Project: Jimmies Island


I am just back from a summer vacation in Guerilla Bay, near Batemans Bay, and had a great time with family and friends in a lovely cottage there.

Guerilla Bay

It is said the location has been named like this due to the few bunkers that have been built along the cliff, during WW2, as Australia was bracing itself for a hypothetical Japanese landing. Today, it is a very secluded settlement, essentially made of holidays houses owned by well-to-do Canberran families. It enjoys a couple of beautiful beaches, unsupervised as regards recreative swimming, yet under close scrutiny from the national parks authority, since it hosts a rich marine reserve.

Guerilla Bay

Another remarkable fact is that, from a geological perspective, this area has been formed in some of the oldest rocks – dating back 510 million years – along Eurobodalla‘s coastline. These exciting rock formations and features are layers of chert and slate, and were initially laid down in the ancient Pacific Ocean, before becoming part of the Gondwana continent possibly during an interval of subduction. This creates quite a unique landscape, as the pictures show below.

Jimmies Island

This is a small rock island located in front of Guerilla Beach, a mere extension of the Rosedale peninsula. In addition to being a nice visual artefact for the beach visitors, it also effectively protects the bay from the southerlies. This is why it does not attract surfers, who will prefer the nearby Broulee beach, further south.

During our stay, we have been pondering about why this island was named like this, and who was this Jimmies. The local kayak guide spoke about a fisherman, our landlord about an ancient aboriginal tribe leader, eventually kids came up with their own made up stories. Thing is that nowadays no one is allowed to step onto this island anymore, and the same marine park regulation prevails for the other 52 islands it encompasses. With a total area of 85,000 ha, this makes it one of the largest marine reserves of NSW, just second to Port Stephens and Great Lakes marine park.

Batemans Bay Marine Park

So Jimmies Island today is the exclusive retreat of numerous endangered bird species, as well as a colony of Australian fur seals.

Jimmies Island


The inspiration

It is frustrating to know that there is a beautiful island just there on the horizon, yet out of your reach. So I thought that we could at least organise a virtual tour of it, with some secret means to access it from the Burrewarra Head.

The plan is therefore to model it, and make it a walkable 3d level in a popular engine. For this exercise, I choose the following set of tools:

  • Unreal 4 will be my engine of choice
  • Google 3D warehouse to grab free 3d models
  • I’ll use Cinema4d for my modest 3d modelling and retouching
  • PixPlant 3 will help me to generate realistic textures from real pictures taken locally
  • I will generate the terrain using Vue d’Esprit 2015, Personal Learning Edition
  • I have no clear plans yet for sound FX and musical background. Which is  a shame, I realise I should have recorded some audio samples when I was on site.
  • For the vegetation, I’ll start with some generic Unreal assets I can repurpose from existing demo compositions. However, I am conscious of the fact that I will have to swap to local essences sooner than later, for the sake of realism. In that field, probably Plant Factory 2015 will help me, since I cannot afford more advanced software such as Speedtree or XFrog

Let’s do it!

Raw materials


As I wandered on the beach, I took a few pictures as a resource pool for textures. That was a first pathetic yet necessary effort to gather local assets, with a view to simulate a virtual environment.



My first rock material

I use Pixplant to process the first picture I took from the rocks on Guerilla Beach …


I let the software generate for me the normal and displacement maps, as well as the specular and the ambiant occlusion channels. A bit of tweaking and here we are, the outcome looks amazing.

Now comes the fun part, to put it on a rock mesh, and import it in the 3D engine. I do it quick and dirty as follows:

  • Grab a rock mesh on Google Warehouse
  • Import and UV map and texture in Cinema 4D
  • Import as FBX into Unity3D, in a lit sandbox environment

And voila!


Specific objects


I did not take any picture of the bunker I briefly saw through the bush, but it was pretty small, more like an ammo storage building, with a dome top. I believe I can use something like the german archetype Bauform 69, which was part of the Atlantic wall. It’s quite a popular model on Google warehouse. I could simply customise textures to make it more local.


However, further research on the web led me to identify the Radar Station #17 (Link1, Link2, Link3, link4), and grab a few useful pictures:

Using Cinema 4D as a modeling tool, that gives the following:

Small lighthouse

The lighthouse on the Burrewarra head is fairly recent and quite specific. From memory a simple superposition of 3 or 4 concrete rings. I found a picture on the web, and I believe I will have to model it myself.

I decide to give it a crack on Cinema4D, based on the following metrics:

And when it starts coming together in Unity3D, this is what it looks like:

The terrain was simply grabbed from Google Maps elevation data: It’s pretty straightforward using the “Add Geolocation” feature in Sketchup. Of course it is not super accurate, but it’s a start:

Next steps:

  • Modelling Terrain properly in Unity3D
  • Populating vegetation. I have to say that using Unity3D, SpeedTree seems to be the option of choice.