You seek happiness everywhere. In objects, people, places, experiences. What you find is temporary and eventually fades away. The external world from which all these things come is illusory, like quicksand upon which your castle is built. You lose things, people, the ability to visit places, and to have new experiences. Your source of joy disappears. What was once perceived as happiness now becomes pain, suffering, sadness, loss. You blame others, luck, the situation… you need more once again, perhaps that’s the fix. This belief keeps you going.
You seek happiness everywhere. You’ve accumulated belongings, made friends, traveled to places, entertained yourself, afraid of and trying to escape from boredom and loneliness. Yet, you still crave more of everything. Excess feeds your desires. Tomorrow, once you’ve achieved and collected more, you’ll finally find happiness.
You seek happiness everywhere. Yet, you fail to look for it where it truly resides. It’s closer and simpler than it seems – The Cosmic Joke. All this time, you’ve looked everywhere but forgot to look inside. Once you find happiness in nothingness, in solitude, where you already are, and in stillness, the foundation of your happiness will be solid and unchanging, and your castle will stand unshakeable. Your happiness will suffice, will be companion to your friends, will follow you wherever you go, and will teach others in the vast space of its own silence.
You are exactly what you have been searching for, all this time.
This was a short but extremely fun project. My goal was to expand my knowledge in Unreal Engine, to practice the development of images, to achieve specific moods through lighting and test new technologies. Here’s the breakdown.
The main subject of this project is actually a small Buddha patio statue.
Instead of modeling a statue, I saw this project as a good opportunity to use a free and open-source software called Meshroom.
Meshroom is a photogrammetry software that extracts 3D information and textures from real objects and exports them as 3D objects.
I took several photos of the model in a circular pattern, covering 360 degrees at the statue’s height. I also took another set of pictures from a higher angle. All these photos were then loaded into Meshroom. The software processes in stages. First, it captures the mesh and depth as a point cloud. Finally, it forms the triangulated mesh, which is then UV-unwrapped and textured. The model was then exported as an .obj file.
Even though this is a statue, I thought ivies growing on it would reinforce the idea of timeless meditation and peace. Buddha is lost in his inner bliss, neither aware of nor caring that nature is taking over his body.
Blender as a supporting tool was a natural choice for this project. Blender natively includes a vast array of tools. One of which is an ivy generator, perfectly aligning with what I needed.
I used Unreal Engine 5.3 Preview for this project and the main reason for that was to test .vdb files directly in the editor.
I used Blender to create the .vdb file. After running a small fluid simulation, I selected a frame once the mist had settled.
In Unreal Engine, I recreated a shader that interprets VDBs and converts them into “Sparse Volume Textures” (credits to Thibault Lambert and JonathanWinbush for sharing the technique).
As a result, the vdbs can be displayed directly in Unreal Engine’s viewport using Heterogeneous Volumes.
Environment Modeling/Layout/Set Dressing
The Environment was entirely developed in Unreal Engine. I started with a basic landscape object and used Megascan assets to create the scenario.
All trees and some plants were manually placed, but the vast majority of it is a foliage system.
Now you know, this was a stage all along, just like life. but the illusion of cameras, smoke and mirrors made you forget for a second, it was never real.
In hopes of leveraging the creation of the environment, I also worked on some lighting variations.
Lighting scenario 1:
A peaceful and warm afternoon, around 4:00pm. After experimenting with different angles, I realized that direct sunlight on the statue’s face disrupted the serenity I aimed for. Consequently, I positioned the sun mostly behind the statue. This created accents on the plants and highlighted the statue’s shoulders. Composition-wise, I aimed for a clean silhouette without any competing elements too close to it. Simultaneously, I maintained a neutral and naturally complex background. Adding a touch of atmosphere helped separate the statue from the background, enhancing readability and reinforcing the image’s statement.
Lighting scenario 2:
Fantasy. No particular temporal ideation or goals other than finding a combination of light sources to create some unnatural and magical place. The background is minimally visible, creating negative space for the statue, which is also in contrast, the brightest element of the image. I played with the cool atmosphere of the background and midground, where the statue resides. In contrast, the foreground elements showcase deeper darks and are saturated with warm tones, especially evident in the lotuses and lilyponds.
Lighting scenario 3:
Overcast morning. The lighting was achieved with a single top-down area light and 2 dim area lights to the sides of the statue’s face. The intensity of the supporting lights is minimal, just to the point where the face is better shaped, but not to be noticed. The atmosphere is denser.
…and, yes, George Harrison. He was right.