Saturday, July 5, 2014

Learning Substance Designer : Part 1 : Prerequisites

 I am starting to working through the substance tutorials.

Why use Substance?
There are couple of things I liked from the videos I've seen so far:
1. Material nodes behave like photoshop. It uses familiar concepts like levels and transforms.
2. It treats connections for multiple parts of a texture node as 1 output (diffuse/normal/specularity/etc)
3. You can adjust the resolution and effects within UE4 when you are done. This looks awesome.
4. It has great tools for painting heighmaps onto simple meshes. You get a complex looking result without any additional vertexes.

I'm going to post what I learn and how to apply it to Blender and UE4.

Substance Workflow
Substance Designer assumes you already understand everything about modeling and texturing. This is the overview workflow for how Substance fits into asset workflow:

I have had no formal training in asset creation so that was a glimpse into professional game development. The first video in the tutorial covers this diagram. I recommend watching that first.

Substance Tutorial Prerequisite
Before starting the tutorial you need a mesh with 2+ textures UV mapped to it. I'm a little surprised they don't supply one that matches the tutorial so you can follow along but I think starting from scratch in Blender is a good exercise. I'm going to build one for my Oculus Tuscany UE4 port: The pot at the entrance.

It is a very simple mesh with 2 textures: pottery, metal base. I am going to keep the plant separate to allow flexibility in what plants are in the pottery

Materials 101
Before getting started it is good to cover the basics of good materials. This tutorial is a perfect place to start:

A good material has 4 components:
1. diffuse : your image
2. normal/bump : A bluish image that allows a texture to project into 3D space without any vertexes
3. specularity : This B&W image controls the glossiness of the surface. White=glossy
4. occlusion : This controls which parts of your image are dark

The recommended program for doing that is crazy bump. Substance has that built into its Bake process so I will just UV Map 2 diffuse textures onto the pottery mesh.

The Pottery Mesh
This pot is pretty simple. I have 7 meshes that I haven't joined yet. I haven't UV mapped anything either. I don't know exactly what Substance expects so I'm playing it safe. When doing research I think I found the pot this mesh was based off of. I searched google for "tuscan pottery" and it was towards the top.

Here is the Pottery in blender:

Here is the Pottery in Substance Designer:

This is what I want my texture to look like:

I browsed through cgtextures and found these two textures:


Metal Legs:

I brought these into photoshop and tiled them using the offset filter, hard-edge cloning and vertical transforms.



I'm not a tile expert but these should work pretty well. Most of the sexy material effects should come from Substance. These just lay the ground work.

 I watched the second intro tutorial and played with Blender and Substance Designer as I went. I UV mapped the 2 textures onto the pottery:

A couple of observations:
1.  Using blender with Substance Designer is going to suck. The exports to fbx/obj do not carry all the information across. The names of materials and nodes are lost. I updated to the lastest version of blender (2.7.1). Same issues.
2. Substance can bake high resolution models into normal maps that you can apply to your low resolution models. That is really cool, except... I don't own zbrush. That is $800. I watched a video of folks using it. You can do some amazing stuff with it.
3. He generated a bitmap from a "vertex color map". I watched a 3 minute tutorial on vertex color maps in blender. That scared me. A lot. It was a time consuming mess. Dozens of clicks all over blender to get a couple of vertex colors in place. I am not doing that unless I have to.

This is going to be a huge learning process. I'm determined to use this tool

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