Hello everyone! My name is Andreas Fjell, I’m 33 years old and living in Trondheim, Norway. Currently, I am working on Age of Space, an RTS game in early development for PC. I have had a fascination with sci-fi since I was a kid, and I often replicated what I saw in movies and in my mind with Legos; I think the way of thinking in 3D left an impact on me and later made me pursue the path of 3D modeling.
My educational background comes originally from studying motion design and then two years of digital visual effects at the University of Hertfordshire. But after university, I decided to teach myself how to create and texture 3D models on my own.
Having learned motion tracking and VFX at university, I was inspired to make a short film at some point, specifically a futuristic adaptation of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias. If you are familiar with the poem, it is about an ancient pharaoh boasting about the empire he once created, but thousands of years later it is all in ruins, the point being that human might and hubris is no match for the simple passage of time.
Ozymandias by Percy Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
So in place of the famed statue would be a person discovering a giant derelict mech or robot to mirror the hubris of our own age and civilization. To save time and focus on other parts of the project I commissioned an artist, Mike Schovitz, to make a reference sheet of an Egyptian-inspired mech, which turned out perfect. But due to other commitments and the growing scope of the project, it fizzled out, and the half-made model was left on my hard drive. However, I recently found motivation to complete it because, first of all, I have become far more proficient with modeling and texturing than I was only a few years ago and, second, I also liked the Egyptian-inspired design.
Modeling, UVW Mapping, and Material Baking
For modeling, I use an old copy of 3ds Max. After years of using it I have learned most of the poly modeling shortcuts by hand, so the process of working on hard surface models like this is very quick.
Only a few parts are manually unwrapped, and for 95% of the mesh I used Unwrella, an automated unwrapping tool that is indispensable. It has two modes, one for hard surface and one for organic models, and on a relatively new computer it gets the job done in less than a minute, even seconds, even for very large meshes. But some manual adjustment for key UV isles is sometimes necessary to avoid jagged edges.
The legs, head, and torso on the model are separated meshes with their own texture sets with mirrored UVW’s to save UV space (the legs are both UVW-mirrored once and then double mirrored with a geometry modifier) but the cannon and rocket battery “arms” are not, and do cause minor AO artifacting where they intersect with the mirrored parts.
Same goes for the antenna and greebles since this mesh is also asymmetrical and is in contact with the mirrored “head” mesh in a more visible way. I was aware of this, but it would have taken time to rectify, and for this particular model, speed was the key word so I let it be, and it is not immediately noticeable, after all. Had it been paid work, then I’d be more thorough, of course!
Texturing and Scene Setup
I used no high poly bakes for this model at all, as it is another time sink I wanted to make do without. All extra details are simply stamped on using the stock normal textures that come with the Substance package, and they inhabit their own dedicated layer that is used by the edge wear generator with anchor point references.
The terrain, road and van were added as an afterthought, sadly, because their function is quite important: to give a sense of the scale of the mech. In retrospect I would have given this part more time and elaborated it with a few more vehicles, sand dunes and palm trees, as this is what really creates the world in which the model inhabits and it is a great way of conveying some of the emotions from the poem, with the mech being a towering and ominous object.
The main texture is a material I made in Substance Designer made to emulate a spaceship hull, with overlapping panels and with a small number of greebles. This worked well combined with a standard paint material on top. For color and insignia references I looked at contemporary desert camouflage for tanks and lorries. Then it was a matter of adding lots of dust and sand with Substance’s generators in addition to some manual dirt painting to make it look non-uniform.
I used a Unity5 PBR Metallic-roughness workflow in Substance Painter, so all I had to do in Sketchfab was to choose the correct renderer, workflow, and drop the textures into the appropriate material slots.
The only tuning I did was for the emission map, that I toned down a bit. And thanks to the simple interface all this was a very quick and intuitive process. The only “issue” I had was with the alpha blending on the road mesh where it intersects the ground, but this was also a detail I sacrificed in Substance for the sake of speed.
The environment settings were supposed to reflect a desert climate, so I used the Pine Tree Arch environment to create a warm atmosphere and rotated it to create long shadows as if the sun was setting. I then added a slight vignette effect and increased the contrast a little. Otherwise, the settings are quite standard. All in all, Sketchfab is a powerful and user-friendly way of showcasing your art.
Thank you for reading 🙂