The bio-dome station wanders space in the futile yet hopeful effort to preserve earths natural flora species long after humans have greedily destroyed earths surface. Will it survive or succumb to the harsh realities of the ether?
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Hi, my name is Johannes Nienaber. I'm a developer hailing from South Africa, I'm one of only a few south African doing this challenge. I've been using Unity for about 8 years now, starting way back in high school. Ever since then its been my aspiration to become a full time video-game artist, a dream I'm still working on and getting closer to achieving.
This is the first time I will be using Unity to create a rendered video. I've been using Unity as a freelance artist for a few years now and when I saw this challenge I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn new techniques and improve my skills.
Visit my website here to see some more of my personal work.
All the 3D assets in this project are custom made by me and I wont be using any 3D or art related assets from the Asset Store. I will create all the artwork and level design myself for this challenge. I will be using some external packages from the asset store for lighting and shading.
My Unity Connect profile
2051. The point came when the smoke and the smog became too much for them to handle. War broke out between the factions of the earth, almost none survived. The surface of the earth was left barren and scattered with debris - inhospitable. The greenest among the survivors began a expedition - to save nature.
Project E.D.E.N. was initiated.
They rounded up their best few men and women and launched a vessel into space. They chose a few infants from willing parents to freeze in the ships stasis pods, these children would be the future. On-board the vessel was all the flora they could spare from all the biomes vital to humankind's survival, a preservation effort. They built wonderful machines to help in the preservation effort, helper robots - which went along. The idea was to search for a realm or planet to start anew - a new world, but it never came.
As time took its toll the crew died of one by one until none remained, with the robots and children in stasis the only ones left on-board. It seemed as though time took its toll on the robots too, as the solidarity of the vessel became too much to handle their mechanical bodies became decayed and they too started disappearing one by one.
The plants started overgrowing and reaching into all the areas in the ship as the steady supply of oxygen and water made the plants thrive in the void with no-one left to trim and care for them.
What will become of the earths last hope? What will become of the plants? What will become of the infants? What will become of E.D.E.N. Station? Will it find a hope? A new world?
I took my inspiration from a few places, firstly, I decided that I wanted to do a "garden at space" which is something that I've often thought about. The concept of our indigenous flora out at space as a last hope or last resort feels...heroic. One day mankind might expand into the reaches of the universe and we might spread our fauna and flora and heritages around the milky-way, which is something incredible. Hopefully I'll be around to see it.
This idea coupled with the challenge "neon" made for some interesting ideas in my mind. I imagined vast, open and bright space stations or settlements lit up with light and overrun with plants and animals. The perfect mixture of technology and nature if you will. Searching for a new world to settle on.
So, I started looking for materials to use as inspiration and I found a few fantastic artworks. In the end I went with my own concept but these were a great source of inspiration.
Note : These artworks are not my own creation and I hold no rights for them, they are simply a source of inspiration.
Art production and level design
I decided not to use any art related assets from the Asset Store and instead challenged myself to create all the assets in the very limited time that the project ran for. I used Blender to create all the visual 3D assets in the scene and textured them with Paint.net, GIMP and within Blender itself.
In my mind I had a relative idea of how I wanted the scene to look but I knew I had a mountain of work to do to get there. The difficulty factor increased exponentially when I had to balance the challenge with my usual design work, making time for both was virtually impossible and thus some very late nights and early mornings commenced.
I had a very interesting method to create the sections as they appear in the screenshots and the final video. I used a tool that exports Unity scenes as model scenes into the obj. format. I used this to import layouts that I did using the basic 3D shapes in the Unity scene itself into Blender and then created the detailed Section bases for the scene based of those basic 3D shaped layouts done from within Unity. This helped immensely with the scales, time consumption and performance implications of setting up a scene.
For the sake of reference I'd like to share how I do my models in Unity. Firstly, I model the object, then I UV Unwrap it as well as possible. I then texture the model's diffuse texture to the specific theme from inside Blender or an image application like GIMP. After the diffuse is done I bake the Normal and Ambient Occlusion maps from a high-poly version into the actual version of the model. This gives the model the information it needs to use the lighting and shadow data appropriately. I then create an armature rig and animate the model if needed. If the model is suitable I also make an Emission texture from the appropriate UV's on the model.
I used UBER for the shaders as they are very close to the standard shaders provided by Unity but they provide extra functionality like diffuse scattering and reactive emission, among many others.
I started by creating the layout of the first section in the scene and then continued by creating props and plants for that section. I finished the fist section's base and props and started working on the second section's layout and shortly after that its base and props as well as plants while laying out the third section. When the props and plants for the second were done the base for the third was done as well. I then moved onto the props and plants for the third section and completed those. At this point it was already dangerously close to the submission date and I knew I had to put as much effort and time into the remaining days as possible.
I had most of the props in place and all the sections bases were completed. I decided to do an extra layer of detail in the sections while working on the roofing for the sections and the skybox for the scene.
The Global Illumination system in Unity is incredible. It allows for very exiting and visually stunning features to be used. In my project the metallic feel was of great importance and so the GI system helped me immensely in terms of visual direction and lighting.
To allow for greater inspection into the scene and its details I've upload the entire scene to Sketchfab.
For the post production I used an interesting mixture of Unity's Post-processing Stack image effects combined with Beautify for a vivid and colorful feel to the camera. I used an additional ambiance occluding system called Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion for those dark edges and corners in the scene. I also used the Volumetric Lighting that was recommended. These combined achieve a great balance in onscreen effect and worked great together.
Unity's Post-processing Stack has allot of features and advantages to be had if used correctly, in my scene one of the most important features were the Bloom. As you can see from the video and images there is great color bouncing around, the Bloom coupled with the Atmospheric Lighting makes for some great vivid colors. Another important feature is the Depth of Field. It really allows you to add great immersion to your scene by having focus on exactly what you want. I also depended on the Vignetting, Anti-Aliasing and Noise along with some others. These are all great features.
The images below show the clear contrast between using post production tools and not using them.
Cinemachine and Timeline
This was my first time using Cinemachine and Timeline so the learning curve was steep but I had to be swift for timing sake otherwise I would not have made it. As I used these tools I realized just how powerful and professional they could be in the right hands.
Admittedly, I struggled to grasp some of the more advanced concepts and would have loved to have had more time to learn them but I had to make sure I had at least a finished production by the due date. I watched the recommended tutorials and learnt allot through them in a short time. These were a great help.
I decided to use the dolly cart system to follow along a path to get the effect that I wanted the camera to have in my video. I knew that having multiple blended cameras was an effective method of shooting but this wasn't what I had in mind for my scene so instead I used a single camera to convey the "feeling" I wanted my video to represent.
I used the recording system provided by Unity to record the raw footage of my scene in HD and UHD along with sound, UI and everything else that is needed. These are some great and powerful tools that Unity has provided.
In the near future I see myself making more film type projects and studying these tools further to get the most out of them.
I decided to use only a single audio track in the scene to create the mood that I wanted to achieve. The audio piece is a slow yet thought provoking instrumental/classical/sci-fi themed tune that conveys the feelings I wanted the scene to invoke in the viewer.
As the camera moves through the scene the audio helps to create a feeling of desolation and desperation. Along with the main theme there are also sound effects that play at certain times, timeline was a great help with these.
All in all I had a fantastic time creating these assets and the scene to make the video. It was an experience in which I often doubted myself yet pushed myself to achieve exactly what I wanted. I learned allot by partaking in this challenge. I learned to manage my time better and focus only on main tasks while making hard cuts to things that I wanted to add but just couldn't find the time.
Although I am definitely happy with my result there are naturally things that I would have wanted to improve and imperfections in the video that I would have liked to fix but I think that is normal.
I worked on this challenge for about 60-70 hours in total to create everything and make the video.
I'd like to thank the Unity team for allowing me and my fellow participants the chance to showcase what we can do and for allowing us the chance to push ourselves and show our true talent.
All models were made by me in Blender and textured from my own library of textures or with (free) textures from : (https://www.textures.com/)
Sound Effect Clips
All sound Effect Clips were created by me and edited in Audacity.
Mercy (Credited to Kai Engel)
The music clip was downloaded from : (http://freemusicarchive.org/)