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Drifting through worlds built in NDunes with Doug Campbell

December 29, 2022 in Entertainment | 5 min. read
Drifting through worlds built in NDunes with Doug Campbell | Hero image
Drifting through worlds built in NDunes with Doug Campbell | Hero image

As the hectic pace of the holiday season slows to a crawl, make space to relax and reflect with the soothing landscapes of Doug Campbell. Created using SpeedTree and the worldbuilding application NDunes, these landscapes are sure to transport you.

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Compilation of Doug’s work with NDunes, May–October 2021

Let’s get to know the creator. Introducing Doug Campbell.

Doug Campbell on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada
Doug Campbell on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada

With my undeclared minor in art history and no formal art training, I have always painted and sculpted for personal enjoyment. After college I met an established professional artist – he became my mentor, and general guide to the world of professional galleries.

My work was mostly landscapes and seascapes with the occasional portrait commission. I was represented by several large galleries on the West Coast and an art agent in Los Angeles who represented my work to other galleries in the United States. I lived and painted in Europe for a couple of years, then returned to the US to marry and raise a family.

Out of necessity, I reluctantly became a part of corporate America. I continue to paint on the side, but switched to digital media, primarily 3D. I have worked with a number of software applications, including Vue, Terragen, 3ds Max, and Houdini, always focused on themes of the natural world.

Doug Campbell’s second-place winning entry for the 2022 NWDA Challenge: The Horse Raiders
Doug Campbell’s second-place winning entry for the 2022 NWDA Challenge: The Horse Raiders

What drew you to NDunes? Who do you think could benefit from it most?

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An NDunes render by Aron Kamolz

I barely knew anything about NDunes until I saw some work by Aron Kamolz in 2021. I was impressed because NDunes is in public beta and free.

My first “oh yeah” moment was when I imported a simple terrain HeightField and added a couple of surface textures, a population of simple shrubs, and then there I was: “flying” through this vast landscape as the frames rapidly rendered. I was hooked.

Like with any media, it’s the results that make the difference, and I find that the NDunes renders show the quality of lighting and general feel of what I see in nature. I’ve worked with several real-time 3D applications, but none have allowed the ease of creation that I found with NDunes.

NDunes has a proprietary method of creating proxy objects from imported high-poly assets, as well as converting proxies from imported Volumetric Clouds. This enables the smooth manipulation of objects/clouds and terrains in the viewport, as well as fast frame render times.

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Sky tests by Doug Campbell

The environment’s setup is fully lit and textured with NDunes’ excellent displacement capabilities. The proxy objects called Prisms maintain fidelity to the original high-poly objects’ texture and lighting characteristics, and are easily manipulated in the viewport. The ease of setup, the fast frame renders, and quality of the output in a program designed to create natural environments makes NDunes an obvious choice for me.

It’s not a game engine which, to me, is a plus: fewer unneeded features means fewer complications. If your goal is to create natural environments, or you’re aiming to create procedural environments with structures and roadways in natural settings, NDunes could be a strong contender.

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Compilation of Doug’s work with NDunes between December 2021 and August 2022

How long have you been using SpeedTree and how does it contribute to your workflow?

I’ve used SpeedTree for a number of years, dating back to Studio version 6.0. From the outset, I’ve really enjoyed working with the SpeedTree interface.

As a painter I used to mangle and twist some brushes, letting them partially dry to shape them. They were used to create bushes and shrubs on the canvas. So the first SpeedTree objects I made were some basic bushes to create the same effect; not botanically correct, but essentially serving the same purpose.

I’ve collected a fair number of SpeedTree Library models and modified them accordingly. Frankly, I’ve been a bit lazy and used the Randomize button often rather than truly going in to customize the trees, but that’s how good the program is. While I do have other foliage and tree creation software, SpeedTree is always the first app that I go to.

December 29, 2022 in Entertainment | 5 min. read
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