools and tech.

The first prop that I wanted to build was an antique VR device made in 1896. I imagined what this would look like if it had been made in the late Victorian era using materials and methods of the time. I thought it should look uncomfortable and a bit W. Heath Robinson. I gathered references of vintage cameras from that era. The products of that time looked homemade as there would have been very little automation.

Design Process

After doing a rough drawing, I went straight into Maya to explore the shapes and how the device might fit on someones head. I find Maya a natural place for me to design in 3D.

I was able to quickly explore the relationship between the various elements.

I envisioned the optical workings housed at the front and the audio and playback area at the back. This I thought would give a good balance to the weight of the headset.

I wanted the device to be convincing in its design. It should look like it would actually work. To this end I made sure that the cogs meshed correctly when adjusting the inter-pupillary distance (IPD).

The device is able to be collapsed for portability and adjusted for focal length.

Modeled Detail Verses Textural Details

I made the decision to model more of the details rather than relying on textures.

  • The recesses in the wood where the screws sink slightly below the surface.
  • The bevel between the joined pieces of wood.
  • The small bevels on every edge.
  • The recesses in the screws.


I UV’d the headset in 22 pieces, each having its own UDIM. It turned out to be important which pieces were on the same UDIM. The screws and their attachment pieces needed to be on the same UDIM/texture set so that I could have dirt across the surfaces seamlessly.

In the near future Substance Painter will allow you to paint across multiple texture sets making applying global dirt and scratches much easier.
On to the really fun bit.

Substance Painter

The iRay renderer in Substance Painter produces really good images, allowing you to get a good idea of how the final textures would look without round tripping to Maya.

iRay doesn’t, however, render refractions correctly or use mesh lights/global illumination.

The final render would have to go through Maya and the Redshift renderer.
Ultimately the output would be to Unity and I would combine all of the UVs to one 4K texture set.

Here are a few of the iRay test renders:

I decided to add some more to the model. I felt that it needed an electrical element to it.

Early vacuum tubes were not invented until 1904, so I ended up taking some creative licence here.

At this point I had nearly finished the texturing so I thought that just adding a bit more to the model wouldn’t be much more work. How wrong I was!

Adding 3 more UDIMS, I exported a new version of the model. I rebaked the maps and found that 4 of the existing texture sets had become corrupt. I effectively lost about 10 hours of detailed painting work.

I am still not sure whether this is a current bug in Substance Painter, but it was very infuriating.

The textures looked fine in the viewport, but when I exported them they looked completely different and wrong. The only thing I could do was to repaint the offending texture sets and hope that this would get fixed in future updates.

To give myself a break from the texturing I created a press advert in the style of the era.

Final Renders

All in all it has been a great project to buff my 3D skills. I am looking forward to the next part of the project, which is to create the Victorian Old Curiosity Shop. There will be a whole load of work in this so I intend to get started straight away.


I have only recently had a proper look at Sketchfab and was amazed how far it had come since briefly looking at it a year ago. The process of exporting directly from Substance Painter was super easy and so was iterating and updating the model.

I love that you can tweak the material settings and ended up using this feature to replace the glass material for the vacuum tube, all within Sketchfab itself.

The final result looks so good on Sketchfab that I didn’t need to render any animations.
Exploring the texture passes is really handy. It is also really useful inspecting other people’s models and textures.

Going forward, I will be uploading all new content to Sketchfab both to showcase my work and also as a way of cataloging the props for this project.

Artstation / Website


About the author

Jeremy Horton

CG Generalist and Animator

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  • Avatar Canary Games says:

    I loved everything … from beginning to end, until the error of “Substance Painter”, I laughed thinking about the anger, for the lost work!

    The gadget this, has a superb look, all those gears, which are not random, is an understanding of the mechanics of how things work, that always fascinates me!

    Many details, which is also something that catches my attention, the object’s own brand, the manufacturer … the truth is that it’s great, I’m looking at it again and again everywhere, to see what I can miss, and I only have one objection: why not make the lenses transparent?

    And another thing, holy god, how many UV-Maps !!

    The white ceramic made me remember the high voltage towers, and the tangled wires, the more I look at it the more I like it, so that I lie, although I would be afraid to put that thing on my head.

    It has entertained me for a while, and I am pleased to have read this Blog, and to find this model, already in passing … congratulate you, and I hope to see the Victorian shop you are talking about, I imagine it full of quirky and weird gadgets!

    Regards, Mr. Jeremy Horton

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