Utaris Prime
Updated 3 years ago
Utaris Prime Short Film
Utaris Prime is a complete short film that I (David Watts) started the day after 2017.3 was released. I am hoping to have it finished by the end date for the Neon Competition.



There is a lot of reading material below, I go over some of the processes I did to design texture maps for the Alien leader model, how I achieve high fidelity normal maps for an object, and much more! When the movie is completed I will be posting more helpful information! (When the movie is completed a video will be at the top of this page).
And yes - the design standpoint on lighting was intentional. It will only look proper if you are on a decent quality monitor/TV. I apologize about this, at the time I wasn't really thinking about different monitor settings. I might try to make two copies of the movie (one with post exposure up) and one as it is now. If that doesn't look too too bad I'll submit that as a video as well, so everyone can enjoy it.

Storyline (Short).

200 years have passed sense we have discovered the Hamalachi, also known as 'The Greys' in the Alpha Centauri system, their homeworld known as Utaris Prime was a key point in our civilization, they introduced cures for ever disease known to man, provided advanced warp travel and more. 10 years prior we had formed a federation in hopes to better our two societies, however 2 years ago all contact was lost. Follow the journey with one man, David Watts as he goes to Utaris Prime to get to the bottom of the mystery, or surmount to his doom.


I have always been inspired by the Terminator universe from the first two original Terminator films, there has just always been something about the apocalyptic environments that James Cameron thought up, like the images below, there's just something so nerve wracking but yet beautiful from an artistic standpoint.
So this is how I came up with the concept of Utaris Prime. Taking what really inspires me from them films and creating something completely original from it. So you may be wondering what is Utaris Prime and how am I designing it?

Different ideas clash

Originally I had conflicting ideas on which way to go, I was going to go a route of a penal colony on Utaris Prime, but that just didn't satisfy my vision (as you can tell from the images below) there's a (Before) and (now) image (Penal Colony vs Destroyed City).
The destroyed city just satisfies me and looks 100% more proper for an apocalyptic environment.

So this is a movie?

In a sense - yes. giving me roughly 23 days to create - it is what I can do in 23 days. Everything has been created from scratch aside from a few assets I've used (will be listed at the bottom). All art however - has been created by me and my handy ZBrush. I am trying to make the movie at least 6 minutes long, enough time to get a nice starting story going for a possible 2nd movie, but the deadline for the competition is nearing so we'll see. May not even be done by then, but I'm pushing for it.
The entire movie will be recorded in 1 single scene! In real time, nothing whatsoever will be baked in this film, obviously I will be utilizing LOD, Batching Static and such - be horrible not too. But I am quite confident I can do this in a single scene considering it's a 6 minute movie roughly.

Material Design and Post Effects.

We'll start with post effects first sense this will be shorter in comparison to Material Design. The post effects stack V1 on the asset store, let me be blunt - is a life saver. Remember the apocalyptic city photo above? This is how it looks without it! (Yuck!)
Lets take this a step further, I am also using the Volumetric Fog that Unity released, and here's an image comparison with and without fog and post effects - even more YUCK.
It's truly amazing how much post effects can do to change the environment so much! Granted the Batches aren't cheap, but who cares for a movie right?
Now I'll go over some design aspects for how I textured a couple of objects. There's two design decisions I knew from the start I absolutely needed to do - step one - objects have to look grungy and dark (from ash, weathering, etc). And objects absolutely must never be too bright whatsoever, except for selected few things which make sense, at least on the outside area to the scene.
We'll go over how I made the Alien leaders Face. Here is an image to the Aliens face close up.
Can you tell what I did to make everything? Trust me - you won't guess it correctly if you thought I made some custom material for the skin or face. Truth be told - I try to use any materials I can that come with Substance Painter already, very rarely do I ever make a Material unless it makes sense to do so. I'll go over the steps I did to create the skin.
  • Base Skin-layer - Rust (yes - rust).
  • Change rust to a bluish/gray color.
  • The black splotches are actually - Artificial Leather with Roughness maxed out (no shiny). And that's it for the skin.
Now if you look closely the Alien has like a Metallic face-plate.
Honestly that was just a design decision I thought made him look really cool, and aged in a way that he's lived through the war for quite some time. I'll go over how I made that texture.
  • Base layer - Chrome. Yep chrome - it offers a nice base blueish reflection.
  • Created another two layers (One Red) and (One Blue) and jumped the roughness up to about 80 percent and painted away.
The alien eyes are just pure black with roughness at 0 (black). Suited this situation well! But as you can tell - even the most uncommon materials can make some truly beautiful outcomes if you just use some creativity. Would would have ever thought - RUST for skin of any type?
Model 2 : A block wall that can be rotated (just a piece of concrete). I will go over how I designed it.
As you can tell from the image - I only have ONE layer covering that entire model. However this is an illusion, the reason it is containing so much detail (that's not the finished product by the way). Just a half way point, because I want to illustrate what's going on here. But the reason it's containing so much normal map data, is because I exported out a low poly version (77 polygons to be exact), and imported into ZBrush Core and made it into a 20 million polygon model and gave it some amazing details, I then exported it out of ZBrush and hit the "Bake Textures" button in Substance painter and imported the High Poly mesh into it and baked the details from the High Poly mesh onto this low poly mesh, giving the result of an amazing Normal map.

3D Models - Design standpoints

Every model in the movie is in High Poly for the most part - obviously I don't need 250,000 polygons for a cube, but where things make sense, I do it. Such as block walls (for the case of the movie I need high fidelity in details) that other options just don't work well with my design. Most things are purely polygonal. Some use Parrallax Mapping, but not much. But some things don't use high poly at all (such as that image above) don't need too. Below is an image (before LOD) of a high poly wall piece I use A LOT on the outside area of the scene.
As you can tell, that is an astounding amount of detail, in fact too much detail! So I retopologized it down to roughly 100K Polygons for the LOD0 mesh, then redid it I believe 2 more times ranging from 20K-60K Polygons I believe, and then culling the meshes after roughly 80 feet. I also exported this High Poly Mesh and did the same steps as above to create high poly normal maps for the lower poly versions.

Character Texture Maps

All characters are using 8K Texture Maps - I wouldn't do this in a game (for obvious reasons), but being it is a movie, I knew I wanted to pull as much detail as I could with the skin and such, so I could see actual hair follicle bumps, etc. This is more so a personal preference, I'm sure 4K would have worked just fine, but - I wanted to push the limits in quality - and so only CHARACTERS and VERY few objects other than characters will use 8K Textures.

Timeline and Cinemachine

Timeline and Cinemachine (obviously) are a major part in this movie, Timeline makes it quick and simple to turn objects on/off, loop animations literally by clicking and dragging an object into Timeline, allows you to do all sorts of things. The best part of Timeline with Cinemachine is how easy it is to blend cameras together in a seamless action that just seems like it would take forever to code - and it would.
When the movie is complete - I will post more information on how I achieved certain camera effects and angles the way I did - in hopes I can show you how I did it.

lights, camera, action!

Yes, yes and yes.

Isn't this called the "Neon Challenge" where are the neon lights or futuristic stuff? All I see is junk.

I haven't yet gotten to that part yet, there will be some neon stuff in the movie, in places where it will make sense to have it - ships, lights, enemies, and so forth. But fear not, there will be some nice pretty lights on here at certain parts of the movie. Keep in mind, the movie is roughly going to be hopefully 6 minutes, as 23 days don't offer me much time to make a full scale and planned movie.

Why are you doing this?

I am mainly doing it for a challenge to show my self I can create an entire short film in 23 days, perhaps not the most beautiful short film, but a short film nevertheless - from scratch. In any means - is not an easy feat. (Graphics, Music, Sfx, voices, code, getting lighting set up just right, etc, etc, etc). So this is really a personal challenge and I hope you all enjoy watching the final film when it is released here very soon!

So, what assets are you using?

  • 1) Cinemachine
  • 2) Timeline
  • 3) Volumetric Light - (
  • 4) Volumetric Fog & Tube Lights (
  • 5) UBER Standard Shader. (
  • 7) Lens Flares (
  • 8) Post Processing Stack (Unity V1).
  • 9) Morse Code Generator from text (
  • 10) Mesh Brush (
  • 11) UniStorm - used it for Rain particles. (
  • 12) Unity Runtime Animation Recorder (

Tools being used

  • 1) Blender / GMax with OBJ Exporter
  • 2) Substance Designer
  • 3) Substance Painter
  • 4) ZBrush Core (Primary Tool).
  • 5) Paint Shop Pro 2018
  • 6) FL Studio Producer Edition
  • 7) Possibly using my actual Violin for some music pieces.
  • 6) BFXR (Space Skybox Generator) - FREE

That's it for now.

This is it for now guys/gals, it's hard not to share more, but this is a film, if it wasn't a film I could share every bit of detail, but how can I share more without spoiling everything hehe.

Thanks for your support! And thank you for the Opportunity to use your amazing piece of technology.

Update #1

I've been working on animations and so forth for the past few days. Almost done with all the animations! However, below is a teaser shot of the Alien getting off it's chair, looking up at the sound it just heard slowly, then screaming to alert the other Aliens. (NO SOUND) - Just an animation.
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David Watts
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