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Lighting in Unreal is very different to Maya, there are similarities in certain pieces of the tech but other things are completely different – Unreal has 3 different light options for whether lights are movable rather than fixed lights. This means that lighting can be baked in to geometry (which is more valuable for interior scenes and lighting you need to stay in place, compared to my outdoor scene where all the lighting needs to be moveable).

I tried some tests looking at different tutorials for how lighting interiors and other pieces would work. I looked at many different ways the lighting could be achieved on the bog, with Sunsky, HDRIs, and good old directional lights. I found a premade plugin on the Unreal site- GoodSky-for skies with a variety of changeable options – such as nighttime, daytime, cloudiness. This gave me a lot of control for how my sky can look and gave me the freedom of using my directional lights along with it.

First test. The ground looks unnatural and strange, the whole thing is very green, and the lighting is confusing and flat.

Later test. I was starting to make nice shapes on the grass with the light which was letting me break down the shot into sections, but running into issues with the harsh directional light source shining through the grass. Things look significantly more harmonious than the first test, however.

A later test trying to create a moodier scene and playing with volumetric clouds. Things were getting better, but I still felt I had a lot of problems. The scene felt very small and It was a this point I made a colourscript to pin down the lighting required in the 3D scene.

First attempt creating some lighting and testing the HDRI clouds. I wouldn’t be able to rotate clouds together with the HDRI to create this lighting effect however, so I think I will try simple planes with clouds painted on them instead.

I redid the landscape and tweaked some of the foliage to look more squashed like my reference footage of the moorland. I created a wider shot that felt more natural and what I was originally aiming for, and was able to recreate some lighting from the colourscript. I’ll be able to soften the sharp lines of the shadows by not using blank planes but clouds as cards with opacity masks on them.

Trying to move over to a completely new software has been a bit jarring. Materials are laid out very differently compared to Maya, but I think I prefer Unreal’s layout after some using it. I created a series of different grasses to test out in the engine. I ran into issues with the vertex normals, which were correctible by changing some settings in both Maya with the asset itself and in Unreal with how the asset is handled.

I also started learning the landscape tool, which enables me to sculpt the ground as I need to. This has been extremely useful for working out the composition of certain shots and being able to tweak things as needed – for example, the resolution on my first landscape was way too low. I was able to rebuild it with a higher resolution very easily.

After running into even more issues trying to build environments and work with grasses in Maya, and looking at what softwares are sought after for projects, I've decided that I'm better picking up and learning Unreal. This will be a lot of work, and quite a jump, so this week I'll be prioritising getting comfortable in the software and learning how to do the general stuff. I'll be following this tutorial:

I'll post an update later in the week with how I got on!

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