Celestial Monolith
Updated 2 years ago
Sergiu Lupse - Neon Challenge




My name is Sergiu Lupse, I'm a developer / filmmaker from Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I'm a newcomer to Unity but i've been working professionally in animation, 3d and film for the better part of the last 13 years. I love Visual Storytelling and Sci-fi and telling stories with a human emotional core set in a futuristic environtment has been a personal interest in my adult life. The Neon Challenge has been the best oportunity for that.


My story follows Rúm, a stray young man, living in a world recovering from a deadly planetary flood. Humanity has sufferend great losses and giant Ark-like structures were built to sustain the world's dwindling population. Left to his devices, Rúm explores the size of one of the monolitic complexes looking for a way out.

Making of

#1 - Storyboard thumb sketches

I did a very quick iteration of the entire story to be able to have a game plan.

Visual References

Inspiration: ENVIRONMENT - Structure / Hotel

I've been facinated with sci-fi as a genre and its themes for a very long time. I was born in 1980 under a communist regime with a lot of restrictions. The fact that there was one tv channel only, with a 15 min. cartoon mix show in a 3 hour TV broadcast per day, made me apreciate my imagination a whole lot. I didn't mind much, i was focused on writing stories or creating made up games with my brother, we were always reading, listening to old vynil romanian folktales or watching diafilm projections. Because our reality was restricted, my childhood was filled with invented stories of far away places and heroes that lived in fantastic settings. In 1990, after the fall of the communist regime there was a swarm of culture and information (books, music and films). I discovered Jules Verne, George Orwell with 1984, Anthony Burgess with A Clockwork Orange and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Films flooded my visual world, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddisey, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Alien, George Lucas's Starwars, Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, The Wachowski's The Matrix and Luc Besson's The 5th Element. All the worlds i created as a child, were in front of my eyes and all of a sudden i knew what i wanted to do. Later on i discovered anime and i was mind blown about the sheer size of the visuals they displayed, films like Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, Rintaro's Metropolis and Michael Arias's Tekkonkinkreet.
For the Neon Challenge, i took a lot of visual queues from the films i loved and admired, films that present urban futuristic environments where humans live inside huge "matchbox" complexes, i was interested to show the contrast between the size of the structures and the people residing inside, almost a metaphor for a totalitarian regime crashing down the fragile human soul.
I also looked at Jean "Moebius" Giraud and José Ladrönn's Incal comic book series universe and Enki Bilal's Nikopol and Monster series for insane vehicles and breathtaking worlds.
Got a lot of inspiration from the look of brutalist architecture that was featured lately in Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, mainly because i find it beautifully simplistic and very familiar, yet very cold as environment for people to live in. It is featured a lot in the stark concrete buildings i've seen in urban Romania.
For the look of the city i made a visit at a very old salt mine in Turda, a city close to the town i live in, in the heart of Transilvania. Very sci-fi vibe.

Inspiration: CHARACTER - Rúm

For Rúm i wanted a specific look, an austerity to him, a stray aleey dog kind of vibe. I tried a few sketches and to complete the look i scoured for reference images on pinterest. The amazing work of Alexander Berdin Lazursky imediatly caught my attention. I used the look of his surreal photos to develop my character further.

Update #1 - Modeling Assets

Monolith Exterior (Shell)

I tried to find the look of the exterior of the Monolith in a couple of sketches.
Then i modeled the main shape of the structure in Maya. Still a work in progress.

Monolith Interior

I went through the main environment models i will be using in this project. The interior of the Monolith is comprised of several parts, the Bridge, the Sprawl Area, the Living Quarters Complex, the Engines and The Exhaust Pipes. The story begins on the roof of the Bridge, as Rúm get's ready to take the leap.

Roof / Bridge

The Living Quarters Complex

This is the main population area, it is comprised of 3 buildings deck.

The Exhaust Pipes

The evacuation of the residuals and the Engines exhaust material goes through a huge power plant where recycling and redistribution of unused fuel happens.

Update #2 - Rúm Character Model & Texturing

I worked with a character i built in Fuse and then tweaked it further. The mask was a tough one, i needed something special so i tried a couple of things, but ended up with combining multiple materials.


Playing with the camera is pretty much why i started making films, and Cinemachine is an stellar tool for visual storytelling, previz, game cinematics and film. It is an easy learning curve and if you've worked in any editing software the splicing of takes and blending should be very strainghtforward. I think this is where the filmmaking future leads. Making films from your own living room, that was something i always dreamed of. And now this dream became real. Thank you Unity team and Adam Myhill!
I worked with Timeline for the first time for this project (i was used to the Animation Timeline) and it showed a lot of flexibility in orchestrating the workflow of my unity project. I did hit some snags with animation blends and i got frustrated about it at first but Unity forums provide a lot of help and i managed to fix my problem. It is truly inspiring how the Unity team improves the way we use the software and we discover new things. I'm going to take Timeline serious and start use it regularly, it seems the only system to animate any parameters from your assets without code.
I've been using the Post processing Stack from my first Unity scene. I love visuals and tinkering with them and PPS offers that and so much more. It's very easy and intuitive and having done color grading for film i think it handles the look of your unity scene in one single shot. I found on GitHub the PPS v.2 and have started to play with that as well. It's like reading a book you love everytime i make a post-processing profile. I just want to play with the sliders and see how my image looks after.

Final Thoughts

Doing the Neon Challenge project, i have learned a lot about animation and camera blends (cinemachine is a priceless tool), learned about shader trees and the most important experience was not having to export my animation (that was awesome). Coming from 3d and 2D animation i remembr quite a few projects that i struggled on because of the RENDER times, thank God that is over now. All that in the last few days. There were things that didn't woked that well, again a very short timeline to make a project. I think my evaluation of my project is fair, my submission wasn't like i planned it, but making films and from my very short game dev experience i found out that the end goal is rarely like the plan that you set out to do. It twists and turns and it tests you and your team. Those were my lessons from this experience. I've seen a lot of amazing other submissions for this challenge and i hope everybody else had a very good time. Be NEON!

Used Assets

  • Post-Processing Stack (free)
  • Recorder (free)
  • Cinemachine (free)
  • Real-time area lights, Volumetric fog, Tube lights from Adam Interior Environment (free)
  • Water Effect Fits For Lowpoly Style by Pure Evil Studio (free)
  • Unity Particle Pack (free)
  • Pipes Kit by Mojo-Structure (free)
  • Building Kit 001 by Mojo-Structure (free)
  • Basic Gesture Motion / Mixed Motion 2 / Mixed Motion / Action Pack / Basic Motion by 3D-Brothers (free)
  • Dynamic Music Pack by John Leonard French (free)
  • Lighting Effects - Shaders by Aliyeredon (free)
  • Lens Flares (free)
  • Double Sided Shaders by Ciconia Studio (free)
  • DistortFX by fholm (11.89$)
  • MK Glass Free by Michael Kremmel (free)
  • Chair and Armchair by Aksdev (free)
  • Unity Standard Assets (free)

Software & Other Resources used

  • Autodesk Maya LT
  • Adobe Photoshop / Adobe Illustrator
  • Unity3D 2017.03
  • Script - CABLE for Maya by Romain Chauliac
  • Mixamo (Rigging)
  • Adobe Fuse (Character models)
  • Freesound (other sound resources)
Sergiu Lupșe
Indie Game Developer / Filmmaker - Designer
Sergiu Lupșe
2 years ago
Indie Game Developer / Filmmaker
Veaceslav ZolotariovInteresting abstract design :)
I tried something experimental :) @Veaceslav Zolotariov
Sergiu Lupșe
2 years ago
Indie Game Developer / Filmmaker
Slav FilimonovSo fashion!
Thank you, i went all psychedelic :D
Interesting abstract design :)
Slav Filimonov
2 years ago
So fashion!
Sergiu Lupșe
2 years ago
Indie Game Developer / Filmmaker
Thanks a lot! All the best to you too!