My Name is Garrett Wickman and I am a Video Producer for a Video Game Publisher in San Francisco, CA. I have a degree in Film from SJSU, and love creating and telling stories. That is why, when I saw the Neon Challenge announcement, I had to make something.
My experience with the Unity Engine is very little. This was a great experience in understanding how the engine can be used for more than just making games.
CONCEPT & INSPIRATION
I have to admit, "The Big Pay" was not my first idea. I really wanted to tell an in-depth story, which I called...
The Old Gods was an idea that stemmed from one of the concept art pieces supplied by the Neon Challenge, as well as Norse mythology.
The tagline I came up with was, "All the technology in the world can't protect you from the Old Gods".
The idea was to have a girl paraded/celebrated through the streets of a futuristic city, and then have her enter a walled crater/pit. She would then sacrifice herself, for the greater good, by falling into the deep pit. The city would erupt into cheer and celebration as she fell into the darkness.
Unfortunately I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was running into to many issues and was running out of time, so I decided to scrap it.
The Big Pay. It's a concept I've had for awhile, ever since my friend and I wrote a feature length screenplay called "The Big Pay". I envisioned a trailer where everything was frozen in time and the camera moved seamlessly through an apartment where drug dealers were being raided by the cops.
This idea was much simpler than the first. It revolved around an apartment, and didn't involve too much animation, I could also re-use some of the assets from "The Old Gods". Since I was running out of time, this seemed like the best idea.
For inspiration, I looked to one of my all time favorite Sci-Fi films, Blade Runner.
After finding references, I started to build the scene. I just went right into it, not wasting any time.
Right off the bat, I knew I needed to find assets. I am not a 3D-modeler, animator, or programmer. Luckily there are plenty of assets available to use through the store.
(In no particular order)
ArchVizPRO Interior Vol.1
ArchVizPRO Interior Vol.2
ArchVizPRO Beds Vol.2
Adam Interior Environment
Shotgun & Attachments
SF Buildings (RTS, FPS)
Futuristic Weapon Pack
Adam Exterior Environment
The Blacksmith: Environments
The Blacksmith: Atmospheric Scattering
Post Processing Stack
(My favorite asset, saved me so much time)
Not only did I find great assets through the Unity Store, I also found great textures through Textures.com , a great city through DAZ3d , and all of my characters were created with Adobe Fuse, and animated through Mixamo.
80% of what is shown in my piece was made using assets from the Unity Asset Store.
*One note of advice.
Adobe Fuse Character models do not import seamlessly. I needed to mess around with the material settings to make the characters look decent.
I had to first make the material Opaque. When importing Fuse models into Unity, it makes the material Transparent.
Made a duplication of the "Element" Material and replaced the "Element" Material on the eyelashes. I modified the material by using the Opacity Texture as the diffuse and changed the Rendering Mode to fade. I added the diffuse texture to the Secondary maps, so that the color would be there.
These steps helped make the Fuse models work for the Unity Engine.
I knew that I wanted to show off two different apartments. So I created one apartment using ProBuilder Advanced to make the basic room shape, ceiling, floor, and kitchen.
I also knew that I was going to be filming only one half of the apartments, so that allowed to me keep the object count down.
Once I had the rooms laid out I added the furniture and nik-naks to fill the scene. I found it hard to go wrong when placing items to fill the scene. Since I was going for an industrial look, pipes, steel, brick, are all good things to add.
Since I knew going into the project that I would be having everything be static, it made it easier to find animations that I could take a single frame from and pose. This was made even easier with the TIMELINE tool.
Adding character and cameras to a scene is very similar to how you use Premiere or After Effects for video editing. Since I am an video editor by trade, it felt easy to grasp.
I was able to take my single key-frame animations and have them hold through the entire scene.
Once a character was placed in the timeline, it became easy to animate them. As shown above, you can animate any animation and set key frames easily through the editor. I am not an animator, so being able to take an existing animation and edit it down to what I was looking, really helped.
Lights - Camera - Action
Now this is where I had some issues. I was trying to use the Cinemachine tool, but for some reason I was having difficulties making it work for what I was trying to do. What I was trying to do was simple, have a camera fly through a frozen-in-time scene, in one shot. But with the Cinemachine, I was having trouble trying to make the camera do that. So the solution?
Just animate the camera in the timeline.
Using the game view, you are able to see, in real-time, how your animations are changing the look. But, working with just a regular camera did have some small issues.
One of those issues was not being able to animate the Depth of Field through the Post Processing Stack. But I managed to find a work around. I disabled the Post Processing DOF and added the Depth of Field script to my camera, as seen below.
Once I got the camera figured out, I began lighting the scene.
This aspect is fun, since lighting can really help tell the story. I also wanted to make sure that the lighting seemed realistic enough.
As seen above, the shotgun emits a blast and the lighting then effects the character. Emitters are great to show how bright something is, but you should always back it up with a light source if you really want it to effect objects around it.
Once lighting is figured out, the final touches can be added. The Post Processing Stack can make or break your scene. This is very similar to color correction tools used in video editing software. They are powerful tools that allow a filmmaker to give their scene a specific mood.
Once I got the PPS to my liking, I needed to render the final product. That is where the Recorder came into play. This tool is very powerful and useful.
Once my scene was exported, I brought it into Premiere, where I added sound FX for the camera movement, and music. I mainly did this because of time restraints. I could have used the Unity Engine to add SFX and music to the Timeline, but since I changed my project with only 2 weeks left (only working on the weekends), I had to export the scene to a familiar program in order to get it done on time.
After working on this project, and using the engine for the first time, I have respect for the tools and how much they have to offer. I can see myself using it to tell stories through film making. I've seen what the engine can do, through short films like "Adam", and it is very inspiring.
I hope that you have enjoyed my video and my walk-through of the process and assets used. I learned so much through this project, which I can now use to help in my career as a Video Producer.
A special thank you to my wife, who was very supportive, and let me spend a majority of the weekends working on this project.