Mars Colony

For my final MA project I chose a science fiction theme. I chose a not-too-distant future on Mars for the setting. The atmosphere and landscape is tough and barren with frequent sandstorms. All modelling, texturing, lighting, VFX and animation was done by moi.

Actual Mars relief map used as heighmap in Unreal Engine

I used Unreal’s landscape tool to create a vista of the Mars surface, using topographical data from https://astrogeology.usgs.gov. This data came in the form of large height maps which required cropping to a manageable size. Some adjustment of the height map was necessary to achieve the desired result, specifcally adjusting the levels to give greater contrast, and applying some light blue to smooth out some artefacts in the image.

Final Scene

For some of the VFX elements such as the mining drill steam I used a particle emitter with a flipbook texture to create variation. I used my homebrew flipbook maker tool which I authored in Python. For details on my flipbook maker tool check out my blog.

I am happy with the outcome of the fnal scene. It closely adheres to the original vision, even though some compromises had to be made due to time constraints. I learned a lot about hard surface modelling and I enjoyed learning about techniques around face weighted normals which contributed a lot to the quality of my in-game assets. However, the learning curve on this area was steep, which is why production of assets took a lot longer than I expected.

For the final sequence I decided to render the scene to PNG frames and combine them using the command line tool FFMPEG. For details on this see this blog post.