Making Off of 'The Towers' for Unity Neon Challenge
Hi everyone! My name is Ximo Catalá and I’ve been working as a CG artist since 1995, mostly for games where I’ve been focusing on 3D environments and lighting. Currently I’m an independent artist and also a Unity Asset Store contributor.
I've been working alone on this project for the last couple of weeks. I just entered the challenge a bit late so I decided to work on something relatively quick to do. I hope you find it interesting!
Inspiration and References.
I’ve always been fascinated with big, barroque industrial structures which are common on many popular scifi visualizations. They can also be found around our real industrial world. I personally find an interesting contrast of emotions: beyond the unsettling, souless and suffocating complexity of intrincated iron structures there is a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) layer of beauty and order. It is exactly this type of contrast what I wanted to explore.
For this purpose I wanted to play with verticality in terms of space and motion. At the same time, evolving from a dark atmosphere to a bright ambience along this vertical progression would help to enhance this idea of contrast.
I’ve selected some art concepts by Kait Kybar, Chris Balaskas and Stuart Lynch which I find very interesting for this purpose. I’ve also had in mind some 3D art concepts which I developed some time ago. Researching for real world big industrial constructions is a source for many inspiring references, too.
WIP Log #6. Final notes on audio.
Recorder doesn't grab the audio. I am aware of other tools on Asset Store to capture video and audio but since it's ok to add audio on top of the final capture I just decided to include sound on a video-editing software. The result would have been not too different in any case. As an extra note: the base music was arranged and recorded by myself. Sound FX are public sound samples available from ZapSplat.com
WIP Log #5. Lighting, atmospherics and Post Processing Stack
The first thing I've done is experimenting with different sun positions and skyboxes. AllSky package comes very handy and I can quickly test different skyboxes and ambiences until I get to what better fits my idea.
I've used mostly the new Area Lights supported by some occasional point lights to enhance the sun directional light bouncing on the big buildings surfaces.
Once I had all the area light sources in the right places, I created a simple texture containing nightime buildings facades with lit windows. Then created a new material using the texture as an emissive color and applied to some simple quad mesh renderers. These new objects are placed and mixed with the buildings geometry to simulate more light sources and to suggest that the place is really inhabited.
For the atmospheric effects I've used Volumetric fog, SunShafts and a simple Flare just visible in the final camera final composition. However I've decided to also use some particles FX's to create some steam emitters. By placing them at some strategic points they will help to articulate the space and also add depth and dimension.
And then, time for the final touches to the Post Production Stack setup before recording the footage. Leaving the post-pro for the end doesn't mean that I just worked on it as a final step. On the contrary, I've been tweaking and adjusting the post-processing stack since the first rough light setup I made for the early whitebox. Here you can see the final setup.
WIP Log #4. Scene Dressing
I have the timeline with final camera motion synchronized with the spaceships clips ,the environment layout and a rough lighting setup. Now I know exactly what I am going to see. Time to dress the scene.
The main source of assets for the scene dressing are from SciFi Industrial Level Kit v 1.0 package. However I've used as well a good number of variations and additions to this package.
Now it's time to use Space Station Builder package to add some extra detail to the scene. The package is meant to be used for building a real space station like the ISS, however it's just great to add the extra layer of complexity that I'm looking for.
WIP Log #3. Timeline, Cinemachine and final layout.
First thing I've done is working on the camera main traslation across the different sections of the environment: along the process of building the whitebox layout I've been recording some key positions on a GameObject which would be used for the camera path and timing. After this, I worked on the animation of the first spaceship leaving the hangar. This is a key element in the scene as it becomes the main visual leading point for about a third of the shot, so I'd need it as a target for a virtual camera.
Then I prepared other secondary elements which I'd need to setup the camera animation with Cinemachine. The other two spacechips animations are very simple: they're just horizontal linear movements. One of them would be used as a virtual camera target. I would also need another two camera targets for the time we enter the second tower hollow interior before coming outside to the final general view. Just a couple of GameObjects at the right locations would do the job.
Once all these elements were done it was time to start using Timeline and Cinemachine features. During this process I also re-evaluated the whitebox and did some modifications to improve the camera view compositions and base animation.
So, to summarize, this is the list of clips I've used and mixed in the Timeline:
4 Cinemachine virtual cameras with different assigned Look At targets and a common Follow setup.
3 spaceships animations. One of them as target for a virtual camera.
GameObject (Camera Follow Up) animation with motion around the scene.
Hangar Door opening animation.
WIP Log #2. Background and final layout.
By this time I had a good idea of what I wanted for the last camera angles so I needed to quickly layout a background before start working with a final camera motion. It was time to use the Battleships package. It contains three space ships and one big space station.
After a few tweaks to the textures and materials contained in the package I was ready to start using the space station assets to layout the background.
I personally like adding some lighting, atmosphere and a skybox as soon as possible in the project. It doesn't matter it's just a whitebox and I am sure that I'll be changing it later on. Nevertheless the sooner I implement some mood and light the better I'd focus and develop the idea while working on the next steps.
WIP Log #1. Whitebox.
I’ve started building some small pieces with Probuilder which have the same basic proportions and elemental shapes than the main 3D assets package that I’ll be using for building the final model.
To assemble the layout may seem boring at first (and it is) but the more assembled structures that I get done, the faster the whole process becomes as I put them into big gamobjects which I can clone and move around, looking for the most interesting shape compositions. From this point onwards things start getting more and more interesting... and more fun!
While I assemble the whitebox layout I keep simulating 'by hand' what I'd like to do with the camera. Finally, when I got a model which I think can be good starting point, I created a GameObject and animated it to store the positions and basic timing for the camera motion along the scene.
List of assets used in the project.
- SciFi Industrial Level Kit (by Ximo Catala. I’ve also used a good number of new modules and pieces derived from/based on the original package assets)