Interview with Junliang Zhang, Creator of the Game Scenes Project CyberNeon
At SIGGRAPH 2019, Fox Renderfarm had an interview with the talented Mr. Junliang Zhang, Creator of the Game Scenes Project CyberNeon, in UE4. He is also a 2BLACKDOT Lighting Artist, and Arts Technology Graduate Student at the University of Utah. He started from scratch and finished this incredible project all on his own. During the interview, he shared his inspiration and experience with us. Thanks to Junliang Zhang.
Fox Renderfarm: What is your inspiration for starting this project?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: The Cyberpunk Chinese city project--CyberNeon is one of my biggest individual projects. It is also a project created all by myself. The reason why I created this project is that I watched the movie Blade Runner 2049. This movie has left a great impression on me. Blade Runner is one of the first works which created a Cyberpunk scene and has thrilled me a lot. Blade Runner 2049 depicted a Cyberpunk-styled Los Angeles, so I decided to make a Chinese version, which was unprecedented in China. It seemed unique and cool.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you create CyberNeon?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: It was in October 2017, my first step was to find some references and made a Mood Board. After creating the Mood Board and collecting some references, I went outdoors to shoot some materials. Then, I tried to make a nice composition, and I spent a long period of time to create the composition. According to the composition, some Shaders were made, and the Pipeline was finished. Because without the completion of Pipeline, later things cannot be done according to standards to make other objects and other procedures. The first procedure I did is to Block-Out all the scenes and models into one Maya file and to export them respectively into UE4, in order to adjust the composition, to adjust the lighting and to design the lighting. Then I added all the fog effects and particle effects without any textures. All were white models in order to make myself clear about what I had seen at first sight. For the establishment of structures and compositions, I had modified and adjusted more than 100 times over and over again for nearly 2 to 3 months. By adding step by step, in February 2018, one building is finished--the modeling and textures. All the architectural models were made by Modular, built modulizedly like making LEGO. For the large scale of the scene, most shared things were used, art materials were created in the modulized way. After the creation of the art materials, I set about the lighting. For the lighting, I had referred to a lot of Cyberpunk style materials online, and had tried various ways of lighting. During the project, I didn't set any deadline to myself. All I did was making what I could do as perfect as possible. I didn't give myself any time limit for completion, that's why this project took a year and a half.
Fox Renderfarm: What's the most challenging part of the creation?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: The most challenging part is the lighting. It is difficult for computer performance, which is the main reason. Creating an open world with such a big scene will cause a huge performance loss. I had tried multiple techniques to improve the lighting and models. At that time, I didn't have enough knowledge about all these technologies, so I tried to find many references, continually worked on the improvement, and finally made it to FPS 60.
Fox Renderfarm: What are the things your interest leads you to persist doing?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: I've always wanted to make something really sophisticated and advanced. Because there are many advanced tools have been developed. Many of them are really powerful, like Substance, Quixel, which enable us to make the game environment photorealistic, also with the help of the powerful engines, all kinds of Real-time and all kinds of ray tracing technologies. Speaking of the things I persevere with, interest is always the best teacher. With powerful tools and strong interest, I keep on learning new things and keep on applying what I've learned into work and life.
Fox Renderfarm: What are the technological requirements to become an environment artist?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: To improve my personal capacity, I've collected many books about architecture. If you are creating a scene, you need to acquire a deep understanding of its structure first. Because the architectural styles vary at different times, I have a collection of encyclopedias on my shelves about architecture, like architectural structure which is very helpful when dealing with 3D modeling. No matter the Middle Ages ancient architectural style, the contemporary architectural style of the ancient Greek architectural style, they are all different. Nature is the best teacher. As an environment designer, the real world is the best inspiration source. If you are designing a scene, you'd better travel around, and to experience nature, which is great. You will learn a lot from it, and can also apply them to your life, apply them to your game design, apply them to the architectural visual effects and so forth. For our life is influenced by the environment.
Fox Renderfarm: Have you ever heard of Fox Renderfarm?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: Sure! The Wandering Earth is one of my favorite movies and it is rendered by Fox Renderfarm.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with the CG enthusiasts?
Mr. Junliang Zhang: If you are keen on something, try to do it as good as you can, and don't ever regret. It doesn't matter if there is a failure, we can start over again. Like the Kyoto Animation accident, though it's very heartbreaking to have lost so many talents. It could still be rebuilt, even though it is such a pity. Kyoto Animation is my youth, I have been deeply influenced by Japanese animation since I was little. I love watching Japanese animation and Japanese works, which have a huge impact on me. I believe that difficulties and struggles in this industry don't matter, what we need to do is, no matter how big the difficulty we are facing now, we work on the things at hand and in future step by step to bring out the best.
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