Here's a look at a couple of alternate color grading variants. Throughout the course of working on the project, I've always played around with the look and feel of the scene. While I was pretty sure I was going to go with the blue/purple hues, I still have love for some variants.
In particular, I'm really drawn to this golden hue. I also really like simple black and white. It's amazing how the color treatment can completely change the final product.
Day 14 Transparent Terrain
So I was lying in bed last night watching the last Youtube video over and over and over (I do this when I'm working on a project to help get ideas)...and then I started thinking about the terrain object I was using for snow. I really wanted to come up with a way to get some softer edges on the snow. I had tried using my concrete texture with the terrain, but I wasn't thrilled with the results. It occurred to me, if I had a way to make the terrain transparent, I could probably get some acceptable edge blending. I started googling and surely enough, found a bunch of different threads about the very subject. I was excited, but still sick and Very tired, I called it a night. Today, after a little trial and error, I found a perfect shader that did what I wanted.
I started fading out some of the harder edges and was very happy with the results. Once I tested in play mode though, I had some z-fighting issues with the transparency and my particle systems. I was able to easily fix the issue by increasing the render que value of my particle materials. Boom. Once that was sorted, I added a bunch of buildings to the skyline to really fill it in. That's all for now. Cheers and Happy Creating!
Day 13 Time for Polish!
I posted yesterday's update earlier today, now here's my absolute latest from today. I spent the day adding more polish and added some reflection probes to the scene. I then set up some ice puddles to get the shiny, cool reflections from the probes. At this point, I'm feeling satisfied with everything, on a high level. Now, it's really just time to buckle down and polish up everything. The camera shots / movements, populating with little details, and doing animation work for the robot, to really bring the scene to life. All of the animation is still rough keys, but now that I'm to this point, I'm ready to start refining. Also adding more little details to boring plain surfaces, etc.
I'll be diving into the timeline tomorrow, animating the robots, adding sound effects and recording our Soundtrack. The audio in the video is by Perturbator. I do not own it and won't be using in the final video, but for now, it's inspiring me to stay at it. I'm feeling a lot better and ready to spend my last day of vacation WORKING - on this! YAY! My old man always tells me - "It's not working when you love what you're doing." And he's mostly right! Cheers and happy creating!
Day 12 The work continues!
True story, at a previous job, shortly after I had started working as a Unity developer there, we had a potential to land a HUGE client for a job working on a VERY famous IP. I told our owner - "Hey, let me whip up a prototype in Unity to pitch these guys. I know we only have 24 hours, but I can make something amazing in that time." He said, " Ok, this is your chance to prove yourself. Let's do it." I jumped into the asset store, grabbed some stuff I wanted and made an amazing demo in one day. The client was blown away and we landed a $500,000.00 job from that demo. We ended up delivering 4 interactives for a Studio Tour that were completely built in Unity. The client loved the work. I loved the work. We also went on to get much more work from that client due to that one demo I made in Unity, in one night. Truly a testament to the power and speed of protoyping in Unity.
Day 12? What! What! Well, really when I say day 12, I really only mean this is my 12th session of work. Most of the days were really only 1-3 hour sessions. I work full time, I'm a dad who loves to spend time with his kids, and I still manage to crank this stuff out really fast. Honestly, Unity is so amazing for rapid prototyping, it's unbelievable.
In the video here, I hop into MayaLT and whip up a gear, add a few of them to our scene, and look at various elements in the scene. Enjoy and Happy Creating!
Day 11 Back in it!
2 weeks and no work! You're fired!
I think it's been almost 2 weeks since I've been able to work on the challenge. The worst part is, I, along with John and Sophie (my 2 youngest childrens) have been super sick with strep throat for the last 5 days. I'm finally starting to be able to look at a screen without my brain feeling like its going to explode. YAY! I spent some time creating a few more buildings for the skyline and also spent some time working with Cinemachine. I still haven't had a chance to figure how to best set up my cameras, but that will come with time as I get the remainder of the details added in. Loving all of the projects in this challenge. Is there some insanely cool stuff here or what? Cheers and Happy Creating. I'm back at it!!!
Day 10 Let's move!
Cameras and cameras! Wow. Today is a busy day at our house. My kids participated in a Christmas play this morning. I was able to squeeze in about 2 hours of Unity at lunch time. We're having my friends over for dinner tonight, so I gotta wrap it up quick and start preparing the food. I spent about an hour checking out Unity's new Octane Render plugin. It's looking pretty rad! Anyways, as far as we're concerned with our scene, I got our cars animating and spent some time working on the cameras and the timeline. I'm really excited about the direction this is going. No images or videos for now. Maybe later tonight after the party! I did quick make a gif of the cars moving and updated the project thumbnail. Cheers and happy creating!
Day 9 Details
Today was a good day. Work treated us to a movie, so we took a field trip to go watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Good times and lots of action. After the day was over and I got settled in back at home, I got in a few solid hours of work. My focus tonight was to get some custom building pieces made. I've been using asset store stuff for most of the buildings, but I want a couple of custom pieces. The scene is dark and moody, so the building pieces don't need to be too detailed. I hopped in the old MayaLT and started playing.
I'm kind of aiming for a look of 1940's-1950's America, and what a vision of the future might have been like back then. With my buildings in hand, I jumped back in Unity and started building out the city some more. I used another one of the signs I made on day 8. I decided to leave the windows as separate meshes so I could throw different colored materials on each window.
Well that's all for tonight! Keep up the good work everyone!
Day 8 The Chase!
Well, it's the first day since Monday that I've had more than 2 hours to work! I was able to model 2 decent props tonight and play around in my scene. I Created our little owl robot buddy from yesterday's sketches, and whipped up a Jetsons inspired future car for our robots to cruise the streets of future town. I started by modeling the base car shape in MayaLT and then hopped into Zbrush to sculpt it. Back into maya for simple UVs and then right into Unity. I did the Owl in Zbrush only. Pretty happy with how they turned out.
Once I got a few of the new props in, I decided to work on some Neon signage. I found a nice neon type font on Fontspace that was free for personal and commercial use. I made an atlas of different sign words in Photoshop to use on an emmisive material. I then hopped back into MayaLT, threw it on a quad, sliced it, and then separated each face into a new poly. Then I exported them as .fbx right into Unity. I used the transparent PS sign texture on the standard shader's emmisive property and cranked up the values for the glow. (I exported with the black background layer turned off, so it was transparent. I left It black for the screenshot so you could see it)
Well, it's 2am and I've got to work in the morning, so I'm off to dreamland. Keep up the awesome work, everyone!
Day 7 - Robots!
Hey O! Day 7. Going to start posting new days at the top here. Probably should have done this sooner. My Bad! Anyways... During my lunch break today, I took a few minutes and sketched some robots. I mean, we can't have a futuristic city without robots, right? So I guess it's a good time to share some sketches. When I sketch, I get a lot of visions popping into my mind's eye, so I tend to sketch real loose and fast.
Once I got home from work, I hopped into MayaLT and started to model the first robot. I kept it simple and clean. With the intention of letting the solid shapes and the material properties do the talking in Unity. I did rig the arms with a simple skeleton so I could pose them. I spent abobut 2 minutes repaint the weights on each arm so they would fold in a more rigid manner.
Once I had this guy all rigged up, I cleaned up the hierachy in the outliner, did a bit of regrouping and exported the FBX to Unity. Once in Unity, I tossed him on the dresser. My daughter said he should be a toy. I told her the city is going to be populated with robots. She said keep him on the dresser. I said "OK." I started by setting up the metal material for his body. I went into to photoshop and painted a texture for metal plating with rivets. I then converted it to a normal map. I played around with it for a bit in Unity, but ultimately decided I liked him better with no rivets, so I ditched the rivet normal map. I did use a normal map for his arms, though, to get that segmented metal look. And finally, I setup a material for the glowing eye and Antennas. Since everything is already setup for emmisives to look good, I simply had to crank up the emmisive value and decide on a color. Again, I went with my daughter's favorite. We slid through the color slider to see the variants, just in case.
And here's our First robot, all set up and looking sharp.
Until tomorrow, Cheers!
Unity! This is super exciting, isn't it? I mean come on. A 20,000$ grand prize, and multiple other great cash prizes just for placing? And hey, even if we don't win or place, we'll have a great portfolio piece and most of us will likely have learned A LOT. Competing in this challenge is a no brainer, so let's get to work!
I'm starting this post on day 3 for me. I've spent probably about 40 hours on the project so far. Aside from the Asset Store stuff, I am a team of 1. Yep, just me. Well, and my kids are giving me tips and great creative ideas. So scratch that. I guess it's sort of a family effort.
I've been really getting into the concept of spirit animals, and animal medicine lately. There's a lot we can learn from the animals we share the planet with. I work in tech and I'm constantly starring at screens, but daily, I basically dangle on the precipice of walking away from tech and becoming a mountain man and disappearing into the woods.
Feeling the pull from nature, for the challenge, I really wanted to take this theme of future city, and bring in an element of nature. That is to say, I want to portray a cold, hard, concrete jungle of the future and juxtapose it with a colorful dose of animal medicine and some plants / trees.
After reading through the blogs for the contest, and looking at some of the entries here, I decided to get started. The first thing I did, was spend a few minutes sketching and googling images of cities. Using references of existing cities, I tried to visualize a nice shot of the future city I was thinking about. I sketched with some basic shapes and laid out a pretty good shot, I thought. (I'll throw in a sketch or two later)
Once I had an idea of a basic shot, I fired up Unity. I love the new post production stack, so I instantly added that. (Also, after going back and looking at the rules, I saw that it was required to be used!) I think it's really cool of Unity to be promoting the Asset Store for this challenge. There's a ton of great stuff in there. I've definitely spent some dollars on a lot of awesome stuff over the years. However, for this challenge, I thought it would cool to do as much of this as possible with FREE stuff from the store. I'll be making some custom stuff, as well, but let's see what can be done with free stuff. The Asset Store is a lot like having access to a huge team that can get you just about anything you need, fast. Reminder, going for FREE stuff here.
I started by creating a cube and scaling it into a generic building shape. Then I started positioning the cubes to block out the scene with buildings and mimic the layout of my sketch. Once I had the basic layout done, I jumped into the asset store and just started downloading all kinds of free stuff that I knew I was going to need. Normal maps, building parts, creepy hospital walls, junked out cars. Dumpsters, garbage, barrels. Damn. Yep, all there. Free? Yep. Now, I could take about 100 hours and model all of this stuff, but there's absolutely no need to. If I was filming a movie, I would use props or buy them. I'm not going to build a freaking house from scratch for a scene. I'll find an existing one. You get the point.
However, in an effort to realize my vision, I will definitely be creating some original assets. The first original asset I made, was some broken concrete road pieces. I decided to create and rig them with bones in MayaLT. Rigging them will let me do some cool twisting and pulling and enable me to easily make multiple variations with just one asset.
After the road piece was done, I hopped into Zbrush, and using zSpheres, I sculpted the Tree Of Life. The tree is going to be a center piece for the animation, so I wanted to make sure I had exactly what I needed. I wanted to make a strong tree, with a female face and subtle body shape. A mother tree, if you will. Once I had her finished, I sent her into MayaLT and applied some quick UVs that would be suitable for a tiling wood texture.
With my rigged road piece and Tree of Life ready to go, I hopped back in Unity and really went to town setting up the shot. Once I had most of the props in place, I started thinking about atmosphere. My first thought was Rain! Let's do rain. Rain makes cool reflections. I added some basic rain from the Unity particle pack on the asset store. After about 5 minutes of playing with the rain, I realized I didn't want rain. It's really damn cold right now in Chicago, so I said, snow! Let's do snow!
I spent about 5 minutes on a particle system. Default particle. Boom. Snow.
As you can see in this screenshot, my lighting is mostly set up now. Let's talk about lighting for a minute. I was starting to get frustrated that it was taking Unity so long to finish my lighting jobs. There had to be something here I was missing. Well, there sure was. I found a great tutorial on Global Illumination on Unity's site and was able to determine that if I lowered the Indirect Resolution to about 0.1, my lighting finished building in like 2 MINUTES !!! AND it still looked great. That was it. I literally changed 1 float. My PC was no longer being bogged down by lighting jobs and build time was FAST. That made me a happy camper. As far as my lighting set up, and my PPS implementation, I'll cover that next week.
OK. So I really want to do some spirit animals in the scene. As I was looking at the tree, I started thinking about how I was going to handle the leaves. As I was thinking about the leaves, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful little FREE butterfly that I had placed on the dumpster lid. Then I had an AHA! moment. I remembered seeing this video of hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies covering this tree in Mexico. THAT. I want to do that.
The butterfly is pretty low overhead. I thought, hmmm....How am I going to get thousands of butterflies on this tree and not set fire to my PC in the process? The first thing I did was place one on the tree and then clone it. then I cloned both, then I cloned all 4 and spaced them out a bit. After a few minutes I had cloned about 300 of them. 300 rigged butterflies on a tree. I pressed play....
25,000 batches. 8FPS. (I have a 1080 Ti in my machine, too.)
I thought about this for a minute...Particles. Particles are the answer I said.
Well crap. How in the hell am I going to do this and make it look good? Ok...I need a sprite sheet. Oh Snap! I remember I had a transparent background screenshot recorder script that would come in really handy right now. So I proceeded to make a new scene. I positioned my butterfly at the angle I wanted for the particles, and rendered out a sequence of the butterfly flapping its wings. I had to adjust the animation clip and scale it so it was exactly 16 frames. I wanted a power of 2 sprite sheet, so 4x4 sprites should do the trick.
Once I had all 16 frames as .pngs, I downloaded Texture Packer. Another free app that I used to take all 16 images and arrange them neatly on a 1024x1024 texture.I could have done it by hand, but ain't nobody go time for that! Another thing I did - I want the neon theme to REALLY shine in the animals here, so I edited the original texture in Photoshop so it would work as an Emmisive texture. All black with white lines. Works like a charm and the results are some really nice glows.
I made a few different sprite sheets of the butterfly at different angles. It's really pretty magical. Drop this texture into a material and throw on a particle system. Go into the particle system's Texture Sheet Animation property and set it up something like I did in the screenshot below. I've also included a shot of the Material settings to get this beautiful glowing butterfly particle. (Don't forget to turn on the bloom in your post stack!) Thank me later :)
After I added the butterflies, It was really starting to feel magical. I had a bunch of other great ideas, and the story came to me. So Next, I'll be working on the other location for the beginning of the animation.
If you made it this far, thanks for checking out my work. Going to call it quits for tonight. Cheers!
OK! I'm back for more on Day 4. Since I haven't had a chance to learn the new Timeline system or Cinemachine, I spent most of the day setting that up, with some great tutorials running while I worked. I definitely recommend checking this one out -
I got pretty sidetracked with all of the timeline stuff, but it's necessary to learn it, so I'm glad I did. I set up a timeline, a few cameras and a dolly camera. I spent a couple of hours working with those and figuring out how to animate stuff on the timeline. (Cameras, Gameobjects, whatever) In the shot below, I was working with some transitions to different shots. I'm planning on having our butterfly meet the Tree of Life, and having the camera get up close and personal for that shot.
Once I felt comfortable with the Timeline, I decided to get back into setting up the scene. I have a ton of stuff to add, so I got busy modeling. Today's work is going to need some custom assets, so the first thing I did was model a lid for the jar that is going to be the final resting place for our living butterfly. I started with a simple cylinder in MayaLT and then selected some face loops and extruded them. I rotated the middle one just a bit, so it would look like the lid is threaded. I also beveled the loops the get a rounded edge on them. I then did an optimization and reduce pass on the lid. After that, I played with some UVs to set it up to look nice for a tiling texture. I also wanted a sweet wooden window frame like I had when I was a kid. I grew up in Iowa in a house that's over 100 years old. So I modeled the similar window frame, as well.
The scene is going to start off in a child's bedroom. I wanted it to feel familiar, before bursting out into the neon city. I went to the asset store to find some more props. I found a great Chest of Drawers model that looks exactly like what I was wanting. I also purchased a knitted looking Teddy Bear asset a while back. This would be great for this scene. I also bought this sweet Horror pack about 3 years ago and I remembered that it had a bunch of real nice lamps in it. I imported the lamps and found one I thought fit the scene well. I also found a pencil and some Chattering teeth, for free in the Asset store. Perfect props to dress up the dresser. (See what I did there? )
There's going to be quite a bit of animation going on, on different objects, in the first 20 seconds of the scene. I spent some time playing around with the things I know I'm going to be animating, to get the look and feel just right. I love the post production stack. You can really get some beautiful colors and blending, if play around with it. On that note, let's talk about the Post Production Stack a bit.
I'll be using a couple of different Post Processing Effects profiles in this scene, but my main one is where it's at. My Go-To FX are usually Ambient Occlusion, Bloom, Color Grading and a Vignette. On occasion, I'll use some depth of field. Just depends on if I feel that it helps the scene or not.
Let's do a quick recap on how I implement the PPS stack.
Import the Post Processing Stack plugin from Unity's Git or the Asset Store
Right Click in the project view and create a post-processing profile
Add the Post Processing Behaviour script to your camera
Drag and drop your newly created post-processing profile from your project view, into the slot on the script that you placed on the camera in step 3
Click your post-processing profile in the project view and start going crazy with the Cheese Wiz in the inspector. (Carefully enable and adjust the desired effects in the inspector)
Viola! Now you have a Post Processing Stack setup and can really step up those graphics on level 3. Boom.
Ok, Well that's all for tonight. Happy Creating!!!
Ok, it's Monday, which means back to work all day for me. I did manage to get about 4 hours in tonight. I spent the first hour upgrading to Post Processing Stack V2. It's a big change in setup, but the core effects still work the same. It's getting late, so I'm not going to dive into setting it up at the moment. Maybe later. I will, However, cover a couple of issues that were blockers for me.
First, after reading the tutorial on Git about how to set it up, I could not enable the effects on my Post Processing Volume script. As it turns out, the toggle dots next to every single property, are exactly that, toggles. Nothing works until you click the circle to add a check mark. Sounds obvious, but I had to google it. LOL
Yay! I have PPS effects now. Ok. I Go to build. Build errors. Something about Depth of Field and Maximum temperatures. The errors were related to DX9. I had to go into the player settings and disable DX9 in the Windows Auto Graphics API settings. Cool. Boom. More build errors. The next set of errors were null refs from the PostProcessLayer.cs I simply commented out this block of code *For now* and that fixed the problem. (I'm tired and don't want to debug code. lol)
With the errors cleaned up, I started doing some rough animation for the intro segment of my scene. I did a lot in the Timeline editor. It's really, really, slick. Super necessary for this kind of work. Once I had some rough animation in (I'll go back and work on the animation in the future) I started playing with Audio in the timeline. Damn, this is SWEET. It's great to finally have this functionality in Unity.
In the screenshot below, I created an Empty gameobject and named it Audio Manager. I created 5 audio sources as children. In the Timeline editor, you reference audiosources that you want to use to play sounds. So naturally, we'll have multiple sources playing at the same time, so we need to create them in the hierarchy.
Freesound.org is a nice resource for sound files. Be sure to check the licenses on any audio assets you use. When I'm working on a project like this, something with a high end focus, I like to flesh out a least one or two vertical slices. I mean, I like to be able to show myself quickly, the potential / direction of the project with lighting, FX, animation and Audio in place. For example, the I'll think about the two video clips I have on the page. I'll watch them repeatedly and think about the work. What to change, what I like, what to add, etc. This is handy when I'm not at the PC. I'll watch a few times before bed, at breakfast, on my lunch break, etc. It's a way to work on it in my head, when I'm not actually able to be at my machine.
YAY! We've got all of the parts working together now. Cinemachine, Timeline, Post Processing Stack, models, lighting, textures, sound, animation, code. It's exciting to see things starting to come together. In the clip below, we see a Dolly camera transition to a camera targeting the butterfly. In the Timeline, I added some rough animation keys for the butterfly, the glowing light, the particles coming in from outside the window, the lid blowing off the jar. I've also added multiple audio sources and layered some ambient audio and sound effects. Let's see how it all plays together nicely in Unity's Timeline.
I'm pretty stoked about the Audio. I play piano and I'm going to compose a track for this. My 10 year old son started playing the violin this fall. Going to have him contribute, as well. And most likely have my daughter do some Voice work.
And that's all for day 5! See ya tomorrow. Happy Creating!
It's been a long and productive day in the studio. I've survived the commute home, made the hand off of the kids with my wife, so she can head out to Karate. I just cooked dinner and now it's time to get back to work. My oldest son is in the basement on my PC, playing some games. I'll be a cool dad and let him rock it out for awhile. Now is a perfect time to think about a melody. I've got the visual style pretty much locked down, which will help me as I start improving tunes. I'm going to watch the two above videos on my laptop while I sit at the piano and see what comes out. Once My son hops off the PC, I'll jump back in Unity and get back on track. Excelsior!