Thinking outside the blocks….

For the past week I’ve been debating on how I should handle all of the stone blocks that are used extensively throughout the temple (for the walls, floors, columns…etc). Part of this process is to insure that I am mindful of the actual placement of these elements.  I’ve been comparing the Heidelberg photographs to Ranke’s site illustrations.  From what I can see they seem very accurate.


I’ve started placing proxy bricks (basic polygonal cubes) in the Pronaos and ramp.

proxy_ramp tiles


I’m testing a few approaches to see which one might hold up better in VR. Initialy I thought I would break the various elements up into sections, then using either Mudbox or Zbrush, I would detail the proxy cubes and extract a normal map back onto a more simplistic type of geometry.  I tested this on the ramp, which kind of works.  However, because this is just a bump map if someone where to view this on a shear angle, the illusion of detail would flatten.  Just a side note, once I get into the Unreal Engine I might revisit this approach with displacement maps….or possibly vector displacement maps.

This is simplified geometry that will get the tile texture generated in Zbrush and Mudbox.


The normal map generated by the higher resolution tiles.
The normal map applied to the ramp.

My hope in using this approach is to keep the interactivity within the virtual world crisp and speedy.  I wasn’t particularly happy with the initial results, although untextured (lacking diffuse colour, specular maps….etc) I could tell that there was a fidelity issue, particularly from extreme angles.
My second approach is to texture 2-3 groupings of individual low resolution blocks then hand place each one (similar to how I placed the proxy cubes to begin with).

A test grouping (not the final textures)
Beginning to hand place each block…..


UPDATE: The known floor tiles (according to Ranke) have been placed, as of June 8th.  I’ll need to fill in the gaps with a similar patterning.  But I’m moving onto the interior walls first.


Author: Kris Howald

I was immersed into the world of virtual archeology for my Masters Research Project at Ryerson University.  The focus of this project was the digital reconstruction of the el-Hibeh temple in Egypt.  After four months I believe I was able to demonstrate the potential this medium has to offer as a way of bridging the past and present. I'm currently visualizing the past, present, and future of a pre-contact indigenous community.

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