An Interactive Real-Time 3D Environment

Sabbatical Project # 2 – “Explore The Ceramics Studio!”


Back Story:

In 2011, I used 3D Studio Max™ to create a pre-visualization ( of a proposed ceramics studio that was to open in San Juan Capistrano, CA in the same year. This pre-vis helped the owner, Melissa Thomson, to determine how the retail space should be laid-out for her eagerly anticipated new business.


Pre-vis of The Ceramics Studio

In 2012, I used the studio as a test subject to demonstrate to my students how to texture and light a pre-rendered scene. At that time, the scene was textured with Mental Ray™ shaders and illuminated with the Mental Ray™ GI lighting system. In 2013, I converted the scene into a QuickTime VR panorama. [see below]

Click on image to see QTVR Panorama
Click on image to see QTVR Panorama. Please be patient; it take about 30 seconds to start.
Then drag
across the image to rotate 360 degrees.

    Above, is an image rendered with VRay and composited in Photoshop. (Click on image to enlarge.)

In 2014, I re-purposed The Ceramics Studio 3d scene into a real-time 3D environment. Note: This is a work-in-progress. As time permits, I’ll be adding many more fun interactive things!

TO VIEW THE UNITY 3D PLAYER, YOU MUST VIEW VIA FIREFOX BROWSER 120px-Firefox-os_logo-wordmark_RGB_nopad_25%25


 Untitled-1Screen capture of the studio in Unity3D. 9click on image to view work-in-progress.)


Step 1: Real-time 3D engines do not support GI for the real-time 3D environment project, so I switched all of the materials to Standard type. Switching out all of the materials was laborious. However,  I later learned of an inexpensive and time-saving app called, Autodesk Material Converter™, which is supposed to automatically switch out all of the Mental Ray™ materials to Standard materials, within seconds. I tried it later, and It worked fairly well. For some reason, there remained many materials that needed to be converted manually.

Step 2: Since all of the objects inside the environment were not UV unwrapped, I had to go back and unwrap some models, then reconfigure the maps to fit them. Unwrap is not needed for pre-rendered scenes, plus there are nicer ways to size maps on geometry (like using the “crop image” feature in the Bitmap Parameters of the Material Editor) that Unity does not recognize.

Step 3: To prepare the environment for the “walk-through”, I had to model more props. This interactive environment (unlike the VR Panorama) enables the user to walk all around the studio and therefore, be able to see more things, So, I needed to further populate the space and build-out areas of the studio not previously in the panoramic view used for the QuickTime VR™ panorama.

Step 4: I textured additional props and rooms.

Step 5: I reduced the polygon count for many of the models in which I had already modeled the previous year. (Pre-rendered scenes do not have the poly restrictions that a real-time 3D platform has.)

Step 6: Imported the environment into Unity™, laid things out and added the Player Object.

Step 7: Set-up lights in Unity™.

Step 8: Added interactivity inside the Unity™ game engine. PlayMaker™ was used to help with this process.

Step 9: Exported the final interactive “game” and embedded it in my web blog. [Final Unity Project to be posted]

Normal Map Creation:

The biggest challenge with this project was to make the normal maps look good because I never modeled the walls with the old wood planks, etc. Look at the images below. These texture atlas images are actually 4096 x 2046. I make them big so I can add detail.


The first is the diffuse map.


This is a normal map generated from the diffuse in DDO by Quixel. Notice that there are bumps where there should be none.


The normal map is derived from the diffuse maps only, since I did not model the textured surface of the walls. Consequently, I had to completely rework the image to have it be a representation of what recedes and what protrudes, so I could properly generate a normal map.


This normal map was generated, using DDO, from my reworked grey-scale version. (see at the right) This is how the normal map should be to create the illusion of detail.

Next > Project #3 “Happy Birthday from The Ceramics Studio!”


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