Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 Posted by Jim Thacker

Quixel launches Megascans

Quixel has launched Megascans, its long-awaited online library of physically based scans of real-world materials and 3D objects, along with two supporting art tools, Megascans Studio and Megascans Bridge.

Already in use at studios ranging from MPC to Unity Technologies, the service is intended to enable artists to build detailed, customisable photorealistic 3D environments for VFX or games projects in a matter of hours.

A library of thousands of real-world scans, as used in The Jungle Book and the Adam demo
First announced in 2014, along with the original release of Quixel’s texturing toolset Quixel Suite, Megascans is a “massive online library” of scanned surfaces, vegetation atlases and 3D objects.

Initially comprising around a thousand assets, that figure had risen to over 10,000 by the time we talked to Quixel founder Teddy Bergsman at the time of Quixel Suite 2.0’s release late last year.

Intended to solve “important issues like consistency, quality and speed” when using scan data in production, the library has been developed with input from early users including ILM, EA DICE, The Mill and MPC.

MPC was also responsible for Megascans’ most visible public outing to date, in the shape of the CG environments it created for The Jungle Book.

“Megascans is an amazing set of assets,” said Damien Fagnou, CTO of MPC Film. “With a large variety of samples and the incredible quality of each layer, [it] has become an indispensable resource for MPC artists.”

The library also made an appearance in Adam, Unity Technologies’ landmark photorealistic real-time demo, which made its debut at GDC earlier this year.

“Megascans were a lifesaver for the production of Adam” said Unity Technologies’ Veselin Efremov. “For a small team like ours, they were the only way to create high-quality environments [so] quickly.”

High-quality, high-resolution real-world materials and 3D models
The Megascans library consists of packs of scanned materials and 3D objects, each with around 50 assets. Current packs cover temperate meadows and forest floors, dry grassland and wasteland, and mountain slopes.

All of the materials are physically based, with scanned texture maps calibrated for the Disney Principled BRDF implemented in renderers like RenderMan and DCC tools like Houdini.

All of the maps are fully tileable, and are provided at resolutions of up to 8,192 x 8,192 pixels with a choice of JPG or EXR format. Vegetation atlases also include both alpha maps and translucency.

The 3D scans cover both hero assets – provided at a range of levels of detail from hundreds to millions of triangles – and smaller ‘scatter’ objects.

Each model is provided in OBJ and FBX format, and comes with a high-resolution ZTL file plus a set of 32-bit sculpting alphas, enabling users to customise the asset in ZBrush.

Megascans Bridge: browse library content and select export formats
There are also two free helper tools: Megascans Bridge and Megascans Studio.

Bridge, shown in the video above, enables users to browse Megascans content, then download or export the files in a format compatible with their preferred DCC software or game engine.

When browsing, assets are divided into standard categories, like ‘plant’ and ‘log’, with Bridge automatically suggesting further key adjectives like ‘rough’, ‘broken’ or ‘rotted’ to refine the search.

Having selected a material, users can choose which texture maps to download – there are options for specular or metalness workflows, and for glossy or rough microsurfaces – and at what resolution.

For 3D models, users can choose which levels of detail and which file formats to download.

Once the files are downloaded, Bridge can extract the files and export them in a format compatible with Unity, Unreal Engine, Marmoset Toolbag or 3ds Max plus the V-Ray or Corona renderers, automatically generating a shader matching the user’s settings and assigning texture maps.

Megascans Studio: combine scan data to create custom materials
Megascans Bridge’s project directories are also shared with Megascans Studio, which is intended to enable user to create custom materials by blending the raw scan data.

Individual scans can be imported on separate layers, with options to offset or rotate each layer. Masking between layers is controlled by a set of four sliders, which you can see around 03:00 in the video above.

There is also a rather cool-looking option to add a liquid layer – surface water, essentially – with controls for turbidity, sediment colour, and how much the moisture spreads across the ground surrounding it.

The results are displayed as a real-time 3D preview, with options for noise-based surface displacement and a range of preset lighting conditions, controlled by built-in HDRI maps.

Export for use in a DCC tool or game engine, or bake for reuse inside Megascans Studio
The blended material can then be exported for use in a DCC package or game engine at a range of terrain sizes, with the same options to choose texture map types and resolutions as in Megascans Studio.

Invidual maps can be combined into custom textures, with the option to set gamma on a per-channel basis.

There is also a Save as Surface option, which bakes a Megascans Studio setup into a single material, for use as a layer within future projects.

Three more ‘waves’ of new scans to come
Megascans is officially still in beta, with “hundreds of scans” being added to the Megascans library each week, and three more complete ‘waves’ of content still to come.

The first will add more 3D trees and foliage, plus a “Nordic biome” and an “Australian lava ecosystem”; the following two will cover man-made materials like fabric, brick, tile, metal, rubber and plastic.

Quixel hasn’t announced dates for the updates, but you can see the order planned in this thread on Polycount.

Pricing and availability
Megascans is available on a subscription-only basis, with commercial pricing ranging from $29/month to $990/month, depending on how many user accounts you need, and how many assets you want to download.

There is a points-based download system, with 3D objects requiring more points than materials; but once you’ve downloaded an asset, you’re licensed to use it perpetually.

Megascans Bridge and Megascans Studio are provided free as part of a subscription, and both run on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X.

Read a full list of options available in Megascans in Quixel’s online FAQs

Visit the Megascans website