Thursday, May 14, 2015

Choice Project: Cinematic Effects!

One of the challenges we faced for our upcoming thesis is a cinematic effect at the end of our trailer. In this climactic scene, the light moth we've been following throughout the trailer lands on a kings statue. The statue begins to crack where the butterfly landed, and light begins to shine through. The cracks continue to spread as the rays of light become stronger until the statue starts to break apart, revealing a glowing white demon demon beneath it. Visual breakdown below:

The first thing I started researching was how to make the mesh destructible in Unreal 4. I was able to import a test mesh and fracture it successfully, but the model would crumble as a solid, filled object. For this scene, we need the statue to crumble like a thick shell that's hollow on the inside to reveal the mesh beneath it. By creating a duplicate of the model that could be shrunk and placed within the original mesh, we would be defining how much of the mesh would be filled when turned into a destructible. We then imported it into Unreal, and the mesh began to fracture as a shell.

I had a small Blueprint setup where I placed multiple radial force actors with a small radius, then programmed them to activate in a certain time and order. This helped progressively break small parts of your model with some control. Progressive breakdown is not seen in the final work in progress, but it's a useful discovery that I'll be using in the future. Below is the Blueprint and in-engine setup for it

Next, I moved on to particle effects. My initial knowledge of particle effects was pretty scarce, so I researched the different ways to make a particle effects. I experimented with flipbooks and sprites, but they were not giving me the visual result I wanted. A few days into particle research, I learned about vector fields. Though mainly used for GPU particle effects, I thoroughly enjoyed how sprites moved so organically when used. So I jumped into it as well!

Thanks to this helpful tutorial, I learned and successfully managed to create and export voxels from Maya and into Unreal Engine. Below are three screenshots of a spiral shaped voxel used in different orientations (1 and 2), and spinning actively. I'm very excited to have learned about voxels. It opens a whole new possibility of particle effects for me. I'll be taking this knowledge to create ambient particle effects that can enhance the rising energy of the final cinematic scene.

But I still needed to find the main event of the scene. I needed to find a transition effect that could change between two materials and normals from one point to another. And I still felt like I needed a stronger particle effect for the main event. Something more wavy and mystical. Thankfully, the same providers of the first tutorial also had another tutorial for material transitions and flow maps (which is a separate tutorial from transitions). I highly recommend purchasing the two of these if your really interested in particle effects. They were all that I needed to figure out the transition and effects.

After going through them, learning to lerp between materials and normals by using a transition map, and implementing flow maps into the particle effect's material, I had a strong proof of concept for our trailer's blockout. Here's the final work in progress for our blockout trailer:

I am ready to take on this scene as thesis production approaches. I am happy that I got the chance explore a field which I wasn't incredibly familiar at first. Now I'm excited to see what else I can create and solve with the tools that I've picked up along the way.