Art Spotlight: The Plunge

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.


My name is Ali Rahimi Shahmirzadi and I’m a freelance CG artist from Iran. You can find out more about my projects on my website. I have studied Stage Designing of Cinematography and I started my journey in the realm of CG with 3DSMAX 2. After one year I switched my platform to Maya, and since then Maya has been my favorite and foremost platform to work on all of my projects.

My main focus is on Realtime Content Creation with Quest3D & Unreal Engine 4. In the past, however, I’ve also had a lot of experience working with some of the advertisement agencies in producing commercials.

My primary objective and interest is making games but in a brand new and innovative way.


I started using Quest3D in 2004. At the time, it was very powerful and stunning.

After about a year’s work I published my X Fridge project.

Few years ago, colleague Christopher Schiefer and I started working on a full deferred rendering pipeline for Quest3D called Free Radical. The project kept getting held up by other Quest3D devs so we had no choice but to stop the project after almost 3 years of non-stop hard work.

But after that setback, Unreal Engine 4 came out and I switched over, developing 3 projects with it.

Lastly, I’ve also done digital painting, which you can see here.


The Plunge

The Plunge main sculpture is one of my oldest works which I did with Maya. I think it was with Maya version 2 or 3. I modeled it vertex by vertex because by that time there was no ZBrush or Mudbox.

First I setup The Plunge project in UE4. You can download the executable file from this page.

I built several stone assets for this project to give it that feel. I modeled a low poly in Maya, then sculpted them in Mudbox. For generating some of the maps, I used xNormal. It was here that I found out that Maya’s transfer maps have one of the best normal map generation. In the 2015 Maya version, Turtle, the baking plug-in, had a bug which impacted the xNormals in that they were finicky if the model was particularly complex.


Here you can see the assets I made for this project.


Here is another shot of one of my stone assets in Mudbox. Mudbox is very easy to learn and use. I use PTEX texture for albedo on a high-res model. PTEX is a method which you don’t need to setup any UV.


I export a high-res mesh (level 4) from Mudbox to Maya. Then I use a new reduce poly tool to make a low poly version of the stone. I must say that the new reduce in Maya is much more accurate and better than the old one. It’s really a big help.


Then I use a plug-in called Unwrella to generate a perfect UV as you can see. The important thing about designing asset or the level is to have a unified look and concept. So everything must match each other and follow a same motif. My main focus when I was designing The Plunge was to achieve a mix of a museum and a building to focus on the main sculpt in center.

And here is the snapshot from Maya.

And here is the snapshot from Maya.

Since lightmaps don’t support normal maps, I baked everything in 1 atlas map. I use several 4k atlas maps for this project. For having a lightmap with normal map there is method call radiosity normal mapping. It consists of 3 directional lightmaps. Render engines like Turtle support it.


Then I use Unwrella to do the whole light mapping uv process in one click, which is fantastically convenient.

For compiling a final result I use Mental Ray, which the result is speaks for itself. I use a mib_amb_occlusion node to obtain an Occ even in direct light area. However, it’s not suggested to have Occ in direct light area. Result is more graphical and unreal that way.

When you are baking a light map with Mental Ray or any other engine make sure to see the rendering result as a linear image (no gamma correction). Both lightmap and albedo texture must be linear. Later, you can adjust the result in the engine. Unfortunately, Sketchfab doesn’t support floating point lightmap, otherwise we could have a full dynamic range HDRI.


I used a high number of sampling for generating a lightmap (4 sample), otherwise the end result would have a bad lighting.


I think Sketchfab is exactly what the 3D community needs. It’s very fast and it runs almost anywhere, which is a big plus and a reason to keep using it.

Another great thing about Sketchfab is it’s big and active community.

I just hope Sketchfab grows more and becomes more advance. There are yet so many options I look forward to seeing!

Thanks, Ali! Interesting evolution in tech throughout your career! Any questions about his process? Leave them in the comments box below!

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!


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