For this project I'm working on a team of 5 to create a virtual reality experience for No Country for Old Men. I'm working with three modelers and one other tech artist. The virtual reality experience will be done in unreal engine and before this post we build a white box of our environment and some very simple lighting. Some documentation was also made to keep our team on track. For this sprint I worked a lot on research, analyzing our environment, dummy lighting demos, shader creation and initial rigging for our phone prop.
Before I get into all the fun art I needed to analyze our scene and really look at everything that is happening to understand how the world of No Country for Old Men needs to be created. Our amazing modelers can create all the props, scale the props, and build the scene with their creations but there are other factors that need to be considered and looked at so I created a document and documented the lighting, SFX, and went over our animation style for our scene based on our clip in the Eagle Pass Hotel and a talk with our project lead.
For our special effects, the main one is the gun shot that comes from both the player and Anton (bad guy). The special effect would be created using Niagara and would either be a particle or flash effect. The special effects under consideration is the drapes by the windows, shattered glass, and wood splints. These are under consideration because either they could be created a different way using rigging or it depends on if we have time for it.
Gun shot example from the scene
Drapery by the Window
When looking at the lighting in the scene, I was seeing how the lighting was telling the story and there was a hot and cold color combination. The main lighting comes from the lamp on the bed. The secondary lighting comes from the windows which is the outside world and the third lighting source comes from under the door. There is a fourth light source that comes from the character weapon when fired and there is a small flashing red light on the tracker the player will find. In our project scene, there should be one main directional light that is set to moveable and is the only light that gives shadows. Most of the lighting in the scene is warm unless it is going through the drapes by the window. The lighting through the drapes creates a cool blue color. The lamp by the bed creates a warm yellow tone and the outside world has a warmer orange tone if it is not going through the drapes. Under the door is a light yellow tone you typically see in an old hotel hallway.
Hallway light and lighting through drapery example
Lighting in the Hallway
Lighting Through the Windows
Lighting from under the Door
After talking to the lead on our team, we determined that our animation style is realistic, it is suppose to be like we are actually in the scene. There is potential for use to unitize mocap data or mocapping an actor to act like Anton. Mechanically for Anton he could always be aiming or he would have an anim state machine with blueprints for animation logic that would either have a timer for when he sees the player.
Anton in the Hallway
Now for the fun art part!
All of this is not in our project file yet as this is in a dummy file while everything is still being put into our project file.
To start the lighting process I began by creating a dummy shader that would go on the lamp next to the bed. The lamp next to the bed is transparent enough to let light out but it's not so transparent that it's not that something isn't there. To refresh my memory on materials and shaders, I looked up some documentation on the editor and transparency from the UE4 documentation:
So I then began to create the shader for the light and I put the blend mode on it to translucent and this changed by settings on the material editor quite a bit. I messed around with it a little bit and closely replicated the color to the color on the lamp in the scene. Currently I am messing with the opacity and then moving forward to give the shader some texture. To get this shader correct, there is a lot of testing with lighting and geometry. I created a quick lamp shape using Maya to bring into my scene for testing the shader and the lights. The lighting for the lamp is not an emissive shader but a physical light inside the geometry and passes through the shader.
Lamp Transparency Shader
Lamp Transparency Shader in Material Editor
Lamp Transparency Shader Attached to Object with Light
Besides creating a very simple dummy shader, I also created a dummy scene to give an idea as to where the lights should go. The main light source is the light from the lamp and the secondary is from the windows. There is two spot lights with an orange tint towards the left of the scene and a point light that is inside the lamp. I did not get an example from the door as in this dummy scene there is no door. Next sprint I should be applying the lighting concepts from this scene to our actual project file with more lighting updates.
Lamp Transparency Shader with Mannequin
Lamp Transparency Shader against wall
Just recently I got my hands onto my first prop to rig which is a telephone that sits on the nightstand. As I've never rigged props before, I went to the animator discord with animators from previous FIEA cohorts and asked them questions. Multiple animators answered with the features they like to see on props and one of them from cohort 15 pointed out that for VR it's a matter if the player is interacting with the phone or if the animator is animating it in the scene. If the player is interacting with it, which we are planning on having, then to talk to the project lead to discuss what specifically needs to be built into the phone, essentially what is most important. I then looked at example of phone rigs to get an idea as to what the hierarchy looked like.
After talking to the project lead I created a document for the phone prop an documented what needs to be built into the phone rig. It should be able to spin it's dial and the player should be able to bring the ear piece to their ear. There should be a parent of some sort to put the ear piece back onto the phone base. The chord on the phone needs some physics and should react when the player picks up the ear piece. The phone itself could have the potential to be thrown.
With all of this in mind I then began to create my hierarchy and joint layout for the phone. For the cord it is super important that the joints have even spacing so I took time and adjusted the joints that needed to be moved. I also went through and gave the joints their naming conventions on the joints.
Joint Placement in Phone
Top View of Joint Placement in Phone
Phone Joint Hierarchy
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