Jono Sutton, 3D Environment Artist, trains Fieldwork staff in VR Headset use for engaging the public
8:00 - Arrive at the office. I have slowly splurged across a large chunk of the Studio space upstairs. I open the blinds, do a check through of emails, and compose a ‘good morning’ message for the Studio's collaborative online channel on Microsoft Teams.
Reconstructing a 15th Century Townhouse in VR
8:15 - Have a look at the to-do list. It’s long and daunting, but once I pick what to work on today, I don’t need to worry about the rest of it. On this example day, I have decided to create some barrel props for our current VR reconstruction - a 15th century townhouse. This particular VR is based on a Salisbury house on Endless Street. We've decided to make it a weaver's residence given how important Salisbury was to the cloth trade in the 15th century.
A work in progress shot of the 15th Century Townhouse Virtual Reality experience which Jono is currently working on
9:00 - By this point some more people have arrived in the office. We’re still far from being back up to full numbers, so by ‘some’ I mean 2 or 3. I’ve gathered together some references for the barrels. I’ll often send these over to Will, our 3D Modelling Lead, to check over, although I’ve become much better at working out what is a good reference and what is fantasy.
Ensuring historical accuracy in VR through extensive use of references and advise from our archaeological experts
The magic of VR…
9:30 - If I make it this far before having my morning coffee, I’m doing well. I now have everything planned out for today’s model. When I am reconstructing something in 3D, I try to keep these criteria in mind:
● Is it historically accurate?
● Does it look good?
● Is it simple enough to load in VR without causing lag?
● Can I re-use it in subsequent reconstructions?
When it comes to actually making the models, I do all of my modelling in Autodesk Maya, and I create my textures using the Substance packages.
Autodesk Maya modelling in action
12:30 - Lunchtime! People often wander over together to the Co-op. I don’t need anything but it’s nice to go for the fresh air and company, and the chance to pick up some reduced-price vegetables!
Refining the VR experience in Unreal game engine
Once I have an object modelled and I have prepared the textures to go onto the model, I need to assemble it all together in Unreal (the game engine in which we create our VR experiences).
In the case of the barrel, I’ve done some fancy work in Unreal’s material editor, which allows me to make additional tweaks - such as the size of the wood grain and where the dirt appears.
Texture mapping for 3D Barrel Reconstruction for 15th century Townhouse
Collaborating from afar
15:30: Tea break - a half hour ‘meeting’ to catch up with some of the other Studio members. We are all scattered in different parts of the UK, across Wessex Archaeology’s five regional offices, so this is a great way to get to know the rest of the team.
3D Barrel Model
17:00 - Now that the barrels are made, I can place them into the scene. They are going into the store room of the Medieval house. Then I am off home! A nice perk of the job is that my hours can be quite flexible. Today I am working slightly later so that I can take a longer lunch break tomorrow.
By Jono Sutton, 3D Environment Artist