I am building a model for a flight sim, and have the objects and animation done. (Just for context, there are over 500 objects spread over 20 collections, and a large number of empties driving part animation)
I have also assigned PBR materials to my objects, some objects have a number of different materials assigned to them.
The result is a really good looking model in Blender.
I now need to to export that look to the sim.
Traditionally, this has been done by unwrapping all the objects in a collection and importing the resulting UV texture into something like Illustrator/Substance, then using that UV texture to create materials and normals etc., then, attaching those upgraded "textures" and normal maps to the collection for export to the sim.
The problem with this approach is that its highly complex, costly- since you now need to go and purchase more stuff, and the need to learn about how more tools work and their processes adds time, and finally the risk of something going wrong is very high if one tiny check mark or 0 is missed at one of the many steps along the way.
All the while I'm staring at a beautiful, fully materialized and bumped model in Blender, and thinking there has got to be a better way!!
Basically I'm looking for a possible new/faster/Blender-centric approach to export what I have in Blender, to the sim.
I need your expertise to help think through what this Blender-centric PROCESS should be
Before we get further, there is 1 immoveable constraint imposed by the sim's architecture, no getting around it: There can be ONLY 1 texture, and ONLY 1 normal map per collection.
For context, imagine a Rudder, or the Fuselage, or the Main Gear assembly as distinct collections, and these are exported as a "part" into the sim (which I have working btw). And as you can imagine, each "part" contains many many smaller objects, with different material assignments... like the rubber for wheels, aluminum for hydraulic tubes, flat and dull painted parts etc etc. that all make overall the "part" work.
So the goal is to have 1 texture map and 1 normal map per "part" (remember 1 sim "part" = 1 Blender Collection)
Therefore, what's needed is 1 Collection-texture.png that contain all the "color" + 1 single normal map.png which should be a sort-of "combined" specular, occlusion, height, normal-map output. (yep. I know about the combined bake option)
I can then plug these 2 textures into the sim's Blender exporter plugin to get colors and normal in the sim, so that the sim model Looks like the Blender model.
I have seen many videos of creating textures for single cubes... That does not scale for me as I have 100's of objects in a collection and I need just 1 texture for the full collection. And I can't join the objects into 1 to create 1 texture because a) objects have multiple materials, b) over 1/2 of them are parented and nested to Empties which drive the collection's overall animation (like wheels turning, shock absorbers, retraction etc.)
What process or series of steps would you suggest to accomplish the creation of 1 texture, and 1 combined-normal for a Collection that contains a large number of objects that have multiple materials and parented empties assigned to them, that can not therefore be joined into 1 object???
I'm looking for what-to-do strategy please, not How-to-do it instructions -- that's on me .. I can probably find those how-to-accomplish instructions online somewhere.
Need your expert help to think through and design the process to make this Blender-centric 1-texture + 1-normal per collection output creation strategy possible. Is it??