One of the deciding factors for my choice to move to Unity for feature film playback work was the seemingly endless amounts of plugins available in the Unity Asset store. Anytime I have a technical challenge on set, 9 times out of 10 I can find a tool on the asset store to solve it.
Here are 3 plugins on the asset store that stand out in my mind that I found were extremely helpful for building interactive playback UI graphics:
Cinema Director, Cinema Suite Inc
Coming from a motion graphic animation background using tools like Adobe After Effects, I started looking for a timeline based animation tool. Cinema Director ended up being my timeline tool of choice. I love the fact that besides just animating standard values like position, rotation, and scale, you have the ability to call functions at points along the timeline as well.
Because they have great video tutorials and documentation on using their API, I was able to fairly quickly integrate custom code which allowed me to jump around in a non-linear fashion. I have yet to dive into their full Cinema Suite, but I can see where I could have use for Cinema Pro Cams and Cinema Themes in the near future.
Sprite Factory, Guavaman Enterprises
When jumping into using a game engine like Unity for motion graphics work, one of the big hurdles is playing animated image sequences. Most playback graphic workflows involve rendering animations as video files or image sequences to be played interactively. So, having to build sprite sheets and sprite animations is a foreign concept.
Sprite Factory gives you an easy interface for importing and converting png sequences into sprite animations that you can easily control.
Text Mesh Pro, Stephan Bouchard
So much of what playback graphics is about is helping to tell the story based on computer displayed story point text. Whether that is a hacker getting an Access Denied screen or a teenager getting a break-up text from her boyfriend, text is very important in playback, and the quality of the text becomes really important when the director wants to shoot a close-up of the screen.
If you want sharp, scalable text that not only looks amazing but also gives you the ability to add texture, outlines, and drop shadows, then Text Mesh Pro is the best tool for the job. It also allows you the control on the individual character level.
I had a font given to me to use in a graphic that had a couple of characters that had bad spacing issues and I was able to fix it right in Text Mesh Pro.
(Since the time of this post, TextMesh Pro was purchased by Unity Technologies and is now included with Unity Software)
These are just 3 of many tools on the Unity Asset Store that are invaluable to the work I do. When comparing Unity to other engines, the Asset Store may be overlooked by some yet I believe it to be one of Unity’s biggest strengths. By uniting their user base into a cohesive community, an infinite amount and variety of talents can be accessed to accomplish just about anything you’d ever want to do no matter what niche of the market your needs fall into.
Click here to read my blog post on my work using Unity Software on the set of the movie Passengers