Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Compiling the Space Scenes

It was recently realised that we needed the Ninja's small ship as an asset to animate and take into Unity. The ship needed to be something very simplistic and lightweight, so I began by sketching up some silhouettes:

As you can see, I went for agile sharp and slick designs, trying to in some way represent martial art weaponry, most prominently perhaps the throwing star references. In the end I settled for the small design on the far right above the tall thin idea. I felt the design had something very bold and distinctive about it, so I decided I would recreate it but rotated 90 degrees to make it appear more like a streamline getaway ship. Though unorthodox I will admit, I jumped into maya and modelled the asset without setting up reference images. Perhaps on reflection I shouldn't have cut that corner, as although I was happy with the end results, it does not showcase the whole process very well.
I had unfolded the UV's, but had trouble figuring out some of the faces and couldn't stop severe stretching in certain places. To eliminate this, I projected each side of the ship individually by highlighting faces the the paint select tool, instead of using the unfold tool in the UV texture editor. After applying a red striped texture resembling those found on Joel's ninja character, I had my asset ready to be taken into Unity:

Again, the resolution of this smaller asset's texture was an efficient 512 by 512 pixels.

I also took on the small task of animating the establishing shot and the final explosion scene. The first shot I animated was the ship exploding whilst the ninja ship escapes over the camera. Working with a locked camera in one of the view panels with a resolution gate, I attached the Ninja ship to a CV curve. After eliminating the easing out in the graph editor, The Ninja's escape was complete. With some simple rotations keyed to the Whale Ship's main controller and the ninja ship along its path, I had all I needed to take the scene into Unity. Unfortunately when I reopened the scene to capture a play blast, the locked camera panel had been reset, but here's a play blast of the animation itself:

When I imported the FBX file into Unity and placed it in a scene, it was suggested I add lights to the Whale Ship asset. The first thing I did was create a self illumimap for the cockpit screen. By also placing a green point light on top of the cockpit, The ship suddenly seemed to have more life. I also was also shown how to create a simple particle effect to act as navigation lights. The principle of the effect was having one particle that was not emitted but simply appeared and died then looped. To bring out the ninja ship, I had the rep stripes left illuminate. On top of this, I gave the whale ship a crisp specular bump map to make it pop from the scene.

I was originally working with a preset night time skybox, but clouds were visible in the scene. This meant I had to create my own backdrop for the scene. I originally unfolded a sphere with reversed normals in Maya, and took the 4096 by 4096 UV snapshot over into photoshop. To create the starts I made a very quick custom brush. I applied a few black spots on a white backdrop then defined a new brush preset after marquee selecting the area. I then quickly added a 1000% scatter effect to randomise the spread of the stars. Using the new brush I created a starry space backdrop, applying a few transparent blurred shapes in the backdrop to emulate different gases in the distance.

The sphere caused the texture to stretch, so we decided that we would take the material and apply it to a plane instead. I also tried a self illumimap to light up the starts, but it made the more faded purple ones in the backdrop look blotchy. Finally, I applied a green main light, in keeping with the theme and working well with the purple backdrop, with a complimentary red edge light to give a cinematic quality. If I could pick a flaw with this particular scene I would say the subjects pop out from the backdrop perhaps a little bit too much, making it look as if the models are performing in front of a flat image. Perhaps given more time, I could work with colour correction image effects to bring everything together.

I also had to find a way to create an explosion. I originally created a large spherical particle emitter firing out transparent flame targas I had created in photoshop:

After being advised it was two simplistic, I change the size of the effect and duplicated it to various different positions around the Whale Ship mesh, both the emitters, navigation light particles and the cockpit pointlight were parented to the main body mesh. I also tweaked the start delay for each explosion emitter to vary the flame effects.

Bellow is a snapshot of the fully lit scene:

I duplicated this scene and imported a simple animation of the Ninja's ship flying toward the Whale ship to create the establishing scene. This meant that all the lighting stayed the same, I simply tweaked the camera view.

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