Kent Trammell (theluthier)

509 replies · posted

COLLAB2021 - HQ - Stylized Fantasy Environment

Announcement #4: Closing Post

Announcement #3: Blog, Syncing Saga & More

Announcement #2: Updates & Loose Ends!

Announcement #1: Collab2021 has officially begun!


#Collab2021 is focused on stylized, low-poly, fantasy environment creation! Specifically this gorgeous illustration by Vadim Zaitsev:

You can find more from Vadim on artstation.

Through April we will be creating a comprehensive 3D version of this environment and we need a committed team to make it a reality! If you’re not sure what this Collab format is all about, check out the blog article first. If you know what you’re getting into, continue reading about how to register and what the schedule will look like.


Collabs are open to all Citizen members (membership is required to participate). You need to be subscribed by April 5th and remain subscribed through May 4. You're welcome to subscribe earlier so you can access the recommended courses listed below. This option could be helpful for focusing on learning from content before the collab begins at which point you can focus primarily on applying what you've learned.

Collabs don’t have an official web page or system built into our site. Instead it’s facilitated through the Forum, Live Streams, and Google Docs. Fill out this form to register for the Collab. This will give us insight into how many people are interested, the skill levels involved, and some other info that’s helpful before we get underway.

The last day for registration is April 5th. After April 5th the team will be closed! [evil laughs]



As with any production, one can only plan so much before unanticpated things come up. That’s to say we will be at the mercy of the project and the content could change as needed. Schedule should remain the same though.

Week 1 (Apr 5 - 11): Modeling

Goal: Since we’re working within a low-poly, stylized (simplified) genre I think we could finish all the modeling in the first week. For most assets in the scene the modeling is straight forward. For trees and bushes it’s a little different. I highly recommend using the Sapling Addon included with Blender) as taught in the stylized forest course. Similarly clouds will be a unique asset to tackle; something we will need to brainstorm as a team.

Stream 1April 6th @ 1pm US central time

Helpful Content:

Week 1 Homework Due: April 11th by midnight

Week 2 (Apr 12 - 18): Sculpting Accents

Goal: It’s possible that sculpting will be the next step for some assets (ex: rocks) and not for others (ex: trees). If your asset doesn’t need sculpting then your task this week is UV layout and texture painting a color map. If your asset needs sculpted detail, you can do that in addition to the UV layout and texture painting. By the end of the week we all should have our completed model painted with a color map and sculpting done if applicable.

Stream 2April 13 @ 1pm US central time

Helpful Content:

Week 2 Homework Due: April 18th by midnight

Week 3 (April 19 - 25): UV's & Texture Painting

Goal: This should be an easier week than the first two. Since the style is simplistic, the material can also be simplistic. It can also be more complex if one is so inclined. Things like procedural texture accents, procedural water, randomization of the same material across multiple objects, etc. Additionally we will dip our toes into lighting. At the very least we need to implement lighting in a way that informs our material qualities. At the most I want us to light our asset in a standalone presentation, as if you were presenting it to a supervisor for approval.

Stream 3: April 20 @ 1pm US central time

Helpful Content:

Week 3 Homework Due: April 25th by midnight

Week 4: (April 26 - May 2) Materials & Finalization

Goal: As with most productions, the last stretch is the most unpredictable and often results in a lot of problem solving. I expect this week to be a smorgasbord of  tasks from catching up / putting final touches on assets, assembling the final environment together, polishing lighting and atmosphere, and who knows what else.

Stream 4: April 27 @ 1pm US central time

  1. Project status update
  2. Homework reviews
  3. Overview week 4
  4. Demo: 
    • Environment lighting (Day)
    • Environment lighting (Night)

Helpful Content:

Week 4 Homework Due: May 2nd by midnight

Closing Stream (May 4)

With the project officially complete, this stream is meant to be a celebratory bookend. We will revel in our hard work and discuss a post-mortem: What worked well, what could be improved next time.

Communicating as a Team

Of course communication is key for effective teamwork. To facilitate this we will utilize a network of forum threads.

Discord: Our resourceful Team Leads have setup a discord server for us! The server features channels for each team including audio + video capability.

Discord is best for LOW LEVEL communication since it’s the easiest, quickest way to communicate. By “low level” I mean casual, small-consequence discussion. The main negative of persistent chat is its brief nature; comments appear and then immediately get buried. This is fine for the majority of our discussions (let’s say 75%) but we want to avoid important info getting buried.

HIGH LEVEL communication is the important stuff that shouldn’t get lost in a persistent chat. Please keep high level discussion like protocols, announcements, lengthy troubleshooting and idea pitches on the forum threads listed below.

HQ Forum Thread: This thread is the foundation of our communication structure as denoted with "HQ" in the title. Discussion here should be broader in context; having to do with the project as a whole. It's the place I will be posting important announcements for everyone involved. It's also  ideal for general questions about the project and light-hearted "water-cooler talk" for the team. Things like encouragement, inspirational info / artwork, relevant memes. I love memes.

It's NOT ideal for *specific* things like questions pertaining to a certain part of the environment, WIP of individual parts, or person-to-person discourse.

Team Threads: If more than 30 members register for this project we will divide into sub-teams. Each sub-team will collectively tackle a group of related assets and will be lead by a member (most likely contributors from #collab2020). Each team will have a dedicated forum thread for specific discourse pertaining to their parts. Same guidelines as the Central Thread but with a specified topic.

Individual Homework Threads: Each contributor is required to create a thread for themselves for posting homework confirmation at minimum. This is also where any discourse about your specific part happens. You're encouraged to treat it as a work-in-progress (WIP) thread, posting updates about your work as you go.

Direct Contact: Tagging is ideal for directly contacting me or anyone involved with the project. Tag me (theluthier) with questions or advice in any of these threads. I guarantee I will be checking my notifications regularly every Monday-Thursday throughout the duration of the project.

Of course the more people that register the less accessible I will become for direct / lengthy conversation. This is where sub-team leaders will be invaluable. If we break into sub-teams please contact your leader first, then me second.

Livestream Chat: The realtime interactivity of streams is another great way to communicate. Taggin works there as well along with an additional tool: Typing "[Q]" in the chat adds a blue "question" label to your post. This makes it easier for me to spot direct questions for me to answer while streaming.

DISCLAIMER: These guidelines are only intended to streamline the challenging task of communicating globally across the internet. They're not meant to create a tense atmosphere of rules! We're a relaxed, reasonable bunch of Blender heads. If you don't know where you're supposed to ask a question, go ahead an ask somewhere and you'll be answered or kindly directed to the right place if applicable.

Syncing Project Files

Everyone working from the same project directory is important for a production like this. From linking models back and forth to sharing texture maps, it's a must for a smooth working experience. Further protocol like file naming conventions and saving files in the right place is necessary to avoid a confusing mess.

The following instructions are depending on you syncing the project's Google Drive folder to your local computer. If you haven't done that yet, please check the Announcement 2 post for instructions.

For this project I want to make the process as simple as possible for participants. To achieve this I've come up with a "plug-n-play" system. Basically I will save a placeholder .blend file in both the WIP and MODELS folder for each participant by including their username in the filename. Once the placeholder is present, each participant saves their work into the MASTER collection within the scene and that's it! I take it from there.

I covered this concept in the Week 2 stream but here's a set up step-by-step instructions as well:

  1.  Locate and open your WIP placeholder .blend file that contains your username. Within the "WIP" directory there are folders corresponding to asset categories. Navigate through these folder to find the .blend with your username.

  2. Once opened, you will either see a proxy version of your asset or a blank scene. Either way, copy and paste all the pieces of your asset into this .blend file.

  3.  Look for the "MASTER_" collection in the outliner. The naming convention is "MASTER_category_asset_username'. This collection will be linked into the final assembly file. It's imperative that you move every visible part of your asset into this collection.
    1.  You can have other objects in this scene like reference objects, image planes, utility objects (empties), etc. But they must be outside this MASTER collection.

    2.  Do not name any other objects or collections "MASTER" in the scene.

  4.  If your placeholder scene has a proxy object in it, you need to align your version of the asset to the proxy. Scale it, move it, rotate it however you need to match the proxy.
    1.  Note: These proxies also have a copy of the master camera in the scene for which the proxy is aligned to the art.

    2.  If your placeholder scene does NOT have a proxy in it but DOES have a master camera, your asset should align to the camera, simply keep your asset in the center of the world when saving

    3.  If your placeholder scene does NOT have a proxy NOR a master camera, simply keep your asset in the center of the world and scaled according to the human proxy in the scene.


How much time am I expected to commit to this project?

We stress commitment because it's the best to ensure A) the project succeeds and B) lasting skills are learned. We only expect you to commit as much time as you can. DO NOT commit full-time hours to this project (8 hrs a day). As the instructor, I should be the only one doing this.

Everyone else (sub-team leads and contributors) shouldn't need to apply more than 2 hrs per day to the project. It's all relative depending on your availability and skill level. If you can't afford 2 hrs per day you can pick a simpler asset. If you have more time to contribute then perhaps choose a more complex asset. It's up to your discretion.

If you only have 2 weeks available in April, that's OK! Just let me or your sub-team lead know and it's all good. 

How do I tag someone?

Like twitter and instagram you simple type "@username" to tag someone. Tagging fires a notification to this person. Everyone's username is either A) in parentheses beside their display name or B) substituted if they don't specify a display name:

What service do we use for syncing files as a team?

We used Google Drive last year and it worked pretty well. Syncing our files to the cloud proved to be a crucial way for everyone to stay up-to-date conveniently. Since we lean heavily on library linking, it's imperative that we all be up-to-date. Google Drive is very accessible too; most people have an account anyway.

If you don't have one, sign up to get 15GB of storage for free. That should be plenty of storage for our project.

I know people are hesitant to sign up with Google but a burner account just for this project isn't too invasive, right? Otherwise Mega drive could be a good alternative since it offers 50 GB for free.

What if I'm not available at the time livestreams are broadcast?

Unfortunately the stream time can't be ideal for everyone. If you're not able to watch the stream live, I will post the recording within 24 hours of broadcast.

When is homework due exactly?

Homework is due every Sunday @ midnight each week. This means whenver your midnight is; relative to your timezone. This gives me each Monday to review homework internally before streaming on Tuesday. Please adhere to this deadline as late submissions can really stunt  the flow of the schedule.

Can multiple people volunteer for and build the same part?

Yes! Early volunteers will have the best chance at picking a unique part but eventually parts will be assigned to multiple people. Of course we can't feature multiple of the same part for the final scene so the best execution of each part will end up in the final.

Are we bound to also 1 asset or if there is spare time can we even go for a second or third piece?

You're not limited to 1 asset. I'd love to see contributors challenge themselves with multiple assets, as several did last year. This gives contributors the ability to define their own scope of participation: If someone is newer to Blender they can choose one asset. If someone is more experienced they can choose multiple assets.

Who “owns” the final project?

Technically CG Cookie owns the project but the final project will be released freely as Creative Commons (CC-BY-4.0).

Can I feature my work from Collab2021 in my online portfolio and / or demo reel?

100% yes! Contributors are welcome to use/share visuals from the project to social media accounts, online galleries / portfolios, and featured in demo reels.

  • I have not been subscribed for a while but this project sounds very interesting! Nowadays I model most things in Maya but for a group project experience I am willing to work in blender (which I think is an awesome piece of software!). I will sign up right away!

    Edit: I signed up. I selected House but solely because I could only select one. I would be equally happy with accessories, especially the  wagon or waterwheel! Can't wait to start!

  • theluthier I have a REALLY BIG ask Kent (not that you are in charge of the code, but you do know peeps in high vistas)

    Is there any way that we can get the linking to posts working again in the forums??? My notifications panel always takes me to the standard webpage on page 1 when I click on someone's reply from my notifications bar.

    We haven't even started the Collab and are already 3 pages deep in excitement and knowledge. I imagine it will become harder to navigate peoples responses to posts on page 2 when we are always being sent to page 1.

    Hopefully the request makes sense.

    • I'm glad you brought it up, cos I've got 89 notifications that don't seem to take me direct to the relevant post! 😃

    • crew

      You know I *FEEL* your pain 😣

      I will put in a request to review and improve the forum's quirks. Though past experience has taught me it's an uphill battle: One webdev addressing multiple websites and tons of feature takes a mountain of advocacy for a molehill's adjustment.

      That's to say I'm preparing myself to deal with the current state and all its annoyances - But try I shall!

    • I’ll roll with the punches too, just figured I would ask.

      I imagine it will get better when we split up in to teams.

      I just already know that I am spending quite a bit of time scanning this forum to keep up with posts and it’s already turning into a fun spider web haha.

      It’s both a great thing and a bad thing lol.

    • I've only done high school level coding, but here's what I think should happen. 

      So you have a "sort by" drop down menu. You have two options, "original" and "most recent reply first". You already have date stamps, so assigning numbers will not be hard. You set up the higharchy so if there is a reply to a reply, it takes the date stamp from the most recent reply inside the reply and replaces the original date stamp's assigned number in the back end, and still displays the original date. You then need to reverse the order so page one will show the most recent replies instead of the oldest. 

      I know everything I just suggested is possible. I know how to do it, but I never put that kind of stuff on a live website, so yeahhh.

    • crew

      You then need to reverse the order so page one will show the most recent replies instead of the oldest.

      Tis a good suggestion - In fact we tried this last year and our webdev made all forum threads reverse pagination so newest replies showed first. Everyone on the collab team liked it but a fair amount of other members expressed confusion about the change. Ultimately we reverted and nothing came from it.

      But the same thing to be an option per user's preference rather than a global change, that seems like a decent idea. I've been told that Nick will take a look at a few proposed updates. So hopefully those will be implemented by April! 🙌

    • crew

      blanchsb I've got some news about forum functionality! I put in a request for a few pain points and I'm told they've all been addressed 🤩:

      1. Notification hyperlinks not directing accurately.
        1.  "I've fixed the answer link...When I looked back at the code that generates the link to the answer, I realized that I was locating the position of the answer in the pagination set with the method .index, which starts at 0. So the position of the 20th answer was actually coming across as 19, so with the fix in place the link is now fully working." -Nick

      2.  Removing auto-subscribing to threads when replying. I've found this produces a lot of white noise with highly active threads, like out collab-related threads. It resulted in 99+ notifications for me when only 10% had anything to do with me. I expect team members will be replying to numerous threads throughout April and it would be better to manually choose which threads to subscribe to.
        1. "removed the auto subscribing when an answer is added" - Nick

      3.  Notification email linking to the main thread instead of the specific reply the email notifies about. Honestly I prefer email notifications because they provide better info, namely a quote of the message unlike site notifications. However the email was linking to page 1 of the thread and I'd have to go digging for that specific message. Now it should link appropriately to that specific message.
        1.  "and have added the answer link to the email" - Nick

      Hopefully these adjustments make our forum experience noticeably better!

    • I haven't notice the changes. Are these working right now? Do we have to turn something on in preferences? Maybe delete cache or something like that? 

    • crew

      Ugh it does appear that the updates are not live and/or not functioning. I sent a message to Nick about it 🤞

    • I was testing it out today too and can confirm it's not live yet.

  • Alrighty! Grandma's IN...but I want to come out of this alive and still sane. I'm so new at blender I'm still in the incubator. Give me tiny goals - like a blade of grass. Deal?

  • This is a perfect project to get back into the swing of things. Always love the CG cookie community.

  • I haven't been that much active in the CGC community recently, but this project sounds beyond exciting. It definitely woke me up from my slumber, lol. Moreover, having deadlines is a bless, because I can't set them up myself for my projects even if I try. :x

    One thing that bothers me is the number of participants, won't it be too chaotic to manage? Maybe dividing into 2 or even 3 competing teams would be fun and provide even more learning experience? It's just a suggestion to think about.

    • crew

      Welcome back! To facilitate a larger team of participants (currently up to 103 registrants) indeed I am planning to break the group into sub-teams.  These teams will be divided according to area of the scene (trees, house exterior, house interior, mountains, terrain, etc). Each sub-team will have a leader (ideally someone who participated last year) to manage it and will hopefully develop comradery / sense of identity.

      That said this format is still highly experimental. Being the second collab we have the beneficial experience from last year to guide us but that was about 20 people.  We've never done something like this (not sure anyone has).

      But if everyone has a good attitude and a posture of teamwork, I'm confident it will go really well!

  • crew

    theluthier , I seem to have an issue with Google Drive. I no longer have access to any of the shared folders on Google Drive. I have checked online and the only file in my Shared With Me section is the Google Sheets file we used for the Dog.

    I have tried clicking the link dostovel shared for the interior and get a Google Error, I think this is because I no longer have access.

  • Yeah I noticed the DOG folder is no longer in Google Drive, Kent probably deleted it since the project is already over. 

    When it comes to access, you only need ask, the council will decide your fate. Good luck Adrian Bellworthy.

  • April's almost here.  I'm really looking forward to working with everybody on this!

  • Hi everyone, I wanted to let you all know, my mom is with Hospice now. I have been giving her 24/7 care.  My brother is here with me to help now as well as Hospice.  I do not know how long we will be in this place.  I will do my best to watch the events and try my best to do my part.

  • I'd love to jump on a project like this. It would teach me things that I'd need if I were to get hired on a dev team or such, things that one can't learn from courses and tutorials I think. I do not feel very comfortable with this style as I've been taking a liking to hard-surface lately, the treasure chest being the last stylized thing I made.

    Regardless, I can't wait to see what you guys end up with, looks like a very cool scene! Meanwhile I'll hopefully learn more things and jump on when there's a project more fitting to me. Keep up the good work and have fun all!

    • crew

      You could give this project a try and bow out if you find it's not a good fit. No pressure, but I agree that this kind of collab is a rare opportunity that you may not want to pass up.

      Either way the well-wishing is appreciated!

  • wohoooo let's do this :) 

  • crew

    theluthier I have changed my mind...

    Not on the Collab, but my part within.

    As you know I have been exploring the realms of scripting add-ons, recently I wrote a teaser for a cloud add-on and want expand it into a more complex cloudscape and atmospheric system.

    So if it's not to much trouble I would be interested in staring at the sky for the whole of April, 2 birds, 1 stone as they say.

    If you have already allocated assignments I will accept my fate and follow orders.

  • we are getting closer to the starting date :) 

    at how many people are we currently?  i am so curious :D

    • Last number Kent said was 108 people. That is a crazy amount. But probably not all 108 will show up. Or maybe it'll double on the last day as people say, ah man that collab thing I was putting off to the last day thinking I had enough time, let me subscribe now before it's too late.

    • crew

      As of this morning we're at 110!

      But Omar is probably right: All 110 isn't likely to follow through. A handful don't even have CGC usernames / free accounts (yet?). Regardless it's going to be an action-packed Collab! I've spent all week organizing the project on paper. I'm so excited.

    • theluthier can imagine that. we all are looking forward to it, and for you this is even much bigger :D, so far ill only miss one day if thinks goes well. If by any chance i no longer response after20 april things might took a wrong turn, but right now i focus on each new day.  and enjoy it to the fullest :) 

      i really am curious for the first livestream , the planning , the great start of the journey ... and knowing how big the team will be :D

  • I´m really excited for the collab to start! 

    And it will be a welcoming change from all the study madness I had the past weeks <3 <3

  • jlampel JL what course of yours would you say would be most beneficial to re-watch for this Collab?

    We will be doing low poly and so the harden normal tricks, that is shade smoothing, bevel, auto smooth, sharpening edges, baking high poly details to normal maps and so on. 

    I know I've seen many times on your courses doing all of that and I need a refresher. So re-watch the Tank one? the Door one? Any other one?

  • crew

    Words of Wisdom

    'The great cookie taste comes to those who take a bite'.

    I have read quite a few comments on this thread from some worried about their skill level not being up to the required level to take part in Collab2021.

    I can assure you if you know how to open Blender, navigate the UI and save your work, you are ready for Collab2021.

    I took part in Collab2020 and had the same fears about my ability, I came out the other end with a knowledge boost I could never of imagined going in. The support and teamwork from everyone was amazing and I anticipate the same, and if at all possible, even better.

    No one is hear to judge you, we are all here to help each other.

  • theluthier Hi, I wanted to take part the minute i read the blogpost. I'm not sure any more if I have filled out the form. Is there a list of participants? Or can you look me up? Thx

  • Signed up! I've been learning on here for a few years while finishing my MA in a completely unrelated field. I feel like I have a pretty decent understanding of blender at this point, and should be able to accomplish any tasks assigned. I didn't choose a specific thing to work on cause I figured it would be more important to fill in where needed, but secretly I hope I can do more than some rocks.  :D

  • Hello all! Just signed up! I'm a complete beginner in blender, (started two months ago) so I don't know what I can contribute to the project. But I will try the best I can.  So far I've followed the low poly rocket courses, modeling basics and cgcookie's treasure chest plus some other tutorials. I have a basic understanding about texturing and shading from other online courses but know nothing about procedural. So the clouds or trees are certainly above my skill level. So looking forward to any part I can participate in. Not sure if there is anything left because there are so many participants.

    • I keep forgetting that the main point of the Collab is to learn.

      My thoughts mainly wonder around the finished project, I don't really stop to think that much about the tools that I have to use to get to that finish line, because for the most part I know how to use them. But then I remember, oh no, wait, you selfish you, there's tons of people here that are going to start to develop the confidence around these tools in this Collab, it's not that much about the finish project, it's about the journey to the finished project, how so much people will gain tons of experience points that will help them level up, like going though one boss fight after the other. 

      So Martin and everyone who's having beginner doubts, don't worry about being a complete beginner, that's what this things is all about. 

    • As Omar said the main point is to learn. 

      One of the best parts of working in a group setting such as this is you are going to be surrounded by people of all different skill sets. They all bring different technique and perspectives that are going to boost you're understanding and build your own skills. Get to know the folks in your group and feel free to ask questions on what they're doing. If you see something cool happening in the other group that you're curious about, strike up a conversation about it. If you're stuck reach out to your group leader. They're there to help you succeed.  In my opinion its the beginners that have more to gain from this project because of all the access to these resources . The more you put in, the more you're going to get out of it. So, take it on! You have nothing to lose. No worries about not having stuff to do, there will be plenty.  It's going to be fun, see ya next week. :)

    • crew

      Love these replies phoenix4690 and dostovel. hhoidolario you're in the best company in this collab. Don't worry about being a complete beginner. I'm making sure there are aspects of this project that will be ideal for beginners. The courses you've watched are perfect preparation.

      I'm going to talk about this during the stream on Tuesday, but the idea of learning is the main point of the collab - that's true in a sense. It's also incomplete in a sense. I see the purpose of Collabs as equally to learn as to achieve. I'll avoid the temptation to type a long monologue about what I mean...again I'll save that for the stream :)

    • I'm a beginner too.

  • Aaaah ! after signing up a while ago I realized I hadn't checked if I needed preparing for next week (time flies!) And now I just saw that I've 200+ messages to catch up on... Is there something essential I should be reading ASAP?

    • crew

      Ha I KNOW that feeling. The answer is no,  even though there's been a lot of activity through March there's nothing essential you should be aware of right now. I'll be covering all the essential info during the stream on Tuesday. I will also post a "kickoff" message on Monday to summarize immediate need-to-know things.

    • Excellent, this is exciting :) 

      Small practical matter: it seems that the link to form responses (by email or in the notifications) don't work past page one, as the page number is not included in the link, only the response id.  How do you best keep tabs on long threads like that?

    • crew

      Nuts, I just tested and can confirm this behavior. Our webdev reported a fix for this last week. I'll check back with him about it.

      It's been a long-term annoyance with the forum and it will definitely make communication difficult through April if not remedied.

      To answer your question about navigating long threads, once the Collab is underway we will organize communication into various threads instead of keeping it to this thread only.