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FINAL VIDEO - Neon Challenge

The compression settings make the video look worse than it is, here is a slightly better version:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/nj37cn49rsnuuxu/Neon%20Challenge.mp4?dl=0
The best quality is in Unity play mode.

Concept

I wanted to approach the theme "A new world" a little differently and play with the idea of not only portraying a new physical world, but also how a new world of thought could be created.
I had the images in my mind of some kind of space exploration scene, in which an artifact is found that would revolutionize the way the past has been perceived, introducing a new perception of the world. I thought about a giant skeleton that has been kept hidden from the public and the first humanoid who is about to discover him.
I started with these loose ideas and at the same time I wanted to remain open for new features. I conciously chose this workflow instead of having a solid pre-production, in order to give me some freedom for experimenting, which was a big part of the project itself.

Production

For this challenge I set myself two constraints: (1) All assets should be free and (2) to model and texture as little as possible. My main focus of this challenge was to get familiar with Cinemachine, Timeline and the Post Processing Stack, so I wanted to invest most of my time in Unity.
I liked the idea of bashing different assets in order to create new ones, one must pay attention to the scale so different objects come better together. For example, I combined a sphere tank with a spaceship in order to create some kind of Drone or Probe spaceship.
The big buildings I could scale and/or duplicate without issues because I used them in the background for creating a better silhoutte for the street.
For this challenge I managed to model three fairly simple assets:
Post Processing Stack:
I started right away experimenting and testing the different settings of the stack. I had briefly used the package in the past so this time I wanted to spend more time with it.
I downloaded v.1 of the Post Processing Stack and it makes a huge difference in terms of quickly achieving a finished look. I mostly played with the Depth of Field settings, in order to capture points of focus on the screen and to create the shallow focus cinematic look.
The vignette tool not only I used it for creating depth but also using the offset parameter to mask certain parts of the image that I wasn't happy with. Later, when I wanted to blend different post processing settings between shots, I had to download v.2 of the stack because I somehow wasn't able to do this with v.1. Lastly I used the color correction settings to increase/decrease contrast and brightness when needed and to give the image a slightly cooler feeling.
Volumetric Fog:
I downloaded the package through Github and started playing around a bit. I really like the idea of fog and how it immediately creates atmosphere. I played a lot with the different types of lights and fog densities.
Cinemachine/Timeline:
The combination of Cinemachine and Timeline is a powerful feature to create quick sequences without the need of scripting. I mostly didn't blend between cameras for interpolating their positions but more so for the blending of post processing stack effects. I would duplicate a Timeline Clip, duplicate the referenced Virtual Camera in the Hierarchy, reference the new duplicated clip in Timeline with this new Virtual Camera from the hierarchy and use the Post Processing Stack config of the previous clip as a clone for a new config.
I really liked the noise feature for simulating handheld camera movements. I just couldn't resist myself to use this throughout the whole sequence. The noise parameters are really simple and you can easily achieve the cinematic style and presence of a handheld camera.
You can also use Timeline for quick fixing some minor issues. I realized last minute that I needed to bring the brightness down for an asset, so I just quickly animated the change in Timeline.
Terrain:
For the ground I tried different approaches: converting a black and white image into a heightmap, then making a heightmap myself and lastly sculpting the landscape directly with Unity's terrain tool. For this project I prefered the terrain tool because you could immediately see some results and you don't have to wait in order to continue with the creative process. Using a heightmap and customizing the height in Unity was also helpful, but I didn't want to spend so much time with the terrain's geometry. I used MicroSplat(free) from the Asset Store in order to use Substance as a terrain Material (didn't find another way to accomplish this).
Animation:
For all animations I used Mixamo. Through the site itself, as long as your model is biped, your custom model gets auto-riged with acceptable results and you have a nice collection of animations that now work with your model. Again, I didn't want to spend so much time animating/pasting animations so I decided to cut the character animations short. An additional reason was, the opening part was getting too much of a "gamey" look.
Screenshots from final video:

Conclusion:
I'm happy with the results, it's far from perfect but it's finished, at least for now. Being not restricted with one singular and definite idea definitely gave me some freedom, but I also had to spend a lot of time trying things out, and always being aware of the direction the project was going. Freedom comes with the price of effectiveness in working time. I really liked the challenge format in terms of pushing oneself to produce something different with the help of new tools.
Thanks to the Unity team!

Software used:
  • Unity 2017.2 (95% of the time)
  • Maya (modelling three assets)
  • Substance Painter (applying one material)
  • Photoshop (correcting textures)
  • Mixamo (searching and trying out animations)
Unity Assets / Asset Store:
  • Post Processing Effects v.2
  • Cinemachine/Timeline
  • Volumetric Fog
  • Water Pro - Standard assets
  • Rain Maker - Digital Ruby (Jeff Johnson)
  • MicroSplat(free) - Jason Booth
  • Spaceship Falcon 1874 - XB - Mariusz
  • Industrial Storage Tanks - Duane's Mind
  • NYC Block #6 -NoneCG
  • Block Building Pack - CGY (Yemelyan K.)
  • Concrete Barricades - Rossendy & Brito
  • Chainlink Fences - Kobra Game Studios
  • Endless Cave Ambience - John Leonard French
Other:
  • Substance Share (additional Materials)
  • Free3D (additional 3D models)

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Rainer Windolph
Game Design Student - Student
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