Written by Sam Bugden, Technical Artist, Geomerics
One really exciting feature of Enlighten 3 is the introduction of our brand new lighting editor and pipeline tool, Forge. In this post we’ll take a brief look at what Forge actually is, how it works and what it means for Enlighten users.
What is Enlighten Forge?
Forge is a brand new lighting editor which ships with the Enlighten 3 SDK and has been specifically developed for the needs of both Enlighten artists and integration engineers. For artists, it provides an immediate ‘out of the box’ experience of Enlighten, and instantly demonstrates the impact our advanced lighting technology can have on development workflows and overall content quality. For integration engineers, Forge serves as a model example and practical reference for integrating Enlighten’s key features into any in-house engine and editor.
Getting Started with Forge
Once successfully downloaded and installed, Forge is immediately ready to start importing your assets for lighting. To do this, Forge provides plug-ins for both Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya with a simple set of scripts which allow you to add, edit and update objects within your scenes directly. The following image shows the Maya plug-in scripts and tools which currently ship and install alongside Forge:
The Forge user interface is comprised of six main components:
- Menus and toolbars
- Provides full access to all the major tool operations. The icon toolbar buttons enable an intuitive and convenient means of accessing the most commonly used features within Forge.
- Scene mark-up panel
- Allows you to quickly and easily tweak the Enlighten scene configurations, which are used to determine how your assets should be lit.
- Scene manager
- Displays and describes the objects and hierarchical structure of the current scene. You can either view this information in a flat view which allows you to select and sort objects based on various column categories and types, or in a hierarchical view which shows how Forge exposes the scene model to Enlighten.
- Displays all rendered scene objects and HUD icons/elements. Situated directly above the viewport window are the viewport management buttons, which allow you to visualize and control your scene camera view in a variety of different ways.
- Object properties panel
- Displays, defines and allows modification of parameters and behaviours for the currently selected scene nodes (where applicable).
- The material editor
- Contains all creating, editing and applying of materials within Forge. The editor itself is primarily divided into two user views; the scene view and the library view. These views either allow you to work with the materials and textures currently loaded in your scene, or access a range of pre-authored (‘pre-set’) library materials, ready for your own convenience.
Lighting with Forge
Forge provides two very easy methods for creating and editing the lighting for your scenes. This has been specifically designed with the intention to give you the flexibility to use a workflow which best suits your own personal preferences and needs.
Firstly, there are a variety of industry standard light types available within Forge which allow full light authoring to occur exclusively within the application itself once your assets have been added. Secondly, if you already have an existing light rig set up within one of your supported content creation tools, you can simply add them directly into Forge using the provided plugins.
Another really useful feature which Forge provides is the ability to import and export the lighting configurations you have set up for your scenes. This is particularly useful for defining certain lighting conditions or environments and then simply exporting them out, ready to be imported and shared across any and all of your other levels/scenes.
Next-Gen Viewport Previewing
In order to ensure a consistent and high quality visual experience, Forge uses industry standard physically based shading and rendering. Physically based shading (PBS) simulates the interaction between materials and lights in a way that allows us to more easily create realistic looking materials that maintain their properties under a variety of lighting conditions.
Forge ships with a ready to use library of PBS materials with the intention of allowing you to immediately get your assets up and running with the full physically based Enlighten experience within Forge. When you add a new asset into your scene, Forge will inspect any existing materials and textures it may have applied and try to create a new PBS material version within the Material Editor for you. This newly created material is then applied to your asset, with (where appropriate) direct mappings to any discovered texture paths.
Full Control of Enlighten
The Enlighten runtime requires a certain amount of mark-up and an offline processing step, referred to as the precompute, before it can create dynamic global illumination. The Enlighten Wizard will lead you through the mark-up process, finishing with the precompute options. By completing all steps of the wizard, you should have a scene that responds correctly to all lighting environments.
Once you have imported your assets into Forge and configured some scene lighting you are now ready to run through the scene mark-up phase. To do this simply open the Enlighten Wizard situated within the Enlighten toolbar and follow the steps as instructed.
We have lots of new and exciting features planned for Forge, so make sure you keep up to date with all the latest Enlighten SDK updates and releases! Some of the key new features planned for future releases of Forge include:
- Full light-map baking
- Provides the option for your awesome Enlighten configurations to be baked out as useable light-maps.
- Exporting of run-time data
- Will help to make the Enlighten integration into your custom engines and editors even easier!
- More advanced properties and options
- Provides even more user controlled options and scene data details to help make complex scene debugging quick and easy!
- Further polish and improvements
- We shall be continuing to improve and refine the overall user experience of Forge.