The State of the Art
Need for Speed. Homeworld
A Universe of Details Game engine camera systems take years to get right, the devil is most certainly in the details. My film experience side helped keep the movement and spirit of it all as authentic as possible where appropriate, and the game side keeps me honest when the cinematic rules and methods need to be let go for the sake of game design. It’s a constant back and forth with gameplay cameras, trying to make them feel good, yet not get in the way while servicing the gameplay needs.
I think it’s such a knockout when you combine Cinemachine with Timeline and the Post Processing Stack. The instant iteration possibilities of having animation, lighting, camera and post fx/color grading at your fingertips, all together, all now. This has been my life’s dream, and as far as I know Unity is the only place where you can do it all like this. Inspired by Adam At SIGGRAPH this year, we had a ses- sion on the show floor where there were 50 machines all set up with Unity, Timeline, Cinemachine and Post Processing Stack in a scene with the characters from our Adam short film. I asked the group, “How many of you have used Unity?” Four people raised their hands. Here I was giving a one-hour talk on these tools and the fact that the majority have never even opened Unity, let alone done cinematics in it, was a bit sobering. By the end of the session, people had turned this scene into this crazy number of different things. One girl made a little horror film, colorgraded all monochrome black and blue. This other guy turned it into an action scene with jump cuts and lots of camera movement. This lovely older woman had this broody, slow, intense cut of it. It was so encouraging and at that moment I knew all these tools were on the right track. This group of people spent their time on the creative problems and not the technical ones, and I was moved. Challenges and Rewards Unity offers an entirely new way of working and the pipeline is incredibly plastic, so you need to re-think how to approach everything. With a “traditional” CG pipeline, the stages are really well known, the hand off points are clear and the owners for each step of the process are well defined. With a creative engine such as Unity, we have this huge sandbox with so much inside.You can revisit lighting after camera, then do color grading, and then polish the cameras one last bit before rendering out straight from Unity. The creative stages are defined by each project, not by the software. You can definitely fall on your own sword if the process isn’t given thought—but then you can also tweak a light five seconds before project completion, so it’s double edged. Creative input anywhere in the process and productivity are the rewards.
In the near future, the look-delta between offline rendering and real-time rendering will keep getting smaller. The advantages of a parallel pipeline, full-team collaboration and seeing everything in context will outweigh that diminishing look difference for more and more projects. Eventually a tipping point will be reached, especially given the fact that once your content is in the engine you also have a jump start for VR, AR, interactive and whatever else the future holds. That alone should be very comforting for those with big IPs.
A Few Helpful Tips When students ask me for advice, I tell them to study the masters and the fundamentals of cinema, art, imagery and motion. Get fluid with color theory, composition, how things move and they way light bounces around in the real world. Using these techniques, you can learn how to move people’s eye around the frame, where they’ll look from one shot to the next, and how to light and move cameras to best make the edit flow. How we see and feel about visuals is pretty constant. Technology will always change, knowing about what makes something beautiful is timeless.
The movie that really drove me to become a digital artist was Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. I pored over everything I could find out about how they created the vfx for the film. I got into Softimage at that time and was in heaven. Another big influence was the All Is Full of Love Björk music video by Chris Cunningham. I just couldn t get my head around it it was beyond inspiring. I recently met Chris and told him it s all his fault I m doing this stuff.
One of my mentors told me ages ago: “Follow your passion and everything else will take care of itself.” Putting that into practice sounds scary, but it can be true for you, and wouldn’t that be amazing? I see people every day who live by that at Unity. Adam Myhill is the Head of Cinematics at Unity. You can learn more about his work and career at adammyhill.com.
Red Giant is a brilliant key source to expand your After Effects toolset. We are talking tools for color grading like the Magic Bullet suite, tools for processing footage, tools for keying and tools for making compositing just a tad easier. But it’s the Trapcode Suite that seems to get the most attention. It expands After Effects’ 2D world into a much more expansive world with particle systems and 3D geo. The recently released Trapcode Suite 14 offers updates to Particular, Form, and a bit of an update to Tao.
Particular is the suite’s particle system, used for making incredibly beautiful and complex splashes, trails, pixie dust—you name it. Now, it is GPU accelerated for faster playback and feedback as you design the looks. To help with that process, Particular has a Designer module filled with heaps of particle presets you can grab from the library. Fully customizable, with fast feedback (courtesy of the GPU), you can push and pull parameters to get a look you want. You can even combine multiple systems for even more complex results.
OBJs are now supported as emitters, so you can match to you 3D geo coming from your favorite 3D programs, and emit from verts or edges or polys. The Particular library is also filled with OBJ objects to get you started. Beyond the emitters, the particles themselves can be sprites—again, that library comes with nearly 300 prefab sprites to choose from. You can also choose your own by bringing them into your AE comp.
Combine all this with new Aux System features, which will spawn additional children from the original particle system, and you have yourself an amazing tool for quickly creating intricate systems.
Form is a complementary product to Particular, in that it deals with particles, but it is more about defining surfaces and structures with particles. Like Particular, Form uses Designer and the libraries to provide a plethora of presets to start with and begin to customize. Form can also use imported OBJs (or ones from the library) to populate the particles onto, even animated geo. But where Form excels are the techy and often beautiful results that are so pervasive in the motion graphics world. There probably isn’t a HUD display in film and television that doesn’t have Form looks in them.In addition, Form gives you further control over the particle distribution using noise and fractal patterns to break things up in cool and interesting ways. You can even drive animation through the patterns using audio sources.
Lastly, the Tao module of the suite allows you to create 3D structures in After Effects by repeating or lofting shapes along paths. The rendering uses real lighting, and it supports reflections and refractions. But the big addition in Trapcode Suite 14 is Depth of Field for even more photographic realism.
Particular is the primary reason to invest in or upgrade to Trapcode Suite 14. Even before this release it was a powerful particle tool, and it has become even better. Form is ubiquitous in the MoGraph world, and if you don’t have it you are probably behind. And Tao is just one more reason. You can get each module on its own, but it might be wise to put your money into the whole suite. Website: redgiant.com Price: $999 (full); $199 (upgrade); $499 (academic)
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