NVIDIA was fortunate enough to speak with 3D prop and environment artist Daniel Martinger, who captured the attention of the computer graphics world with his stunningly realistic path-traced rendered scene entitled “The Carpenter’s Cellar.”
Figure 1. Fully path-traced scene in Unreal Engine 5.
Where do you look for inspiration and ideas?
Martinger: Before I start a project, I really need to have a clear vision and an idea in my mind. I need to feel very excited to start the project. When I am outside, I often observe objects around me in nature and how lightning affects them. For example, during the day when I am outside or inside watching a movie—I get ideas of an environment and want to recreate it in 3D.
My ideas come from my surroundings. If I watch a movie and I see something cool that interests me like a messy room, I start to google reference photos of similar rooms. If I like the feeling of the room, there’s the possibility of combining that feeling with another theme. In this case I spent time searching for cellar reference photos like old cellars, just to get a feeling for the project.
Google and Pinterest are really nice sources. I gathered my references on a mood board. I usually have a lot of references just to combine them visually in my mind. In this project I really wanted daylight to spread throughout the room and explore Unreal Engine’s new lightning tech.
Why did you choose Unreal Engine 5 for this project?
Martinger: In school we learned another game engine, and I am always looking to learn and update my skills. I also saw a lot of videos about Unreal Engine 5 and was very impressed, so I decided to use Unreal Engines’ new tech to present my art.
I have leveraged NVIDIA GPUs since I was 15. When the [RTX] 3090 came out, it was like a 3D artist’s dream. The VRAM plays a big role here compared to other cards. You can never have enough VRAM as a 3D artist!
The power of the 3090 is amazing. Texturing programs and the game engine, it all just works, there’s been no lag or stuttering. My computer didn’t “complain” much, I can work with 8k textures without any problems.
Did you incorporate any DXR features?
Martinger: Yes, I enabled DX12 and I decided to go with full path tracing for the scene. I know I had to enable DirectX 12 for the path tracer and hardware ray tracing to be able to use path tracing, I played around with some ray tracing stuff in post effects like global illumination, ray tracing, and reflections, but I only used the path tracer for rendering images and videos. I played around with the real-time features, but it didn’t give me the quality of the path tracer.
How did you feel about the visual comparison between the Unreal Engine 5 path tracer versus offline renderers or other engines you’ve used?
Martinger: I haven’t used many other offline renderers, but I have seen a lot of art created in Arnold. It feels like path tracing in Unreal Engine is very similar to Arnold. In Unreal Engine 5 the path-tracing feature is very user friendly. This is the first time I used an offline renderer, so I don’t have much to compare it with. I have only worked with one other game engine before Unreal Engine. Even without path tracing I think Unreal Engine is a very powerful engine for artists and can achieve amazing realistic results.
Are you using one or two light sources in the path traced render?
Martinger: I wanted daylight to come into the room, so I used a skylight and a directional light as the sun source. I tweaked the settings to achieve the look I wanted, and yeah, path tracing just works. In real time you need to do a lot more work and tweaking to get a similar look as path tracing.
What are your biggest takeaways from this project?
Martinger: Keeping a realistic goal and timeline in mind is key. Do something you can deliver in a reasonable amount of time, and most importantly detailed planning to map out the approach, project flow, and process.
Stay tuned for updates from Daniel including a new project he’s currently working on, and for more artwork check out his ArtStation page. Learn more about NVIDIA resources for Unreal Engine developers.