Where we came from – Longhouse 4.0

Welcome to my new metablog. My name is Kris Howald, and I’m a Professor with Sheridan College’s Computer Animation program. I’m not sure how long these posts will be, but I’m going to try to do my best to document the process for developing the new version of the longhouse project.

I want to start by looking back a few years to the previous version of the longhouse, 4.0. In 2018, I was approached by a friend of mine, Dr. Michael Carter, to continue the development an existing VR Longhouse (http://theskonkworks.com/2015/07/longhouse-3-0-5/). The initial vision for this new iteration was to have a multi-structure environment that would indicate the scope of these types of settlements. However, due to certain constraints, the direction shifted to update the look and feel of the previous version. CG veteran, Craig Barr did an excellent job building the 3.0 longhouse. Yet, the technology of the time (around 2015) limited the polycount, texture resolution, and lighting to create a result that needed a slight refresher. I was hoping to add an extra level of realism to this version. To do this, I wanted to really focus on lighting, how light would interact with various materials, and introduce global illumination so that there would be more realistic light bounces within the structure’s interior.

I started by simplifying the number of objects by combining similar geometry, and then laying out their new UVs. Once I had fewer polygon objects to work with, I began to project the original textures onto the updated UV layouts. Once all of the original textures were transferred to the new geometry through baking, I then brought the new textures into procedural texture editing software, substance painter, and substance alchemist. This allowed me to really add the wear and tear the objects needed, and then the software separated out roughness metallic, normal maps, diffuse, height, and add in more customized features to give the materials hey more natural feel. With the new textures from the substance software, I re-applied them to my 3D model in Maya where I lit and then baked out the lighting with the proper shadows and GI. Below are examples comparing the model with and without the baked-in lighting

This is an example of the updated textures from Substance Painter (without the light baking).
And this is the same set but with the light baking.
Another before….
…and after

The following two movies are fly throughs of the model in Maya, one with the textures, and one with the textures plus lighting.

Once all that was ready, I brought it into the Unity game engine where I created the environment, adding trees, grasses, rivers, and addition natural elements.

Here is an example of the final 4.0 result compared to the previous version.

If you’re interested in additional information on longhouse 4.0, I will link an article in the Sheridan College online paper called the Insider.

https://www.sheridancollege.ca/newsroom/news-releases/2019/07/sheridan-professor-helps-recreate-digital-iroquoian-longhouse-for-local-museum

Cheers.

Published by Kris Howald

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. I'm currently visualizing the past, present, and future of a pre-contact indigenous community.

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