Posts filed under Development

Useful Unity Asset Store Plugins for Playback


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.  

Food dispenser UI in the movie Passengers animated in Unity with Cinema Director

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 used to create sprite animation in the pod screens in the movie Passengers

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.  

Using Text Mesh Pro in animated screen graphics for the movie Passengers

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.

Glyph editor for adjusting individual glyphs of a font

Glyph editor for adjusting individual glyphs of a font

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 

Posted on February 7, 2017 and filed under Development, Motion Graphics.

The Avengers

Because of the scale of The Avengers, Rick Whitfield, Jim Sevin, Tim Gregoire, and I were brought on to engineer the hundreds of playback screens.  Cantina Creative created the animated computer graphics that we needed to playback on the various set throughout the film.

The bridge set alone had 130 monitors.  We needed to develop a way to be able route any of the 30 computer feeds out to the monitors on set.  

Using 4 Blackmagic Design 40x40 3G videohubs we could organize and control what was on any given monitor in the shot.

Our video playback booth built under the carrier bridge set

Our video playback booth built under the carrier bridge set

In order to speed up our ability to manipulate the layout of the graphics on set as well as being able to put green screens on any monitor quickly for post VFX, it was clear I needed to write custom software to control the videohub routers.  

Since the routers could accept Telnet commands over a wired network, I developed a router controlling application in Xojo (formerly Real Studio), that we could setup layouts of all the monitors on set at once and save it to a preset.  This allowed us to switch to saved preset for a given scene with a single button click.

As well as routing the computer screens, we also need to control the timing of the playback graphics for some scenes.  For example, in the scene where the mind controlled Hawkeye shoots the computer virus arrow into the bridge computer, I built a timed delay into our quicktime playback software to create a computer outage ripple effect.

Since the helmsman and map controls at the front of the Bridge set were shapes that could not be actual live playback screens.  It was decided that instead of using green on those surfaces that they should be designed as a static backlit display.  I was approached by the art department about designing the graphics for practical on set pieces.  I goal was to make it blend in and fit with the graphics designed by Cantina Creative that we would be playing back on set.

On the helm display I used Adobe After Effects for the final print image.  I ended up having better control over the shape and curvature.  

As well as making it easier for the animators in post to make the final replaced shot in the film from the composition I created for print.

We also helped out at the Comic-Con Avengers booth.

Setting up a sample of the bridge control screens from the set on the Avengers stage.

Posted on November 12, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback, Development.