Recreating the Lewis Gun with Historical Accuracy

When I create anything from scratch, I have to make sure I have a massive amount of reference. The less left up to the imagination the better especially when focused on historical accuracy. With the Lewis gun, the Canadian War Museum was kind enough to lend the SimWave team the artifact and their light studio (with supervision). We were able to shoot all of the reference photography we needed.

From there I started blocking out my high poly construction mesh in a traditional 3D modelling package using Autodesk 3ds Max. In this phase, I primarily played with shapes and forms until I got it to a point where everything looked right. Once finalised I started drilling down on the details like bolts and screw threading. All the small intricate details are what creates realism. Luckily this piece was more of a “prop” in the scene, so we skipped modelling the inner mechanics of the gun, which saved a lot of time!

Topology and Retopology of the Lewis Gun

When all was said and done I had a very detailed “High poly” model which is so dense with topology (geometric properties and spatial relations) that it can’t be used directly for any game or virtual reality experience. (High-quality images cannot update that quickly frame by frame on the screen.) To solve this the pipeline calls for something called “retopology”, or in the case of the Lewis gun, a duplicate bare bones model that holds to the silhouette of the original high poly model the best that it can. This bare bones or “low poly” model is what ends up in the engine.

Once the low poly model is complete, I use a process called “baking” to transfer all of that hard detail work from the high poly stage into the low poly to be textured correctly. I used Allegorithmics Substance Painter and Substance Designer to create all of the texture and material information utilised by the game engine (Unity3D) to make the gun look “real”.

Once completed, I passed it off to the animators and programmers to move onto the next asset!