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Environment reflections (skybox vs skydome)

I'm having trouble getting the skybox to show in reflections. The SkyDome seems to work, but there is so little detail in the SkyDome that it doesn't do much for shiny reflective materials. So I tried adding a nice SkyBox, scaled it up so it surrounds the scene, and nothing shows up in the reflections. Then I added BOTH a SkyDome and a SkyBox and it seems to work better, but it's hard to figure out what is affecting what. Are there any sample scenes, tutorials, documentation, resident experts...? My materials are using the default level of .3 for the environment input. Any help would be much appreciated. Right now our models are looking bland once imported into the Vortex scene.


Best Answer

Reflections are somewhat recent in the development of Vortex, being introduced in release 6.7 (2016). They are still limited in their use, being able to reflect only the sky (box or dome), but we're slowly adding to their functionalities with each release. The snapping back and forth is low-priority for a fix since it's unlikely that both Skydome and Skybox will be used in the same scene, but it's in the queue.

 

To get more details from your Skydome, have you tried using the Custom Clouds option? This provides more choices of clouds, many of which are more complex and would probably show up better. You could experiment with the time of day, see if changing the color and angle of the light provide any improvement.

 

You could also forego the Skydome altogether and replace it with a detailed Skybox coupled with a Directional Light and an Ambient Light (both at around 0.7-0.8 Intensity). In the image below I've dropped our excavator sample into a low-resolution generic skybox texture, but you see what's possible with a non-PBR shader. Both window and hydraulic cylinder materials are set at 1.0 Reflectivity.


image

 

What are you using reflections for? Cars, machinery? Knowing this would help us make suggestions and perhaps guide our development efforts.



Hmmm so it appears this might be a UI issue because as you can see the skybox is reflecting in this full gloss model.

image


Yes I know my skybox is screwed up, but this is just for testing.


The problem I'm having is if I rotate my view using middle mouse button, the environment is snapping back and forth between what appears to be the Skydome and the Skybox. 


image


So I thought, I should get rid of the SkyDome so there isn't this conflict. But then it just turns completely BLACK with zero reflections:


image


So what is the proper way to set up the Vortex scene so that we can have a SkyDome or SkyBox with enough detail to make reflections look good? Is there some component I have to add to get the reflections to show up using a standard skybox? Or is there a way to get nice clouds and details into the SkyDome component?


This forum software is awesome, BTW. I love being able to drag images into the posts.

Answer

Reflections are somewhat recent in the development of Vortex, being introduced in release 6.7 (2016). They are still limited in their use, being able to reflect only the sky (box or dome), but we're slowly adding to their functionalities with each release. The snapping back and forth is low-priority for a fix since it's unlikely that both Skydome and Skybox will be used in the same scene, but it's in the queue.

 

To get more details from your Skydome, have you tried using the Custom Clouds option? This provides more choices of clouds, many of which are more complex and would probably show up better. You could experiment with the time of day, see if changing the color and angle of the light provide any improvement.

 

You could also forego the Skydome altogether and replace it with a detailed Skybox coupled with a Directional Light and an Ambient Light (both at around 0.7-0.8 Intensity). In the image below I've dropped our excavator sample into a low-resolution generic skybox texture, but you see what's possible with a non-PBR shader. Both window and hydraulic cylinder materials are set at 1.0 Reflectivity.


image

 

What are you using reflections for? Cars, machinery? Knowing this would help us make suggestions and perhaps guide our development efforts.


(Forgot to mention that since only the Skybox is reflected, the reflections are missing the yellow and black components that should come from the excavator parts.)

Very cool! Once I dropped in the Ambient Light component in the SkyBox scene the reflections snapped on. In fact, they stayed on even after I removed that component which I thought was odd, but as long as we can get it working that's what is important.


Good to know that using 1.0 in the environment input is okay.


So now I can use either the SkyDome or the SkyBox and get reflections that look good (yes, turning on clouds in the SkyDome was the key to get that component looking good. I missed that option before).


We are making vehicles so they have chrome parts like bumpers, fog-light housings, exhaust pipes, traction plates, wheel rims, glossy body paint, trim, trailer hitches. And we typically use one or two texture maps for the entire vehicle so the glossy/specular texture maps are key to having a variety of materials in a single Vortex material. We really don't know yet what impact this will have on performance.


For our purposes, the goal is just for shiny parts to "look shiny" so we don't have a need for reflection probes, self reflections or real-time reflections. Reflecting the SkyDome / SkyBox is sufficient.


One thing that would be useful is to be able to see clouds or use a custom skybox in the Vortex Studio Graphics Gallery viewport where we import models and create/apply materials since that is the first place we see our model in-engine and where the artists are consistently thrown off by the lack of "shininess" (really just a lack of anything to reflect).


The glitch with the SkyDome/SkyBox conflicting with each other is a non-issue now that I know how to enable the reflections with just the SkyBox in the scene.


Many thanks and have a great day!

Starting from release 2017b (very soon!), a checkerboard will be available as default environment map for reflection in the Graphics Gallery. Eventually it would be useful to allow people to load custom maps, too -- if we get enough requests it will happen. 


image



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So we would have the SkyDome with the sun to see specular highlights and then toggle to the checkerboard to see something in the reflections. That should help a lot! Looking forward to 2017b!

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