Getting Started with World Creator and Octane
This brief guide covers usage tips for the World Creator OTOY Black Friday Special 2022.2.1 edition. This version is a fully operational version of World Creator. It is different from the World Creator for Octane release (that version can export an ORBX file only — maps are not exportable in that version — and is best used with Octane Standalone.)
World Creator literally puts the power of creation directly into your hands. With a dizzying array of tools and presets, you can get working immediately. For an in-depth exploration of World Creator’s many features, please see this link: https://www.world-creator.com/tutorials.html and the World Creator Discord channel.
World Creator uses a variety of procedural shaders to generate terrain models of varying densities; these shaders can be set to export image texture maps to get similar results in Octane and other DCC applications. This is a very powerful toolset capable of producing almost any sort of natural terrain imaginable, whether terrestrial or other worldly.
Using this Guide
The purpose of this brief guide is to help get you up to speed using the World Creator OTOY Black Friday edition with Cinema 4D and OctaneRender®. This guide is divided into two sections: first, we visited with prolific environmental artist Aaron Westwood, from Sydney, Australia. You can see much of Aaron’s breathtaking work here: https://www.artstation.com/aaronwestwood
The World Creator team approached Aaron to do a promotional film for the launch of World Creator 3. The result was an amazing short film entitled, “I AM” which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwNaoD90UJo
“I AM” showcases Word Creator, OctaneRender and Speed Tree, among others. The project took Aaron approximately 18 months, off and on. He walked us through his process, offering many tips along the way. What follows is the result of that conversation.
Second, we provide a mini-tutorial employing some of the techniques that Aaron describes in our chat, with some examples from Cinema 4D and Octane, using the Island preset from World Creator.
Aaron starts with a concept or series of concepts and references he’s gathered. For “I AM” Aaron’s brother Caleb produced a variety of concepts, which you can see here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/NGzv4q
Start with a Plan
You can definitely experiment and work out what you want to make while zooming around in World Creator, that's such a fun element of it! But from that point, always use reference, for everything, and always have a plan before heading into Cinema.
Understand your visual goals and get a feel for your shots. Putting together storyboards and mockups (if animation is the goal) is essential so you don’t waste time. The clearer your ideation is at this point the better.
A shot plan will help you determine your foreground, midground and background needs, and how to break up the environment into set pieces (we will discuss this in the following sections).
Making His World
Aaron then begins to work in World Creator, exploring ideas, trying new things, and consulting his references, everything that leads him to his ultimate goal. He knows that he will break down the environment into set pieces once he is working in Cinema 4D, and he plans accordingly. Once he is happy with the results in World Creator, he exports his maps using the Export Panel.
Exporting World Creator Maps
Aaron does not directly use the geometry created by World Creator, nor does he use the exported ORBX file — instead, he exports the maps that generate the landscape information in World Creator. He uses a combination of Octane’s Texture Displacement and Cinema 4D primitives and deformers to rebuild everything in Cinema to be rendered in Octane. He uses 32bit TIFF files at 4K or 8K resolution, optimal for great Texture Displacement results in Octane.
Roughing in the Landscape using Octane Displacement
Aaron will start with a plane object and apply an Octane Universal material to it. and set that material up with a Displacement node, using the exported height map from World Creator. World Creator uses meters as the base scale and Cinema 4D uses centimeters, so Aaron makes the conversion. Once this is done, it’s time to set up the proxy geometry.
Creating Proxy Geometry in Cinema 4D
To navigate in the scene itself, as well as to line up shots, animation and set up lighting, Aaron creates proxy geometry in Cinema — he starts with a plane and applies a Displacer modifier to it. He then adds the same Height map that he exports from World Creator and adds that map to the Displacer modifier. He sets the Renderer Visibility of the proxy geometry to OFF, so that it does not render in Octane.
He sets the Height attributes of both the Material Displacement node and the Displacer modifier on the proxy object to the same value, so that they both match.
Note that the Displacer modifier should be set to Type - Intensity (Centered) to match the results from the Octane Displacement node.
Importance of the Proxy Object
The proxy object’s use is necessary for composition of the shots and animation, as Octane’s displacements are only visible in the Live Viewer and final renders. Creating the proxy gives Aaron the control he needs and literally grounds everything in three dimensional space. But the proxy object is not limited to lighting and composition alone. It also serves an invaluable service with scatter objects, and detailed closeup set pieces, too.
Because the proxy object and the material applied to the plane both use the same height map and same height values, the proxy will always match in size and location to the Octane object.
As a result, Aaron can use the proxy object(s) to also assist with Scatters and for close ups, as you can only push Texture Displacements so far before the effect is revealed if you get too close.
The proxy method works as a base for scattering details (and helps save valuable VRAM resources!) For this, Aaron duplicates the proxy mesh and makes it editable, so that the individual polygons can be selected. He selects ONLY the portions needed for the scatter and deletes any unnecessary polygons. This method results in precision control, placing the scatter objects exactly where he wants them. No wasted clones and gives complete viewport feedback for the scatters, as opposed to relying exclusively on Live Viewer.
Foreground Section of Proxy used for Close Up, circled in red
Pulling it All Together
As mentioned earlier, these separate set pieces are typically planned for while working in World Creator, and then executed in Cinema 4D. He artfully dresses the blended areas with scatters and various scene details, and uses that plus clever camera angles to disguise and blend tells.
Getting the Shot
Aaron’s method evolved from a preference of working “in-camera,” with no reliance on compositing. He lights the scene in Cinema 4D using Octane and Live Viewer. Because of the way that he builds his environments, and the performance of Octane, he can work quickly — thus mimicking the “in-camera” experience. He approaches everything live, like a photographer in the real world would have to do. That means no Z depth, no reflection passes, no AOVS, and so on. This pushes him to “get it right in the render.”
The next section will provide a practical illustration of Aaron’s method
World Creator Process Mini Tutorial
In this section, we will elaborate on Aaron’s process, using the following example, taken from the Island preset in World Creator. For review, here the the basic steps he uses:
- Export Maps from World Creator
- Set Map Precision for Output
- Choose Map Export Format
- Choose Map Export Bit Depth
- Set Up Objects in Cinema 4D
- Create Plane Object
- Create Viewport Proxy Object
- Add Displacer Modifier to Proxy Object
- Create Octane Materials using World Creator Image Textures
- Create Universal Material
- Add World Creator Maps to appropriate Channels
- Add Height Map to Displacement Channel
Island Preset as seen in the World Creator Application
Export Maps from World Creator
The export functions in World Creator are managed through the panel on the right of the World Creator window, shown in the following image:
Main World Creator User Interface
Set Precision Output — Global Settings
The default Precision settings in World Creator will produce low resolution textures when exporting. To increase the resolution, go to the Global panel and choose the desired value from the Precision drop down. 1/4 Meter produces maps with a resolution of 8192 x 8192, for example. This is a good size for typical uses. All other settings in the Global panel can remain as they are, unless you have a specific need to adjust them.
Global Precision Setting in World Creator
Choose the Export Format and Bit Depth
The format and bit depth of the exported images are managed via the Export Settings panel, shown below:
Settings Panel for Exported Images
The settings shown in the image reference the method prescribed by Aaron Westwood, which is TIFF format and 32 bit float values. In addition, the Flip X and Flip Y toggles are enabled, to compensate for the coordinate system used by Cinema 4D.
Set Up Objects in Cinema 4D
World Creator environments are always planar at the base level, and modified by topology shaders, paint maps and so on. This means that you don’t need to bother exporting any specific geometry (unless from a material library, of course.) Instead, this guide will use Displacements to recreate the environments, using exported World Creator maps.
Create a Plane Object
It doesn’t get any easier: start off with a simple Plane object in Cinema 4D, with default settings. Set the overall Width and Height values to match the values in World Creator.
Note: World Creator units are in meters; Cinema 4D units are in centimeters, so plan accordingly.
Settings of the Plane object used in this example
Don’t forget to add the Octane Object tag to the plane object.
Create the Viewport Proxy Object
The Viewport Proxy object is what you will use to light your environment, line up your shots and form the basis of any scatter objects or cloners you wish to add to the scene. This object is for interaction only, not rendering. (You may wish to duplicate this object again for close up sections or more precise scatter control.)
Proxy Object Render Visibility Settings
Set the Proxy object to Render Visibility Off in the Basic tab of the Proxy Object Attributes panel. Duplicate the Plane Object and name it Proxy or Viewport.
Add the Displacer Modifier
Add a Displacer Modifier to the proxy, and then add the Height Map to the Displacer Modifier and set its value to match that of World Creator (and keep in mind the unit conversion). We will set the Displacement node of our Octane material to the same value, so everything matches.
Displacer Modifier Settings
Set the Type of the map as Intensity (Centered). This will cause the displacement to occur on both the positive and negative Y axis of the plane, as it would also be in World Creator.
Viewport Proxy object with Displacer Modifier, using the Height Map from World Creator
Create the Materials
For this example, we will create two different materials: an Octane material for the rendered landscape object, and a Cinema 4D material to be used in the viewport — this is optional, as it will not affect the final rendering, so feel free to skip this step.
Cinema 4D Material for Proxy Object
This is simply a standard Cinema 4D material with the Color Map exported from World Creator applied to the Texture slot of the material. This material is then applied to the proxy object to aid in overall scene planning.
Island Preset rebuilt with World Creator maps in and a native C4D material for viewing in Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D Material with Color Map applied
Octane Universal Material and Displacement Node
Create an Octane Universal material and apply it to the plane. In this case, a color correction node was added. Set up the displacement node to match the results in World Creator, as shown in this image:
Main Island Material in Octane Node Editor
Add the appropriate maps and connect them to the proper inputs on the Universal Material. Make sure that the image Type of each texture is set appropriately to make the most of available VRAM. The Image Texture node defaults to Normal and most of the textures used in this material are Floats.
The Displacement node Type is set to Texture Displacement; the Mid Level is set to 0 and Level of Detail is set to Follow Smoothed Normal.
That is all that is needed for the island itself. Next up is the Ocean object.
Create the Ocean
We are going to create the ocean as a cylinder object and apply a material that will have depth and sub-surface scattering. The following settings were used for the Water object in this guide:
Cylinder Settings for Water Object
Please the water object in the scene, using the Live Viewer as a guide. Don’t forget to add the Octane Object tag to the Cylinder.
Create the Water Material
For the water material, create a Specular material, with BRDF set to GGX (energy preserving) and apply the material to the cylinder.
Ocean Water Material in Octane Node Editor
To create the murky ocean look, we are going to start with a Random Walk medium node connected to the Medium pin of the material. The settings for the example in this guide are as shown in the following image:
Random Walk Settings for the Water Material
Activate the Live Viewer and play around with the values to get the look you want. In this case, we went with a Density of 0.001 and a Volume Step Length of 10 (for speed).
For the Albedo, connect an RGB Spectrum node set to an unsaturated, darker blue, as shown in the following image:
Albedo Color for the Random Walk Node
The Bias value is pushed towards the back, to play up the murkiness while still revealing the seascape below the waterline.
Set up the Transmission
To impart a bluish tint to the water volume, add some cyan color to the Transmission channel of the material:
Add Cyan to the Transmission Color
Set up the Surface Bump of the Ocean
To finalize the Ocean material, add an Octane Noise Generator node to the Bump input pin of the material. Experiment with the values. For the image in this guide, the values in the following image were used:
Octane Noise Generator Settings
To get the desired look for the surface of the ocean, the bump effect was scaled down to 0.005.
Lighting the Scene
In this example, lighting was accomplished with an Octane Sky Object used as a Visible Environment (with all flags enabled) using an HDR sky image from a commercial library.
Octane HDRI Environment Settings
Octane Daylight Object
An Octane Daylight object is used for main scene illumination. The Type is set to Primary Environment. The Power setting was increased to 1.5 to make the scene a little brighter. North Offset was adjusted, as was the object’s orientation in the scene by adjusting the Heading and Pitch values of the object (not shown). The Hosek Wilkie daylight model was chosen, and the sun color was adjusted accordingly.
Daylight Tag Main Settings
For some aerial haze in the scene, The Enable Medium toggle was enabled, and the following attributes were adjusted as shown in the image.
Daylight Tag Medium Settings
Octane Camera Settings
Add an Octane Camera to the scene with the following settings. The exposure was set to 2 and the response was set to Linear, as this scene was rendered via the ACES/OCIO pipeline, described in the documentation here:
Octane Camera Settings for Island Scene
Tying it All Together
The Live Viewer result is seen in the following image. Overall, the amount of time it takes to get to this point is about 20- 30 minutes after the maps have been exported from World Creator (and not allowing for artistic experimentation).
Final Output of the Island Scene from World Creator in OctaneRender for Cinema 4D
Other scenes would have some differences in approach based on content, but this simplistic example forms the basis of the technique that Aaron Westwood has described. Because all of the geometry is generated within Cinema 4D and Octane using the texture maps exported from World Creator, the results are true to the original, with the additional level of Octane’s unbiased photorealism added to the mix.
Of course, Aaron uses many aspects of Cinema 4D in his work, including fields for controlling scatters, the effectors to drive the scatters (random effectors, shader effectors and plain effectors), sculpting brushes for the foreground and midground terrains. Aaron will also model buildings and rooms as/if needed, and will use particle simulations for leaves, raindrops and so on. He also uses the Wind deformer for static foliage from Quixel assets. You can see all of these at play in “I AM.”
Wrapping it Up
Thank you for reviewing this guide to getting started with the World Creator OTOY Black Friday Edition. We hope that you enjoyed the discussion with Aaron Westwood and the Cinema 4D and Octane mini-tutorial using his method. We are looking forward to seeing what you can do!
Many Thanks to Aaron Westwood
We want to extend our thanks to Aaron for taking the time to discuss his methods with us, and allowing us to share with you.
Thank you for choosing Octane!
This guide is ©2022 OTOY, Inc. All rights reserved. Imagery and Application trademarks are owned by their respective owners.