Hi, my name is Reuben Tilahun, a 21-year-old CG Supervisor from Ethiopia. I have been actively involved in the CG industry and programming since 2014 and four years ago, I joined the VFX industry at History Film Company to pursue my passion and career path.
I love aircrafts, especially fighter jets. I was working on a project where I created assets including Ethiopian Su-27UBs. There were no specific references for this R&D project, but I attempted to replicate low-pass aerial photography.
The process was straightforward. I used the default A.N.T Landscape addon for the base terrain mesh for a quick layout. I scattered the trees using geometry nodes, lit the scene, created basic smoke in Embergen and used it to also make the afterburners. Everything was then sent to Nuke for post-production and finally to GIMP for touch-ups.
I started by gathering references with the help of a close friend and took some pictures of the 2-seat variant Su-27 and its armaments (R-27, R-77, R-73, OFAB-250) from the airforce.
The modeling was done entirely in Blender using the references I collected.
The UV mapping was a bit tricky, as some high-resolution textures were required for specific shots in the intended project. The fuselage had three UDIM tiles at 4K resolution, while the other parts had one at 2K.
I used Substance Painter for baking all the maps, decals, livery, and final texturing.
The clients were particular about the patterns on the elevators and tails, so I spent most of my time projection painting or matching it to actual references.
Finally, I added a low-poly cockpit and pilot model. The shading was mostly a simple PBR material using the textures I created, with some final touches added using a Hue-Sat-Val node in Blender to correct for taste.
For the terrain, I combined two textures from Quixel Megascans: Rocky Grass and a Moss texture. I added noise to randomize the Hue, Saturation, and Value of the Moss Texture to make it look like a grass field and mixed it with the Rocky Grass using a slope mask. Finally, I combined both displacements.
Next, I covered it all with trees! The trees were scattered using basic GeoNodes with some random noise variations for their Z-location and rotations. Blender handled it like a champ!
The lighting was simple, consisting of an HDRI from Polyhaven for GI and a sun lamp for the directional key light. A blocker was used to create cloud shapes and add interest to the ground.
I used Nuke for final touches, as it is the software I am comfortable with. I did a quick compositing to add variations to the trees using Cryptomatte, added some atmosphere using depth, adjusted the colors to match a natural camera profile, added a glow and grain, and used Heatwave v4.0 by Damian Binder from Nukepedia to create heatwaves for the exhausts. These final touches were mostly done from muscle memory.
Finally, I passed it through GIMP for post-processing.
Su-27UB - OVER THE FOREST
And that's it!
Thank you for reading my article. Have a great day!
About the Artist
Reuben Tilahun, a 3D Generalist from Ethiopia.