In this edition of Community Spotlight, we’re speaking to Lukaz Wenzel who was awarded the SAE award for Best Animation Student Project for his amazing forest scene, created with CRYENGINE. You can check out his work below, and we spoke to him about how he created the award-winning scene and get some tips and tricks.
Congratulations Lukas! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I was a student at the SAE Institute in Frankfurt for two years and I received my Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) for Interactive Animation in September 2017. I am currently working for N.O.ME Medienproduktion at Wiesbaden as a 3D artist.
What’s your history working with CRYENGINE? How long have you used it for and how did you get into it?
My German Forest Scene was my first project with CRYENGINE! I had never used it before. We had some lessons at SAE in April and our lecturer was Florian Sollaneck, a 3D artist at Crytek. It was very impressive using ‘Realtime Global Illumination’ compared to ‘lightbaking’ in Unreal, which wasted a lot of time. I received a lot of feedback from my head instructor Lars Dormeyer, our Supervisor at SAE, Florian and also Patrick Gladys, another artist.
Could you tell us a little about the competition you entered and why you chose to enter it?
When I started working with CRYENGINE, some people I knew said it was a bad idea because it is supposed to have a bad reputation for poor documentation compared to other engines. I wanted to prove the opposite!
Where did you draw inspiration from when creating the environment?
I created a Japanese shrine and a Japanese rice farm from the Sengoku Era for my first student project at SAE. When I finished the two buildings, I started to create some vegetation, but the results were unsatisfying. After finishing my final project for my SAE Diploma, I decided to try once again to create vegetation, this time with CRYENGINE. Whenever I played video games taking place in a forest, I often noticed the level design killed my immersion. There is only one way to finish the level and you cannot escape that route. So I wanted to create a forest without level design elements. This was the subject of my honors work.
The level is super atmospheric. Do you have any advice that you could pass on to the community about how you created the scene?
I really admire the Environment Editor in CRYENGINE. You have all the important functions in one place. Playing with the Environment Editor is very easy, but making a realistic atmosphere is difficult. When I set up my assets for CRYENGINE, I analysed the assets from the woodland level of the sample project to get a good shape, great performance, and the right value for the PBR materials.
You used photogrammetry in this piece. Could you describe your workflow and the advantages that it gives you when it came to creating this scene?
When I built my forest, I started with an assets list, but I did not block out the scene like normal. I wanted to place the assets randomly to get a more natural look. I visited a mountain named Feldberg in the Taunus range north of Frankfurt to take some photos. I took many photos from different trees to create a repertoire. Then I imported the photos to Agisoft and the software generated some really nice assets.
Were there any other specific features in CRYENGINE that helped you bring this level to life?
For me, the best feature of CRYENGINE is the Environment Editor, but I also like the Vegetation Editor. I painted big areas and then I worked on each little asset to get a natural look. My forest is a simulation of taking a walk which was part of my honours work. It was a little tricky to remove the weapons from the character but after some research it was no problem for me to use the Flowgraph
Editor and the console.
What was your favourite part of the level's creation process?
Building a scene with several assets is the most enjoyable work for me. In the beginning, it was difficult to create a forest, because you have to think differently compared with creating an interior scene. However, I used many references to understand how to grow each plant, tree, and bush in a forest to bring the scene together well.
CE Community Manager Cry-Nic with Lukas Wenzel, showing his award.