Added by on 2017-02-15

Creating Parametric Environments for Mafia III

Learn how Blur created a flexible rig using Forest Pack for the incredible swamp scenes in the Mafia 3 reveal trailer.

Oscar and Emmy nominated Blur Studio has long represented the gold standard for game trailers and cinematics, and the reveal trailer for Mafia III was no exception. Originally released at Gamescom 2015 to announce the latest in the Mafia franchise, the narrative of the 3 minute trailer hinges on a monologue given by Lincoln Clay as he drives through the desolate bayou surrounding 1968 New Orleans.

On screen,the bayou environment is extremely detailed, luxuriant and expansive. It is seen throughout the trailer, propelling the narrative, weaving together flashbacks, and providing a menacing setting for the thrilling conclusion.

As this environment is such an important part of the trailer, we were interested in finding out how Blur created and rendered several miles of densely populated swamp on a tight deadline. Blur’s response? Cheat.

According to lead scene assembly artist Sergej Eichmann in an interview with FXGuide, “putting the flashback scenes aside we knew there were two environments we needed to create; while the set in the final scene was more of a standard scenario with multiple cameras facing the same direction, the road through the bayou needed some special attention. Instead of creating miles worth of road we created a setup that allowed us to adjust the environment on a shot-by-shot basis.”

This setup used Forest Pack to cover the road with thousands of pebbles, small stones, leaves and debris as well as the grass, dense foliage and trees that flank it on both sides. According to Sergej ‘ForestPack plays an important role in our environment and scene assembly departments. While it is often used to replace the same small recurring and tedious tasks with much more efficient workflows (e.g. set dressing of vegetation, dirt or pebbles), ForestPack is a great helper in a lot of scenarios.’

Blur have been kind enough to share bayou scene files with us and we’re delighted to be able to showcase some of the techniques used to bring the world of Mafia III to life.  The core principles explored in this study include:

  • Creating a fully parametric environment, editable using a single spline.
  • Using Falloff Curves to control the size of number of scattered items in relation to the edges of the road. This allows you to automatically place more and larger stones near the edges and centre of the road where they’re less likely to be disturbed by vehicles.
  • Using disabled scatter items and Clustering to randomly remove patches for a more naturalistic random distribution.
  • Reusing Distribution maps and other settings but with small variations to get a layering effects.
  • Using open splines as a scatter area.
  • Using the same spline twice as an Include and an Exclude area to surround the road with trees.

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