The use of real time solutions to develop high end video material fast
Late 2019 we were set a difficult challenge; to create a high end animated video in a very short time. The job was to create several shots of a beautiful danish forest, in total 1 minute and 20 seconds of video. The forest had to be build in 3D according to a predetermined blueprint where the species of trees and foliage was laid out.
The job was divided into two parts. The client needed the first delivery within three days, so a first “rough” version was made and then it was polished into the final version. The total length of the job was around 8 working days from inception to final delivery.
The aim was to create a near realistic forest with multiple camera tracks.
As we had to act fast, we chose to set up the project in Unity 3D as we could reuse a previous pipeline for this project. The choice of Unity was for ease of scene setup and minimizing of render time.
We relied heavily on Quixels Megascan and SpeedTree, each having a huge library of assets that could be used to composite just the right forest.
First we planned the framework of the job in close collaboration with the client. We then proceeded with a storyboard and a technical breakdown of the requirement of the job. The initial steps of the process was important to be able to estimate the time each step would take for us to be able to deliver the first render within three days.
The plans and layout of the forest was sketched in photoshop and this gave an overview of the different shots and made sure that there was vavarity and interest in each cut and camera move.
The setup was quite simple in Unity, the time consuming part was to place the many thousand assets and make sure that the scenes didn’t become too heavy to work with. Here the planning phase was crucial as only the parts visible to the view of the camera had to be build, keeping the scene sizes at a reasonable level.
We utilized Unity 2018.4.10f1 LTS edition as this is in our opinion the most stable version at the moment and we couldn’t afford any setbacks. There were definitely visual improvements to be had in the HDR-pipeline in newer versions of Unity, but at the moment they didn’t support SpeedTree assets, so it wouldn’t be a viable solution.
Once all the scenes where setup, we used Cinemachine and Unity’s built in render to take out 4K still images to be composited in After Effects. At the moment there is no real solutions to take out renderpasses, but it is definitely something we are hoping will be a feature soon.
Looking back, we are proud that we could pull off this job in such a short time. It would be interesting to have made a comparison scene between Unity and Unreal to see the difference in visual quality. Unreal has been leading on visuals for many years, but Unity has been catching up quickly. Currently we are taking a more in depth look at Unreal and it might be the choice of engine for the next job.