Ready to Eat
"Ready to eat"

Tree texture maps
Tree Texture Maps

Midden texture maps
Midden Texture Map

We went for a painterly kind of photo-realism, wanting the experience to be like walking into a Hudson River School painting, though not so romanticized. The key was to put a lot of work into the texture maps. For the most part, that simply meant exacting attention to detail.

For example, the creative director and I traveled to the archaeological site to search for the various species of trees the Pequots used to construct the fort palisade, and selected only those that were the correct age and size to photograph for texture maps, which are then used for the surfaces of the 3D tree models. That's just a matter of going for realism and making the effort to do it right.

On the other hand, for some things, like the ground textures, it was a technical challenge and major problem solving effort. The issue here was how to make the ground both variegated over an area of several hundred thousand square feet and incredibly detailed, rendering even small pebbles, wherever the camera went. It was a challenge we met successfully and was what elicted the most comments on from our peers at SIGGRAPH.

As testimony to the team, every member came from within the ranks of Nicholson's most talented 2D artists. After being trained in-house on the most advanced 3D production systems they were given a daunting challenge and succeeded at recreating an extremely realistic natural environment.

More info available in Wired News.