onsdag 10 juni 2015

My Contribution to the project and feedback for other group presentations!

Throughout the project I have been mostly occupied with working on the Unreal Engine level and helping out with 3DSMax importing/Wiki Editing as well as setting up the cameras and editing the raw camera material into a finished trailer using video editing software.

Here are the steps of the project that I did in order to get to the final product. Throughout the steps I will talk about what we tried, what was hard and what turned out well.

I suffered some in the past for my blog not including everything so I will try to put into words all that I did.

Step 1: Setting up the Level and Building the terrain.

To build the terrain I used Google's Geo Capture function to get a rough estimate of the Katoomba valley and then I used that to build an Unreal terrain. The Unreal terrain was constantly referenced to the geo capture to ensure that the end result was close to actual heightmap of the area,

In this video you see me building the unreal terrain in a very old fashioned way that isn't super accurate but it does the job. During the first part you can see the example level and realize how big this capture actually is. Scale 1:1 of the entire Scen Railway valley.

Another thing I do in the video is setting up a proper material for the terrain.  Its is a 3 layered material that based on height displays either Rock Dirt or Grass. I followed the tutorial on how to make materials do this (Link to youtube Tutorial) And I used this material to get a clear terrain with blended layers to avoid getting sharp lines in the colour divide. In the end of the video you also see me working with a little experiment to give the rocks more real life looking exterior using static meshes with rocklike exteriors and blowing them up to a scale where they look similar to the katoomba rocks. You also see me trying on different vegetation styles on the three sisters and in the valley.

What worked:

The static mesh rocks really added some visual "pow" to the valley. Unfortunately there was a problem with adding any texture on the rock as it had its own tailored material. I tried getting a more sand stone like look to give a better sense of being in Katoomba.

The level size worked well. It turns out that even though the landscape was massive it worked well in any system.

The rocks also made it look more real and I was able to use it for the end product. Although in reduced numbers.

A full lush landscape looked more real but had to be reduced for ordinary sytems

The ferns and vegetation along the side of the valley and the three sisters looked too small from a distance and it wasn't clear that it was vegation

Here we see some vegetation and rock formation using the original texture for the rock that was tailored to the mesh rather than the sandstone feeling I was looking for

And overview shot with sandstone rocks and reduced terrain. It still had some issues on lower end systems so I had to reduce it even further. Problem was I had to move the level to another system every time I had to test the level which took time and caused delay each time. But here you can see the more brownish version of the rock that used a sandstone texture. Looks alright from a distance but up close was worse.

The"dream scenario" of what vegetation in the valley could have looked like along the entire level. Maybe not now maybe not for a while but this is what the level in the future might look like. Computer systems are advancing at a rapid rate and the optimization of software like Unreal Engine is getting better. In a future project I hope this to be the result for future groups. 

What did NOT work:

Unfortunately the vegetation put on the three sisters and in the valley caused some lagg while moving around the level. This was something we had been asked to avoid by the client so it could not stand.
I had to swap around some different techniques to get what we needed without using a high powered system to access the level. This was also critique we had received from Russell in class. His words was something along "If you can't access it from an ordinary computer, what's the point" I took this to heart and kept it in mind for the rest of the level building. Reducing the number of meshes used for vegetation and the number of rocks that was in the valley side. The end product and the starting product look very different but I felt it was a necessary sacrifice to ensure that we could load the level up on ordinary computer systems.

What I brought with me to the next step and what my response to these problems were.

Instead of using static meshes for the valley side I used the Erosion function inside the engine itself. This gave a result that was more lifelike than the smooth level but not quite as good as a mesh. It was a compromise but I was happy with the end result and what it added to the project.

Here we see the erosion tools effect. I have hidden all the vegetation to give you a better understanding of what is going on underneath the vegetation. Still using some mesh rock for the side but nowhere near as much.

Here we see the final valley side. The tailored texture really doing some favour for us here even though it is in a not so sandstone like manner it really adds quality over the other rocks
You also see how the valley handled with reduced vegetation and fog. Even though not as life like with the reduced vegetation it still gives a good idea that it IS vegetation there and that was the most important thing.

Another thing that did some major work for us was a fog tool in the engine. It hides flaws while bringing out some immersion in the level. I can easily see the valley fogged up in the morning as a natural occurrence and that made it more important for us. I'll post a couple of pictures with and without fog showing the result.

Here you see the landscape without the fog. I have reduced the number of trees and kept them confined to the space around the deep valley. It really helped with the lagg but as you can see the landscape lost some of its panache but it is something I would have to deal with.

Here the landscape with the fog cap. It is an exponential height fog which works in the way that the higher altitude or in this case lower altitude the thicker the fog. It really helps separate the valleyside we worked on to the far one and also a gives a false perception that it's further away than it really is which worked really well in our favour.

The end result gives the proper look without leaving any systems out. This was in response to some of the critique inherited from last years project. We had to have a level that did not lagg and that still showed visual beauty. I think I achieved this with the level without overstacking it with too much vegetation/geometry/visual effect to cause lagg. If you look closely there are some trees on top of the valley that help give perception on how far it is as well. 

Step 2: Adding in the content from 3DSMax and making sure it stays correct

From the level terrain and level vegetation being complete I moved on to placing the towers in. I had help from George who was tasked with the 3DSMax porting to unreal and Dominique who also helped porting. George put in the towers into my level so I could start working off making the textures fit and the buckets go along the lines.

From here on it was all adding textures and making scripts for the camera and bucket to run on. There was a slight problem with the UVmapping of certain imported objects. I tried figuring it out but lead to no conclusion so the workaround was to tweak the object inside the engine to give them a realistic look.

Here are some side by side shots of what the object looks like with and without textures. It was a trial and error testing out some different textures due to the problematic UVmapping but in the end I feel the towers and bucket got an authentic feeling.

As you can see the textures really bring the towers to a lifelike result. The towers look very similar to the towers we saw on sight. Since the towers we saw at the sight were so torn by time we had to go off images but I would assume they were quite rusted and tarnished by weather and wind.

Here you see the tower as they stood. The previous member from last year did an excellent job with the towers but as you can see on the sharp shadow the UV map was a bit average. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the texture turned out though. It really looks like its a pole made from a soft tree with little pieces of bark flying off much like the real life version of the towers.

Here you see the rusted plating with bolts in it and the rustic feeling it gives off. I was really surprised by the quality of the textures included in the starter pack. One of the hardest obstacles in this project and in general with unreal engine is that they don't give you much to work with (for free) so I had to recycle some textures off objects that was included in the free engine.

To make sure it stayed correct we used some images off the book written by the owner of the railway

These images stood as the reference for the towers and I believe we got it real close to how it was. With the exception that we did model about half the railway because of limitations and how large the railway was and how far it stretched.

An elevation showing how the height displacement of the towers worked.

Step 3: Making of the video Trailer and setting up camera paths

So for the finalizing of the project I made several camera paths inside Unreal engine using the Matinee tool. It was really fun and interesting setting up different camera paths in Unreal. The software has real good capabilities compared to other similar softwares I've worked with and I've always been interested in architectural photography so it was a win win situation.

Setting up the camera paths

So the clients had asked for fly overs and a camera that showed you the path of the buckets so I decided to set up quite a few different cameras and finalize it into a trailer that the client could put on their website.

The first path was the longest and is the buckets path. Some of the weaknesses of our level is shown unfortunately but the end result ain't too shabby if you ask me.

Setting up some camera path in the level was real fun. I had a great time making them and I have set it up so you can walk around in the level freely until you walk into a certain position. Something called a trigger box is then applied so that if you walk onto a certain area you will be shown the animation. This was set up in the blueprint of the level. Here is what the level blueprint looks like.

Real simple blueprint just to trigger the animation but if I were to make a game level there is almost unlimited possibilities using the blueprints to code all sorts of cool stuff to occur. Maybe trigger an event or sound but for now It triggers animations so that if you walk up to the bucket about to launch you will jump in and see the animation.

Here are all the raw material for the cameras I set up

This was my favourite animation and camera path. It's the bucket shot. It took 2 different paths to be set up in the Matinee and was a bit tricky at first but as I learned it all got way easier.
It is set up in a way that uses the full potential of the scenery and has some, in my opinion, interesting "money shots". Here's the raw video uploaded to my account on youtube:

The video showing the Bucket path.

Here is the camera path the client requested. It was interesting setting up because I had to pretend I was the bucket or at least sitting in the bucket. Fairly simple stuff but I did make some paths that should provide immersion and make you feel like the bucket.

Quite interesting setting up. If i had more time I would have touched up the areas the camera hovers over to make sure none of the levels weaknesses are showing.

The Fly over camera path. Simple setting up and overall one of our more "boring" camera shots but it does show a nice overview and was useful for the end animation.

The Video

I have to say that the Matinee was incredibly powerful and fun to work with. Big props to the guys at Unreal for making it so obvious how to use and set up. After only a short tutorial I had all I needed for basic animations which is a lot more than many other softwares can claim.

Bonus camera path from high up as if you were tumbling towards the valley. Just something I made for fun but ended up not being used for much.

After this was all set up It was time for a group meeting to finalize and get on board for the presentation.

Step 4: Final Countdown

So for the final presentation me Dominique and George set up to finish this. Working way too many hours straight to finish on time. Dom showed us the work she had done for the website/wiki which was incredibly professional and me and George helped out with anything we could.

I showed them the camera paths and how we could turn it into an educational trailer to give the clients. We worked all through the last night to make sure we had some cool pics and videos to show in the presentation and that our wiki was fully functional. Great props to these guys for working so hard!

So the video editing software I used is called Wondershare. It is quite user friendly and good for something that is Uni-related. It contains some tacky effects and what not but I had my team there to make sure I didn't go overboard with the final video.

Here is the final video trailer all loaded up and ready in Wondershare to get processed for youtube. I had great fun setting all this up and got some great input from Dom and George.

We set it up so it shows information we researched on and showing off all the features of the level. All this was done in the final group meeting and we talked about the presentation and how we would do it. Our final work can be seen in our Wiki/Website hybrid and our final trailer for the project.

Website: Group Website

Most of this work was done by Dominique and me and George helped where we could.

Wiki: Group Wiki

Here is the wiki. It cointains some of the work from the other members and the Remuneration presentation.

The final video trailer for the project.

When I think back on the project it has been real difficult to work with a big group especially when our skills were so different. It didn't end well for the group but I hope the end result will make up for it. Lots happened and in the end there were some members grabbing stuff of others blogs and posting it as their own. I hope they do not take any of my work or images and post it as their own. So let it be known that these are all my images and work and should not be posted anywhere else without my consent. Some members do however have permission so don't judge too quickly, it's just that it has turned to me being scared of posting because someone might steal it. Which is disappointing at best.
This is also why the entire response and response to feedback is posted in one go.

I'd rather not throw anyone under the bus but this is what our collaboration has degraded to. I feel sad that it ended this way and I hope if we ever work together again we will solve things differently.

For the feedback on the other groups:

The Marker project:

I thought it was a really cool project and it was what I originally set up to try to score. This being said they had some weird things going on in their presentation. I really loved the way they had constructed the actual marker but I feel like they should have flaunted their work for the people seeing it so it was clear that it was inspired by actual athletes movements. I heard they also had some group problems which I can relate to but the end product was real cool and inspiring.

The Museum:

This group's presentation was real interesting with a functioning product along to get even more attention. The project itself was a pretty cool idea for a small museum and I hope they did all the best because I heard the client changed the brief really far into the project so i have some sympathy for them and also the result was really cool.

The Steering Wheel:

Real cool to build your own gaming controller and I was really interested by the hardware and wiring of it. I think they delivered what was in the client's brief and they had a solid documentation on how to do it yourself which i took inspiration from for this final submission.

The Construction Site:

These guys had the best presentation I've seen in a while and overall real solid grasp on the tech and software used. I have nothing but good words for these guys and I hope that it scores them some cool future projects. The oculus has always interested me and I am excited to see what other companies go from here in order to develop more oculus levels.

I'd rather not rank anyone but I hope my feedback will be helpful for them!

måndag 4 maj 2015

Starting point

Our group is now at the starting point of the actual project so that we can start to get the ball rolling.

I have set up a test level in Unreal to train for the actual level but before that we need a heightmap.

I have found a software plugin for Rhino that can take a set of height curves and turn them into an approximate land form. This will be useful if we can secure a set of CAD files or even  turn hard copies into soft with autocad we can then import it into Unreal. It's Called Rhinoterrain

I have also been trying to learn how to animate in 3Ds Max which has turned out to be harder than I thought. There are many things to keep track of and the rail car system we are re-designing is also full of small contraptions and springs etc.

We have had a few group meetings and gone over what is hard and what we expect. We are still waiting for some of the old students to get back to us which is midly infuriating but we've had some contact with the clients and they seem excited.

We have a system worked out with how we are handling the master file and all the side tasks and i feel confident that we can perform to expectation.

Group Meetings and our Plan

So by now it was time for us to decide how to tackle the task at hand. We have many things to get around to and a limited amount of time so we have divided the tasks for the whole group. They vary from contacting previous students to get 3D models to starting to build the virtual level.

These tasks where given out to each and every member along with the instruction to learn Unreal4. Now the aproximate number of days for an experienced 3d modeler is 4 full days. So I assume we are going to need at least double that,

I got tasked with looking into what can be done about the animation and how I would best go about setting it up properly. First we needed the old 3d models along with the height map of the site to begin witht he Unreal4 level.

I decided that 3DS max would be worthwile looking into since it has some really good animation tools. I will see how it turns out and what can be done to fix it.

Viewport from 3ds

Site Visit

So we have been to the Scenic Route of Katoomba for a day trip where we met the clients and took a closer look at the site. We met with the owner and CEO of the company and they described to us what they expected from this exchange with the university.

An updated virtual world in Unreal4

A virtual scenic tour in the old mine cart system

An animation showing the mechanics of the cart and/if possible an animation showing how the system collapsed

These are our main goals and what we will strive to achieve before we can go any further with our own ideas since this is the expectation and we have to deliver.

Other than that they where very kind and friendly and took us on a private tour of the facility. You could really tell how the owner was truly interested in the site himself.

The Task

We have got tasked with replicating the Katoomba Scenic Route in a virtual environment. The software we are going to use is Unreal Engine 4. Demo video showing the potential and power of the Unreal Engine.

The engine itself has vast potential and for this project we are attempting to recreate an Australian heritage site to immortalize and give remote access to the area without the need to physically be there. The end aim is to have a Scenic Route that is available online along with a video showcasing the site and an animation that shows the mechanical system of the rail cars.

The site itself is an old coal mine that was situated in very rough terrain and therefore has a railcar system that was very complex, so complex in fact that it collapsed from extended usage. The site is now cluttered with remnants of the old mine and has been declared a heritage site because of the way the mine has weaved together with the surroundings. 

We have a trip planned to go out and meet the clients and document the site as well as take photos for textures, study the mechanical carts and take information on the history of the site along with seeing the actual site.

tisdag 28 april 2015

Presentation 2 Communication

The group started with a timeline outlining how communication has changed since the 5/6th century to modern age. They also went over the negative sides and positive sides of the changing form of communication

the Cheney model was brought up and the essence of what communication is was discussed as well as the barriers and limitations of communication.

The group went on to what they called the two types of communication and how they have their strong sides and weaknesses.  

They talked about how the environment affects the way of communication. For example how well the persons involved know each other or the profession.

A table set up with types of communication used by the group themselves displayed some pros and cons.

Different types of communication in groups was discussed. Top down or bottom up types but a networking side as well.

So how does this relate to us and what does it mean/change about our job.

Communication has always been important in humanitys history. Some say it is our greatest power to transfer knowledge betwen generations through communication and it has no small job in our scenario either.

The comunication between client and architect must be one of the most delicate and intriquette things about architecture. How do you get your idea across in an understandeable matter or how do you convey your vision and arrive at the same conclusion as your client.

In our case we have had a very clear channel with our clients on what they want and how much they expect. I feel our exchange with Russell has also been crystal clear so far as im concerned and I think we have a very good idea on what we aim to achieve.

This is our key communications action in our project. The dialouge between us, clients and professor.

tisdag 21 april 2015

Presentation 1 Planning

Today the presenting group talked about planning and how it will ensure you are being proactive and prepared for any problem you might face.

The process of planning was discussed and a 8 point system to follow to ensure your planning is efficient and executable.

The group talked about how the planning would help them with their project and gave examples of how you could connect through social media or document sharing.

They showed the benefits of planning especially with the programs we are using and how the planning could help improve the overall performance of the group.

They also showed a short clip they had made to get the message across easier. A stop motion styled clip showing hand drawn white board text and pictures. It was a very interesting way of presenting the subject.

So how does this relate to our project and why is planning so important.

Planning proves again and again how valuable it can be. Not only in projects but in anything from war to friendships. The planning process and how flexible it can be determines, in my opinion, how effective a plan can be. Because no plan that hasn't accounted for an error margin or something else going wrong isn't going to be a very good plan.

You need backup plans, failsafe plans, emergency plans. Planning is really important to whatever comes into our lives.

To us the plan has been very simple. Get X done til Y and perhaps add Z if there is time. A very simple if/and statement of a plan but there is more to any plan. We all have our individual plans along with the group plan and in our sistuation I don't feel like I know the others plan compared to our groups. We have very clear guidelines and goals  but our plans may differ.

We will resolve this with our comming group meetings but I just found it interesting to analyze.

Whatever we do we have to plan for the unexpected, without it being possible.