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Photo Scene Observations


#1

For this thread, I’m going to try and make a comprehensive list of things that I think work well or don’t look good in photo scenes. It will mostly be focused on lighting and usability/versatility for photos. I might throw a few ideas out there along the way but nothing like “oh you should build a gas station on this road.” This may come off overly critical than what is reasonable to fix but its still better to have it out there. Also, while I have limited experience with UE4, I don’t know all of the terminology so I apologize in advance if some things I suggest don’t make sense or have performance issues etc.

To start off for reference, here is a photo album of all the scenes with default settings (besides aperture and moving the car out of weird shadows in a couple cases): https://www.flickr.com/photos/155409293@N02/albums/72157711492512197
The car used has paint with no saturation and 0.5 brightness and shininess.

Pics will all have default settings unless stated otherwise.


80s Design Room

This is one of the better photo scenes. The main room has good reflections, default exposure, and lights the car pretty realistically within the scene. If I were to change anything, it would be nice to get a bit darker shadows underneath the car and reduce the shininess of the hardwood floor a bit to look more like the material. Especially by the rear of the car in this shot the car looks a bit cut out and pasted into the scene, but overall it looks good.

I remember the garage area being a pain to work on so some of this stuff is probably already known. The main thing that sticks out is the room has a strong yellow cast on everything but the floor looks like its lit up with blueish lights and I don’t see where those blue lights are coming from. The yellow-lit car against the blue-lit floor looks weird.


(same neutral grey car from the flickr album)

Maybe the blue is supposed to be daylight from the window, but it is present on the garage door side too. Also again the shadows are barely there but I remember that being hard to fix last time.


Black Mirror

Yeah this scene is dark. There is only one light directly above and the mirror floor doesn’t reflect anything back up so the bottom third of the car is in almost complete darkness. There is some weird blocky shadows that show up on the sides of most cars here too.

I think this scene needs a filler light of some sort, maybe a low intensity skylight or something just to give the bottom half of the car a little more light. It can still be more heavily lit from the top. Also I think the floor should have a little texture besides the planar reflection to hide the lower resolution of the reflection and make it less awkward to cut off the reflection in the composition of some pics. Just some mild bumps and scratches etc. It can still look like a mirror.

There is a big light that is reflected on the car but isn’t visible in the scene and the rest of the car looks kinda flat. Is there a way you use a reflection map or something to bring some subtle details to the reflections on the car other than blown-out white? In real life the car wouldn’t exist in a void unless it was a render. (That probably made more sense in my head).

I’m sure its way easier said than done, but this pic has some smooth reflections from the lighting.

This has exposure set to 3 to demonstrate the wonky shadows and darkness on the bottom.


Dark Mirror

This one is not as bad as Black Mirror. Because of the grey floor, the car has a lot of that grey reflecting on it so the car looks like it is engulfed in fog. I think it could use the same help with the reflections as the Black Mirror scene to help the car not look so flat. Again I think the floor could use a bit of texture to look more like a real floor.

Personal taste, but I think a darker shade of grey would work better. The light grey is high contrast with the black background and it takes away attention from the car a bit.

A real quick and dirty photoshop to show a darker floor:

Maybe the floor texture could be like a more subtle version of this?


I got started on this later than I thought so I’ll have to pick it up tomorrow. Feel free to ask anything if I’m not explaining things well.


#2

About time someone went into detail about this, happy it was Chickenbiscuit. It’s almost like every photo scene is a different person’s take on how the lighting should be, none of them really share style with each other


#3

White Mirror

This scene is pretty good. I don’t have much to say about it. Some cars look too bright by default but that’s nothing to hard to adjust for with the photo controls.

The only real problem with this scene is how the engine and chassis etc. somehow end up in the reflection on the car.


Industrial Canal

A lot of people really like these scenes, but imo the lighting is kinda rough. Cars tend to look a little dark within the scene. While dark shadows are kinda hard to come by, these look a tad too dark and with the reflections it makes the car look too flat. The shadows have a weird purple hue to them. It works well enough for sunset shots but not during the day like this. I’m gonna skip the day/night cycle vs fixed talk here. I don’t expect it to look as good as the 10s design room but it can be much better than it is currently.

The scene looks kinda hazy to me in general. Its especially noticeable when you increase the exposure to try and brighten up the car (exposure set to 1.5 below).

Setting the cloud density to 0 helps with the colors, but im not sure why the clouds would make the scene more reddish purple when the sky still looks blue with full cloud cover.

I think the bridge would be a great spawn point if it had a better texture on it. It is hard to coax the car up onto the bridge, but once you do, its like a new photo scene.


(Just a location example, not lighting. I don’t remember the settings used.)

Some parts of the chassis sometimes shoots out a black line out from under the car if they are visible to the camera. Here is inside the car with the exposure turned up to see the aluminum chassis bugging out. I’ve seen the steel chassis do this too.

The geometry of car bodies are visible with lighter colors. Its noticeable here between the headlight and front fender.

When headlight glass material is faced away from the sun, it turns black like this. You can also see more of the car geometry and the purple hue of the shadows.

Night is pitch black by default. While “video game night” where things are still lit but dark blue is unrealistic, this scene’s night is pretty unusable without some experimenting.

This is what it looks like with the time of day set closer to the morning and exposure set to 9. Not everyone knows you can type in values for these sliders (not all sliders in the game allow that) so its not good to have to rely on that. There is still the issue of the dark headlights here and the moon is extremely bright.


ColourKey

The color key scene reflects green onto cars so it is hard to use for photoshop purposes. Instead of a physically green scene, is there a way to mask out the car in game like how motion blur works so there is no actual green ground affecting the lighting on the car? Any way do only have generic outdoor or indoor lighting on the car would make this scene more useful.


Small Factory

This is one of the most versatile scenes in the game. Any one picture isn’t usually as pretty as the newer scenes with the detailed reflections, but there are a ton of locations and lighting settings to work with. The forest road in particular is nice to play around with the shadows of the trees and set up interesting lighting conditions.

One of the most glaring issues with the scene is the lense flares everywhere reflections on the car are totally white. Small Factory is the only scene that does this. I wouldn’t mind if the lens flare setting could do this, but the only to remove them now is to try and find a sweet spot with the camera to avoid it. This can be a nightmare with highly detailed or chrome heavy cars. I set cloud density to 0 for most of these pics.


(kachow)

The highway area has great potential, especially for a day/night cycle scene, but it could be a lot easier to work with with the road on the ground and a higher resolution ground texture that doesn’t have those color splotches. This isn’t totally necessary, but I think some rocks/shrubbery along the side of the road around the spawn point rear would go a long way to make this area more realistic.

Clear skies during the day looks very blue. It has that late 90s/early 00s action movie color grading look to it. The color of the shadows seem to have a very different hue from the sky. I’m not sure if they are supposed to be similar but they don’t seem to match the sky imo.

The smaller plants along the forest road don’t react to the time of day the same way the tress do. They look too bright under shadow and night.

This is pretty minor but there is a few hours in the morning and evening that bring in some fog even though the fog is turned off. This doesn’t particularly get in the way of anything but its there.

Cars do look kinda flat in this scene and I’m not sure how that would be fixed, but it is still much better than what the scene looked like before. I’m not know if this is helpful but I have similar pictures to compare different versions of the scene.


(A previous version of Small Factory)


(Current version with similar settings)

Xeno pointed out in discord the texture of the pavement looks less detailed than it used to.


#4

Huge Factory

Huge Factory is…huge, and it seems to get a lot of use, but some issues keep me from using it personally. The biggest issue is that there is a weird blurry bloom effect that blows out the sky, makes glares on the car stand out more, and generally makes it hard to expose for the car without messing up the background. Not sure if that bloom effect is to blame, but the car seems under lit for the scene and pictures look too contrasty by default. The bloom is most noticeable along the tops of the buildings here.

Here the exposure was set to 1.72 and the sun was directly behind the camera to get the car to look the same-ish color as in the design room. Cars also fall into the pavement a little in some sections. It happens when you move the car to the next intersection in either direction from the Intersection spawn point for example.

When zooming out, it looks like some of the pavement has some z-fighting or something going on.

I think one of the building textures is missing. You can see through some of the buildings. Also with cloud density at 0, the sky looks kinda turquoise.

Personal taste again, but phew this moon is huge. It doesn’t have to be a realistic size but this is extreme imo. I noticed there are lines going across the moon here and in the canal scene.

Its kinda hard to judge the lighting further while the bloom thing is still around so I’ll stop there.


Sea of Information

This scene is rad. Not much to pick apart about it, but I wish the chromatic aberration was adjustable. The only thing you can do right now is indirectly affect it with the focal length.

I think this scene could benefit from a few different color schemes in the future.


Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye is a very pretty scene, but imo is under utilized right now. The spawn area overlooks a vast valley with roads winding through it in one direction, and comparatively flat looking hills in the other direction. The sun is very strong and directional, so when it is in front of the camera, most of the car is in shadow and it can be hard to expose for. Because the sun is out towards the valley, the nicest scenery from the spawn area has the hardest lighting angle to use imo, while the less interesting backdrop has better lighting.


nice lighting, boring scene


dark lighting, pretty scene (same mostly default settings)

Steel material looks too dark in this scene.

The map is huge with a lot of roads, but a lot of them aren’t usable with the plants not cleared out of the way. It would allow people to take a much greater variety of shots with more road to work with.

While I know its much harder to do a day/night cycle, I don’t see much improvement over the lighting here than the small factory and I think it would be a great candidate for one if you are considering adding it to any more scenes. If not, would a reflection capture (or stronger reflections) around the spawn area help at all?


Canyon

Ok this one I’ve barely used at all so I’m coming in with fresh eyes. With the sun behind the camera, this scene looks pretty good. It seems like parts of the car in shadow are barely lit at all but it still has reflections, so it comes out as very shiny and dark on the other side.

This happened while I was checking out the scene. This might be related to the dark shadows.

Steel looks too dark from many angles again, but its not as bad as some other scenes (maybe its a material problem as well as a lighting problem?)

Besides that, the locations are great and the time of day is good for the scene. A sunset version would be very fitting for a desert scene in the future.


#5

Nineties Studio

Yikes. I’ll talk about this one later with the modern studio. I think y’all know this ain’t right already.


Modern Studio

This scene is pretty good. The only main issue is the car looks under lit in the scene. You can turn up the exposure but you’ll lose the shadows and the background becomes solid white, which is ok if that is what you are going for, but we already have White Mirror for that kind of scene and seeing the slight gradient makes it look like an actual studio shoot.


0.5 exposure


1.5 exposure

I think this scene would work a lot better if there is a way to illuminate the car a little more without changing how the scene is lit too much or messing up reflections. Maybe that could be as easy as turning up the brightness of the lights a tad and lowering the brightness of the color of the backdrop a bit for more of an off-white. Here is a quick photoshop taking the 1.5 exposure car onto the 0.5 exposure scene.


1.5 exposure car in a 0.5 exposure scene

Edit: I forgot about this gif. There is some auto exposure going on in this scene that might be messing with things a bit

Nineties studio should just be rebuilt based on this scene when it is fixed imo.


About the colors:

Its been briefly mentioned a few times that if you were to do multiple color scenes, it should be part of the ui to change the color of the backdrop and not really done as a separate scene for each color as I understand it, but I’m a little confused how that would work. Each color would affect the baked lighting and basically need to be a separate scene accessed a different way from the others right? (I have limited knowledge in this though so I could be wrong). Different studio colors would be huge since a lot of marketing shots would use something like this.

If there is a technical problem keeping you from implementing studio colors, what if you set up 4 different colored studios within the same scene and had a spawn point for each color? They can all face away from each other to avoid reflections bleeding in from different colors. Would that be too much impact on performance? Even just 2 in one scene and maybe pairing similar colors together would work if that runs better. Nineties studio and modern studio are very similar to each other (in theory) and would probably make sense to be in the same scene.


10s Design Room

This is the best all around scene in the game so far imo. Its not perfect, but it seems very well optimized and detailed. It has a variety of good spots for a photo. This might already be known, but the design room is a little too dark in the car designer compared to the photo mode version.


Photo mode default exposure


Car designer

I know I’m veering into more personal opinion, but I’ve been shot down before when the scene was released and I’m not alone in thinking this. The reflection quality is very nice in this scene, but they are just a little too present on the cars to the point where it is distracting to design on the car imo. It also makes it more difficult to photograph darker cars when the reflections get noisy.


From the car designer

I’m not trying to base this opinion off of how it looks compared to the photo scenes with minimal reflections. It really doesn’t look bad, but imo it could be scaled back like 20% or something.


Using a color close to wood that the reflections wouldn’t stand out as much with as an example of ideal conditions for these reflections.

The reflection capture seems to reach far out into the lawn giving the reflections of the ceiling on inside the building still.

I don’t know if this road is supposed to be usable or is just background scenery, but there are a few spots where it is a different color (the car has grass reflections instead of the road too.)


This is more of a general observation than for the 10s design room alone. It seems like there is a lack of contact shadows or something whenever the car is already in shadow from the sun. Is there any way to get a bit more shadow under the car in places like this to give it more visual weight and fit into the scene better? Should there be any shadow there? Here’s a couple examples:


Small Factory actually does have some but it looks a little too soft.


And that’s a wrap. I hope this is helpful. I got pretty nitpicky with some stuff so I don’t expect everything to be fixed :sweat_smile: . Some of this I’m sure is easier to judge when you have the settings in front of you to see what they do or when multiple issues are related to each other, so I might be off on some suggestions.


#6

In addition to nineties studio, here’s an observation:

Properly working reflections only appear if the camera is fairly far away from the car either physically or zoomed out.

Far away from the car (epic graphics, 100% resolution scale):

Camera zoomed in: