As the digitization of real-world spaces and artifacts becomes more common in the creation of virtual environments, the primary motivation behind "Beacon" was to devise a pipeline that strengthens the collaboration between digital and physical artists in computer graphics production while maintaining design intent.
In typical 3D game pipelines, the white-box (see video above) is designed to serve as the foundation for all interactions between the player and the game in terms of mechanics, collision, layout, and flow. In other words, it is where the experience of play is created. Traditionally, this white-box is then handed over to digital artists who build 3D models and textures for it to help produce the final look and feel. While the white-box isn’t actually rendered in the final product, it still exists at runtime so that collision computations can be made against it instead of the high-resolution meshes created by the digital artists. In addition to saving on computational performance, the low-resolution white-box also makes iterating on mechanics more efficient.
In our new pipeline illustrated below, 3D printing enables us to preserve design intent at a very high fidelity as we transition from digital white-boxes into physical white-boxes that sculptors and painters can create art directly on top of. Because player interactions in games are so inextricably tied to the collision model of the white-box, 3D printing ensures that all of the nuances in the collision model are preserved for the physical artist as they create content for it. During this process, special care is taken not to add any geometry that would impede the player’s progress or obstruct the alpha-path. Doing so could significantly impact the original intent of the designer and is just as important a consideration for digital and physical artists alike.
When sculpting upon the surface of the whitebox is complete, we photograph and digitize it using a process called photogrammetry where a point cloud is generated from a series of photographs that is then translated into a 3D mesh. We must then re-align the mesh with the original white-box. Using Meshlab’s alignment tools, we are able to transform, scale, and reorient our new model through Point-Based Gluing. After the digitized sculpture is aligned with the original white box, it is imported back into Unity 3D for a perfect match.
3D Whitebox Design
Lighting and Post Processing
Pipeline that incorporates 3D printing and photogrammetry into a single process for asset and art creation.
Beginning concept art for environment topography and shading.
Whitebox that defines player collision based on metrics and game mechanics.
3D printed whitebox.
Sculpted on top of whitebox with clay and added color markers to help with photogrammetry process.
A digital copy of the sculpture above after photogrammetry.