Art Spotlight: Entrance to the Tomb

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Hello, my name is François Espagnet. I am a graphic designer as a freelancer in Bordeaux, France.

I have studying graphic design (print, web and a bit of video) during six years and one year in video game for game design / level design. I work for advertising mostly on print and web but rarely 3D. But I love 3D projects this is a childhood dream for me. During my studies I never learned 3D CG, I am self-taught.

Sometime, I try to make some personal 2D or 3D projects for artistic fun and to increase my book to find more jobs oriented on my passion. A challenge like the Sketchfab Contest “The Sound of Your Art” with a deadline and a specification is very motivating.

At first, “Entrance to the Tomb” was not my entry for “The Sound of Your Art” contest.

“Subway’s Lights” was the initial project I created and I wanted to play with a variety of lights and music like Romain Tardy with places and architectures. But six days before the deadline, I make a sample project to explain how works animations of lights. This example have only a way of stones and a big face. I discover, my scene can only use 3 lights in Sketchfab. So, I decide to make the “sample project” as my final entry and cancel the first idea.

Why a big ancient mask? I don’t know… I want to add some details to this scene and sounds. I want to make a very special atmosphere.

Ideas was coming during my free time… you know what I mean… sleeping, shower, toilet… I found a part of the sound at my desk. So I tested out, “liar liar liar liar!” in my shower like a wet Gollum.

I used low-polygon style for quick results, I didn’t need to bake normal map or make some textures, I only baked lightmaps at the end.

For the story and the ambiance, I think I was influenced by trailers of Hellblade and Orpheus in the ancient Greek myth.

Modeling

I modeled and animated all the projects with Blender. For the majority I directly made a low-poly. Some objects are duplicated for ease. I made the basic shape and after I deform it with modifier to give more life to the style.

This wall border use “Array” and “Curve” to deform them but the stones below are half cubs with a bevel and a “Displace” modifier at Z. The vases have a common shape that I break with the fracture tool. Sometime I don’t know how to do the low-poly so I started with high-poly and then applied all modifiers and used “decimate”.

For the ruins on the ground I use the hole in the roof. When I made it, I was telling myself, “If I create from a broken part of the roof and use the  fracture tool then use rigid body, I can obtain a realistic render”. But this is wrong and true… Blender does a really great job but this is too much realistic, this is mathematically true because the totality fill the ground. When you make something artistic you need to forget what I call “the real historical facts”. You need to ask, What captures the ambiance of a place?

We love to dream of unreal adventures. So, make an environment like your dreams, forget some logic, and delete a huge quantity of stones because we need to see the others elements (and your GPU will thank you!). Move those stones to the sides because we need to see the way as free. People need to unconsciously think they can follow the path. A thing I had learn in advertising is that you always need to guide the vision of your spectators.

One of my test, I deleted a part of the hole:

Animation

The monster (or the Gollum) is only two eyes in the darkness.

I used an empty as a root to make head movement, two half black spheres hide the white of eyes, there is no bones armature. To get more natural aspect and freakiness eyes are animate independently.  

Bones and skulls are animated objects by object, I used automatic key to done more quickly. All keys of this scene use a linear interpolation.

This scene have 3 spotlights:

  • A spotlight as ambient light (blue) on the top of the scene in the hole, I bake it and use it in Sketchfab and disable “cast shadow”.
  • A spotlight next to the eyes when the god wake up
  • A spotlight in a stone at front of the face to improve the face lighting when the god wake up

I use mask for the god’s lights. This is basics meshes, in Sketchfab for the material I selected  “single sided”. I always use “single sided” because this better for optimisation but in this case this is very interesting because the spectator don’t see the mesh but the opposite side block the light.

At start of the animation the masks are on the lights after, the masks goes down.

This scene use the concept of lightmap. With this texture you bake lights and color diffusion. I had already use this technique in an other Sketchfab project.

In a video game with an engine like Unreal Engine you need to make a special UV channel for lightmap with a specific unwrap of your object this is a meticulous work to don’t get errors. For this project I need to do that quickly even if I lose in quality. So I made my UVs with “smart UV project”, one lightmap can contain multiple objects. To increase my workflow I use the add-ons Texture Atlas and Bake Tool. Sketchfab PBR don’t use a lightmap so I put my textures in “Cavity” channel.

Credits at the end are painted in a sphere directly with Blender. The camera can’t be animated so if you can’t go to credits, credits come to you. I made a scene root and move it.

 

This scene could be more interesting, details animations, add ivy on the hole two or three huge blocks of stone. Use more identifiables objects (books, chairs, sword…) in the ruins. But I had a deadline and all people don’t have a gaming computer.

Global view of the scene:

(1) Main scene, (2) Credit, (3) Door, (4) Ambient light, (5) Face of the god and a spotlight, (6) Movable eyes with emissive shader, (7) In white animatable objects (no lightmap), (8) Monster eyes, (9) Mask for light, (10) Scene root is animated

When I want a sound for a project I prefer to make it myself than download it on internet. I use what I can find in my apartment. For the software I use Cubase, the majority of time I use it for compositing music. But for this project I have a lot of VST I can use to transform the sound. I write all texts before record. I had recorded sounds with a Behringer B5 with a pop filter and my USB sound card is a M-Audio Fast Track.

I record all the sounds in one file project because I want to hear the global atmosphere of the sound. All is made with my voice except when the monster walk and the door closed. Use voice make the atmosphere more mystical. I change my voice by myself and with effects. All channel use a particular reverb depend the position of the voice. Example the hero is you so I need reverb but the original sound should be clearly present, the good is far and fill the room.

Background music voices are recorded in 3 parts and duplicated them : 2 parts for melody 1 for background, Duplicates of this last are overlapping to make a continuous sound. Only EQ, reverb and stereo spatialisation are adding.

Secrets voices were multiple take with different sentence. I added a binaural spatialisation to made the spirits / ghosts around you. For that I use BinAural, this is a free experimental VST that fake the position of the sound in the environment behind you, at left, at right… You put the point where you want to hear the sound.

I add EQ and reverse the sound…. I really say something. Looking back on it, I think original voices are more creepy than reverse voices.

The dialogue is in three channels, I record characters one by one. Hero voice is my natural voice and for the monster I acting something like a Gollum. Maybe this is caricatural but I think this an interesting character. This is not a monster with a huge power, he is the slave of something, or someone because he fears him, love him and he hate every person.

For the god, I pitched my voice to more darkness and I add an EQ and a stereo spatialisation.

For door closing and the monster walk use some objects: 
I add to these sounds: EQ, BinAural, Stereo spatialization fx.

I want to show to everybody what I am doing, what is in my mind, but a 2D picture (a render /a demoreal) is not immersive as a real-time view. Sketchfab viewer is easy to use for people who want discover my work just using their browser. Now with the sound this is an awesome tool to tell stories because I am not only a graphic designer, I am a dreamer. I have some ideas of futures Sketchfab projects. Maybe something more interactive and playable for the visitors but I can’t tell anymore 😉

Sketchfab is like a good wine (sorry I’m from Bordeaux), it become better and better with time. I am excited to discover the next features.

Stay tuned!

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About the author

François Espagnet

Graphic designer actually work as freelance.


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