I was immersed into the world of virtual archeology for my Masters Research Project at Ryerson University. The focus of this project was the digital reconstruction of the el-Hibeh temple in Egypt. After four months I believe I was able to demonstrate the potential this medium has to offer as a way of bridging the past and present.
It’s been a while since my last update, so I though I would post a short follow up of the last few months and share some of the final images from the virtual experience.
I added a few additional details, such as the ceiling vultures soaring towards the sanctuary. Beginning with the ceiling piece photographed by the Ranke expedition, I filled in the missing information by referencing the ceiling at Dendera Temple 7.
Ceiling at Dendera Temple 7, sourced from Ruth Hallam: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhallam/5523165911/in/photostream/
The transition from my home computer to the machine in the lab didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped. I was using a Nvidia GTX 1080ti which flew with the graphics. However, when I began testing in the lab I realized the hardware, an Alienware equipped with a GTX 960, was causing frame drops in various areas. To fix this I had to reduce the overall poly count of the scene (primarily from the surrounding vegetation). Bellow are a few images from the final version of the temple and surrounding environment.Having a larger space to walk within was definitely beneficial. Teleporting posed a few challenges to those trying the Vive for the first time. I found that people were trigger happy with the teleporter, as a result they kept hopping to the roof (they seemed a little distressed when I mentioned they would have to through themselves off get back to the ground level). Accidental travel to the roof has become so common that I might remove the navMesh from upper level entirely.
Earlier in the week I had finished texturing the block placement for the second pillar hall. This area is where the entrance to the staircase leading to the roof can be found.
So, yesterday after a lot of fussing with naming conventions in Maya, I brought the temple into the Unreal Engine. It’s a big milestone for me. I had been testing the process out over the past few months on smaller sections, but this time the entire temple was exported out. From this point on, the majority of the work will be done in unreal, with the exception of texture enhancements (like adding in hieroglyphs).
I’m impressed with the dynamic lighting capabilities of the software (even though I still need to read up on Unreal’s ins and outs). I particularly like how the lighting adjusts as you move into darker areas…very cool.
I did run into some issues with the floor tiles. It seems, that there is an issue with the light maps that are generated in the shadowy areas, causing the floor to look very quilted. Hopefully I can solve this without going back to Maya and Substance.
Carlos Santos did a fantastic job translating the topological data of the surrounding area into 3D. I’m going to bring this model into Unreal, to use as reference. I’d like to experiment a little with Unreal’s terrain builder. I believe it is optimized for larger areas of geometry.
This is the week I finally start bringing everything into the Unreal Engine. In prep I’ve been doing some house cleaning (file organization…etc). Additionally, I’ve been building elements to populate the interior.
During Ranke’s dig, sections from two statues were found in the first pillar hall. Both statues were largely damaged. Statue one consisted of the hips, torso, and head. The right hand looks like it is holding an Anhk, the left arm and legs are missing. The majority of the face is missing, their might be an indication of a small false beard, but it’s really to difficult to tell.
Statue two is essentially the hips and right leg. The belt and wrap are similar to statue one, leading me to speculate that these statues were a pair. The overall heigh is a little difficult to judge. Statue two was photographed on a odd angle with a yard stick. and the other was surrounded by boot prints. It’s a guess, but I appears these would have been close to life size, around 5 feet high.
Before building, I studied similarities and differences between a variety of statues. I was surprised to discover that these statues were not truly free standing, They seemed to be more of a dimensional relief, as if they were stepping out of the blocks they were chiseled from (I realize that’s not the symbolism).
I began with a default human mesh in Zbrush, which gave me quick proportions….although these had to be heavily modified.
The base and ankh were modelled in maya. And the final was sent to Substance Painter for detailing.
For today’s posting, I thought I’d show my progression with the sanctuary and its surrounding rooms. I found this area particularly challenging, because of the lack of information (as seen in the photography from the Heidelberg collection, and Ranke’s site illustrations).
I ended up sectioning off each area by material in Maya. Substance Painter organizes objects based on their material association, making it easy to isolate areas to work on.
Before taking the FBX into Substance, I made a pit stop in Mudbox to paint the the bump maps for the stone placement. For some reason I find this process to be faster.
I assigned the bumps and generated normal maps within Substance, which will work with my customized Smart Materials.
After applying and modifying the materials, I noticed that the spacing between the blocks is a little to much (the brush I used was a little thicker this time around causing a larger gap…which works from a distance, but not so good when you get close-up). I’ll need to budget time when I go back to add the hieroglyphs to fix this.
The Storage Rooms and Barque
The rooms to the north and self were used to house various items used in daily practices around the temple. These items still need to be modelled, and will be necessary to flesh out the details by adding compositional clutter.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m bringing on additional help in the final stretch. Joe Chao, another excellent modelling and surfacing artist, is building the barque of Amun that sits in the middle of the sanctuary.
I believe the Barque of Amun would feature the head of the Ram mounted on the bow and stern of the boat. I’ve found several references to this. Joe also came across come good reference images taken at the Egyptian display during the World Fair in Shanghai.
Below are some of Joe’s progression stills. I’ll post more in the next week.