Like many workers over the past couple of years, COVID meant music events producer and technician, Marc Carratala had to reassess his career trajectory. With a passion for photography, cinema, and video games, he enrolled in Real-Time 3D Technical Art & Virtual Production Course at CG Spectrum in 2021.
In Marc's first term, he tackled world building in Unreal Engine and has already created some epic work! Read all about his journey at CG Spectrum so far, and discover how to build a believable virtual world.
Tell us a bit about your journey and how you came to study the Real-Time 3D Technical Art & Virtual Production Course.
Hello! My journey started in the music events industry. For ten years, I’ve done many festivals and live music events until the Covid restrictions changed my reality. Photography, cinema, and video games have been my hobbies since my childhood, so I finally decided to change my career direction and start my studies at CG Spectrum. After taking my first term and learning the basics of Unreal Engine, I saw the influence that Real-Time and Virtual Production is having on how to produce games, films, and events, so I immediately felt attracted to take this new amazing path!
Your short cinematic in Unreal Engine, The Frozen Lands is epic! What was your inspiration?
Thank you so much! I always wanted to create a cinematic, and this was my chance to push my limits and see what I could achieve. My main inspiration was to recreate the feelings I had when watching cinematics from Blizzard and epic movies like The Lord of the Rings and even the storytelling rhythm of Dune.
Frozen Lands, created in Unreal Engine by Marc as part of the Real-time Virtual Production course
In the early stages, I was researching concept art to inspire some basic ideas I had on paper; then, I found the art of Arthur Yuan in ArtStation that helped me compose the last scene. The rest came from a mix of nature pictures, fantasy art concepts, and some movie inspiration.
Tell us a bit about your process for world building Frozen Lands in Unreal Engine?
Normally I like to block out the whole concept with basic shapes and primitives, frame all the shots, and see how the storyboard comes alive inside the engine.
In the beginning, I only had the first and last shot, so I started creating all the landscapes and mountains using Gaea. Afterward, I had to design a master material that allowed me to control all the technical aspects and therefore have more control on how to integrate all the different elements together (color control, alpha layers, and material blends).
Afterward, I started importing all the Quixel Megascan assets to populate the landscapes. Most of my time was invested in researching and creating all the different materials and functions that I needed to modify all those assets in order to have control of their properties and even add snow or convert them into ice.
Mountains from Frozen Lands
When most of this was ready, I modeled the gate and created the clothing for the last scene. The gate was blocked out in Maya, detailed in Zbrush, and textured in Substance Painter. For the character, I used a free Paragon’s model from the Marketplace, and the cape was designed and fully simulated in Marvelous Designer.
Lastly, I added the second scene: the wind and fog FX and the most important part - the lighting. Most of the cinematic feeling comes from it, so I really wanted to spend time understanding how to use it correctly.
During the post-production part, my brother jumped in to create all the sound design while I was editing the rendered videos and adding the last details.
You thanked CGS mentor, William Faucher, for his guidance while making The Frozen Lands. What is having a mentor like?
It was awesome! We connected straight away, and he made the Q&As very dynamic and interesting. William is a very talented mentor who has no problem sharing his vision, constructive criticism, and passion when talking about any single aspect of the project. The fact that he has a photography background and wide technical Unreal Engine knowledge makes his guidance very creative and instructive, and his feedback makes it a very complete experience.
He helped me a lot in terms of framing the shots, art direction, and lighting - stuff you don’t find online or in books but only with experience, practice, and love for what you do.
Marc's scene inspired by Arthur Yuan, created in Unreal Engine
What is something you learned so far that you were not expecting?
Something very important that I learned is how to manage my time well in order to achieve the results and quality I wanted to have within the limits of a deadline at the end of the term. Also, I wasn’t expecting some of the light theory, the technical tips for rendering, and the post-production tricks that replicate the cinematic camera feeling.
Something very important that I learned is how to manage my time well in order to achieve the results and quality I wanted to have within the limits of a deadline at the end of the term.
What career do you wish to pursue once you’ve finished your Real-Time 3D course at CG Spectrum?
Virtual Production Artist for cinema sets would be a very interesting way of merging my previous skills in events (technical set build-up) and the artistic approach I am learning now. But to be honest, I started to really look forward to becoming a Cinematic and Lightning artist for game companies.
Still from Frozen Lands
When you’re not building worlds in Unreal Engine, what do you get up to?
Climbing, playing music and festivals! Sometimes I also like to grab my camera and do some street and nature photography. Staying in nature and traveling it's always a very good way of escaping the digital era.
What advice would you give to someone starting the Real-Time 3D & Virtual Production Course?
To have an open-minded approach when starting the project and to properly do some research based on what they want to create. World building needs a lot of referencing, and any small or big cinematic always needs a nice storyboard. Spending time on the creative process during pre-production is always better than fixing things up late in the production stage.
What do you want to create next?
For the second term, I’d like to create an indoor cinematic inspired by Alien or maybe the second part of The Frozen Lands. Also, (fellow CGS student) Benjamin Oman and I are creating a very ambitious short movie/cinematic that we started together last year.
Still from Marc's Unreal Engine world building collaboration with fellow CGS student, Benjamin Oman
Hopefully, we will be able to finish it in the upcoming months. We will definitely let you know when it's ready!
[ED NOTE:] Since creating Frozen Lands and graduating from CG Spectrum, Marc landed himself a job at Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe), working as a 3D Real-Time/Lighting Artist!
Want to create captivating worlds like Marc’s The Frozen Lands?
You’ll learn how to create film-quality environments using world building, lighting, and camera techniques, and see how to apply these skills in the real world. You will also receive weekly personalized online feedback from industry-experienced mentors, to help guide and inspire you towards an exciting career in real-time. See where your skills can take you!
Shoshanah has almost a decade of visual effects production experience, coordinating VFX teams in Australia and London. Her credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, John Wick: Parabellum, Game of Thrones, and Christopher Robin. She now enjoys getting to write about the film and games industry.