I recently competed in a competition for Kitbash3D’s Mission to Minerva challenge. I’ve never actually worked professionally in photorealism or CGI before but I figured I could learn along the way during the competition. Honestly the prizes for the competition were pretty modest, the grand prize all together may have only been worth about $2,500 but regardless I was interested in using the free kit they provide and the skills I’d learn while using it. The kits are produced for several softwares, I only really had access to free softwares like blender and Unreal Engine. I started out trying to learn blender and produce a moon environment and terrain using their noise generators. However after spending about a week or two learning and trying to render a couple simple scenes I ran into an issue where Blender would bloat to fill out all 48GB of my RAM in my high-end gaming computer. Sometimes rendering in Blender would take 24 to 48 hours while my computer would be completely unresponsive. There was also the option for real-time rendering with cycles that’s supposed to rely on the GPU which I had a high-performance Nvidia RTX 3060 with 12GB of GDDR6 and it would still lag and be unresponsive.
I eventually started looking into Unreal Engine because graphically the engine renders scenes nicely and it natively works in real-time because it’s a video game engine. Working with the terrain and the environment were obviously different but because I could see how the scene was rendering in color in real-time I could iterate in it much faster. So I kept working in Unreal Engine and I was able to find and buy several assets for the 3D environment from online retailers that helped me to put together the scene quickly.
I had an original idea of designing out a whole planned moon colony based on proposals from NASA and ESA. I ambitiously also wanted to make a video animation because I knew less people would produce videos than 2D renderings. I thought up an engaging story about a potential moon colony rebellion against Elon Musk. I started out making the animation and in fact I got pretty involved with animating a moon rover, and having camera tracks follow this rover through a planned moon settlement but eventually I realized the scope of work I had planned to complete a whole story in 3D animation was beyond the remaining 2 weeks I had left to submit. So I ultimately had to abandon my original plan an pivot to a 2D rendering.
I decided instead to imagine if in the future there was space tourism to the moon, what would a potential vacation look like. I started with an authentic moon environment and kept the layout I had of structures for the moon settlement. Then to make it personal I added an astronaut couple lounging in an inflatable pool with floaties. This is a sight I’ve never seen before in other renderings of the moon or space tourism which is why I thought it was unique.
At the end I submitted my rendering, it obviously could have been a lot better if I had more time put into it but it was good enough to me. I sent it out and never heard any feedback on it. It obviously didn’t win a prize. There were a lot of other good renderings that real artists produced, but even so I think many of the best ones got overlooked by Kitbash3D. At the end I at least got the skills I wanted to develop and a free kit to experiment with. I have more ideas and more time so I can also then use the same environment and assets in a new production.