Full Video (without ending section, submitted at time of deadline )
Note: our video above is incomplete, we had some more content that included the ending, but some of our data was corrupted late on Jan 15, which set us back to where we couldn't include that part. We may upload a completed video later as part of this post.
We're a team of three developers in Fayetteville, AR, and we have been hunting for a project to do together and thought we'd try this one out! It's been outside our collective comfort zones to make a video, but we've all learned a ton.
Overall, we're each at a different skill level with Unity but we were able to pick up Cinemachine, Timeline, and the Post Processing stack very quickly. It was a blast!
Chloe Costello Hiley -- 3d artist
I haven’t had much of an excuse to do something cinematic before! I saw Cinemachine at Unite 2017, was totally interested, and then the Neon Challenge came along. It seemed like a great project to put Unity’s new Cinemachine, Timeline, and Post Processing to the test, especially within a futuristic environment. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, and since I usually work on modeling historical or current buildings, Neon Challenge would push me to develop a totally new, fun, fantasy world that I could immerse myself in. I'm usually doing projects for WebGL or low-end computers at work, so it was nice to have a chance to push the bar and put my skills to the test.
Kenneth Hiley -- architect and musician
I'm relatively new to Unity, but I became interested in it for its use in architectural visualization. For Chrysalis I was heavily involved in concepting, design, modeling, and scoring the music. After this project my interest in cinematography and composition have grown immensely, and I plan to employ Cinemachine in future endeavors.
Keenan Cole -- technical artist and programmer
On Chrysalis, I headed up doing the initial camera pass on most of the shots. I also did the custom shader and tool development for the project.
I am an amateur cinematographer putting it mildly at best. I messed around with Premier briefly and enjoyed it thoroughly so I was excited to get my hands dirty with Timeline and Cinemachine. My initial exposure was chiefly through the talks at Unite 2017 and Will Goldstone's informative tutorial that'll get you up to speed very quickly.
Our original idea explored what the future would be like culturally. We thought about the language of the future, something that could take advantage of new technology, something that could be both 3D and 2D and would make cool signage. A language that was spatial and could be projected as holograms. A language that might even unify the various people of the Earth. We looked to Sol Lewitt's Incomplete and Open Cubes as a language generator.
We didn't necessarily want to render a city landscape, though, and we wondered about how the building could tell a story without requiring much animation. In this sense, our idea evolved into including an abandoned ruin, where the remnants would speak for themselves, but you wouldn't have to put a lot of people there (one of the hardest things to animate) in order to make it look like a "real" place.
Therefore, we experimented with concepts of a ruin on Mars or some other similar planet, where some civilization with the language we conceptualized would be incorporated into their ruins.
Alex Roman -- The Third and the Seventh
Alex Roman is our cinematic idol, and though we aspire, we have so long to go...
Sol Lewitt's Incomplete and Open Cubes
James Turrell Skyspaces
Concepting with Timeline
I used Timeline a lot in the beginning stages to block out shots and to understand the scale of the pyramid. The Will Goldstone tutorial was so helpful!
Materials and Modeling
I learned so much trying to use Houdini to make procedural items. We originally had an idea to have animated holograms with the "letters" telescoping inside themselves, and controlling them using the Houdini Engine, but that idea didn't end up making it into the final cut.
Substance designer was a ton of fun to learn for this project, and I also learned my way around Substance Source, which is a great repository for materials... I got everything there...
I did a lot of experiments trying to figure out the Post Processing system, but I still don't think I have 100% command over it's features. It's a huge, powerful beast! One thing I did take away from this project was a better understanding of how HDR lighting works. You want to "blow out" the light initially, setting its intensity much higher than you expect, then grade the light down using "Color Grading" on the Post Processing Stack.
Another nice trick to use is to keep the shadows more saturated and the highlights less saturated. This can be achieved by changing the Sat. vs. Lum. curve in the curve overrides at the bottom of the color grading effect window. Also, use ACES! This is apparently the standard in the film industry and instantly makes your scenes look so amazing (right out of the box almost... if you turned the intensity on your light up).
I found the beta Post Processing volumes to be a total joy once I figured out how to use them. I ended up using them to set different exposure values for the different parts of the scene, and then having blends that softly attenuate the effects between them. One example of this is on the orrery, where I have a volume for it that changes the exposure.
Typically when I start learning something new, I will drill myself and produce a number of different experiments in order to get familiar with terminology and interfaces. It helps me to see also how far I could push Timeline and Cinemachine.
My initial experiments were quite tame. I wanted to make sure we could toggle objects on or off with the timeline as I thought this might be a useful feature for our Neon entry.
And of course, who can resist making a bunch of dolly zooms!
Finally, when we had a few assets produced, I decided to make a longer demo set to music to see what that'd be like. I also wanted to test a few custom shaders and scripts to see how they'd work with Timeline. The neat (albeit corny) results are below. And at this point I maybe had about 6-7 accumulated hours of Timeline experience. Not bad Unity! Not bad.
Up above, I gushed a bit about Timeline and how I was able to produce some pretty cool (to me at least!) experiments after just a few hours of exposure (and that's including the tutorial period!). Although, I would like to be straightforward and honest about what could use some improvement in Timeline. Having used Unity since 2008, I can attest to their commitment to improvement with the Unity interface and listening to feedback, which of course if I have missed something (totally possible!) then please let me know!
Selecting Blended Cameras
For good or bad, we settled on a workflow that made heavy use of camera blends (an interpolation between two cameras, generally). But we learned soon that one foible of this method is the difficulty of selecting a specific camera in the UI once you have a camera blend in place. It made it annoying after all initial camera pass to go in and polish the cameras later. Something like this would have be really nice. Note the choice to select Camera_Blend_1 or Camera_Blend_2 (which I assume would be called the names of your actual camera blends.
Another annoyance was the the near inability to let cameras blend completely over themselves. When you try to overlay one camera over another or extend the edge of one track to another, Unity would cancel out one of the cameras. Our horrid solution to this issue was to leave an infinitisimal distance between the edges of the cameras. Anything less than 200ms of transition tends not to be noticeable (if floating point accuracy even picks up on it).
Fancy Camera Blends
Finally, I wish we could have had fancier camera blends. I know I likely could have figured out how to do this, but currently, the camera blends are little more than linear interpolations between camera transforms and scalars. But there were times it would have been nice to have cooler blends such as an fade between cameras or other transition effects (you know, Powerpoint effects).