2023-07-28 Metarex Creative Team

Amber tells us where the art comes from.

Amber Bardell @in

Making Rex, Insights from our Creative Team

Meet the creatives behind Rexy:

Amber Bardell is a multidisciplinary creative with a passion for tactile art techniques. You’ll often find them painting walls, or canvas. Their trusty iPad is the digital canvas where most of the MetaRex visual concepts begin.

Simi Zeko is a Graphic Designer who enjoys problem solving in many forms. Always looking for the next opportunity to try something new and explore what technology can bring to the process.

Creating Rexy, our endearing green dinosaur, has been a journey of innovation. As a pair, we have created a workflow that prioritises both of our strengths and feels quite natural to bring with us wherever we may be when remote working. So far, we have used Photogrammetry, virtual reality sculpting and AI powered animation. MetaRex has been an opportunity to explore how new ways of working can be integrated into the pipeline, making more room for the collaboration of our disciplines.

We wanted Rex to feel familiar and friendly, but with a slight edge that could scare other characters in her world when he gets protective of his metadata. The process of bringing her to life began with discussions and Amber’s sketches, usually digital but sometimes scrawled on paper scraps. In line with Amber’s penchant for tactile mediums, they initially modelled Rex in plasticine. Simi then used photogrammetry to create a 3D model and we worked together to adjust her shape to perfection using 3D software. As we’ve continued to develop our workflow, we’ve also been using VR to model the initial shapes of 3D assets. Rex is still a very young dinosaur, so expect to see some character development!

For the scenery, Amber usually makes a plan of the whole scene and then gets stuck right into individual assets. Their illustrative style for this project uses chunky black lines and bright, layered colours. Simi takes these digital drawings and starts mocking up a scene in Unreal Engine. This way, we can continually make adjustments and update the assets as much as we like, seeing how they interact with Rex and the environment as a whole.

Our concept for the visual style of the scenery is largely influenced by using 2D elements in a 3D space. We wanted to prioritise hand-drawn, painterly elements instead of making a photorealistic landscape, so we took inspiration from theatre. Thinking of our environmental assets as stage flats meant we could create a complex and interesting scene that feels playful, familiar, and gives a nod to the performing arts. We have married this simple approach with dynamic elements such as caustics and volumetric fog for more visual interest.

An important part of the project is being able to extract engine data from Unreal and pass it on to the MetaRex software developers for testing. We first created a custom component that tracks any chosen point or object. This location data per frame is then exported to a spreadsheet upon rendering the sequence. The component is flexible and can be adapted to track whatever data is required from an Unreal Engine sequence. We also use a post process material to create a custom stencil which adds transparency to the final output. A subtle numbered pattern is included to differentiate between objects as they overlap.

It is exciting to be using our strengths and constantly learning new things in this project, we look forward to sharing new test pattern scenes in the coming months!

To find out more about what [Amber] creates, head to www.amberbardell.com , check out @amberbardell on Instagram, or connect with them on LinkedIn .

Simi can be found at www.simizeko.com and keep up to date with his experiments at @simizeko on Instagram.