Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Experiments in specular mapping
F-14D for FSX:Acceleration with added specular mapping - I struggled to get an angle that could highlight the effect most. I gave it relatively "subtle" value so it is barely visible from most angles. I like it....and looks much better in motion.
Sunny weather here in Italy so I am spending most of my spare time on the beach rather than in front of a computer...Therefore my FSX design-work is proceeding veeery slowly. As you may be aware of, I am working on an F-35A model. As there is some chance this may become my first payware project, I am trying my best to make a top notch model - I want it to include every "bells and whistles" allowed by FSX - and so I decided to spend some of my time on testing things I am not really good at or never implemented at all.
One thing I never employed successfully in my models is specular mapping. Basically, for those who do not know, specular map is a texture map which defines what will be the color, the intensity and the sharpness of the reflection of the material on a point-by-point basis. This was not possible in FS2004 and allows some very cool specular effects.
I never implemented it on my models as, in the tests I did, I felt it provided an excessive shininess of the surfaces. On the other hand there are some really coold models out there that use it with extremely good effects - so it had to be there for the F-35....hence I used the Tomcat as a testbed for this effect.
After few attempts I realized what I was doing wrong - and it was the base color of the specular map: to achieve a good looking modern-military-paint reflection you should use a very dark specular map. In the example shown in the pictures, the specular map was obtained by taking the diffuse map. darkening it by 50-70 "units" and applying an uniform alpha channel of 64 value. Obviously, if you are less-lazy than me, you could have tuned both on a per-pixel basis. Specular power was set to 30 (raising it and/or the alpha will result in smaller hotspots - which tend to highlight the mesh defects - better to avoid that IMHO).
The specular model will be part of the next update. And the F-35 will be shown (in pictures) as soon as the main texturing is complete: I am making a 4096x4096 photoreal texture for the fuselage and wings by "assembling" hi-def photos...results are good - but process is slow.