Starting the Cinematography Course

Day 18–11/16/20

This course just keeps getting cooler and cooler! I have now moved on from my 2D Space Shooter and started the Cinematography course. I managed to get about 30% of the way through this course so far and would like to aim to finish by the weekend, fingers crossed. Anyway, I went from learning how to create materials for objects within the game and altering the properties of each object to change things such as transparency, color, smoothness, roughness, and its metallic value. Learned very briefly about adding reflections, which when done right turn out beautifully. And then finally, I spent the majority of my day getting into blocking scenes and setting up cameras and panning effects to capture the cutscene shot.

The first cutscene shot I worked on was the Sleeping Guard cutscene. In this scene, the player or Darren is stealing a key card from the sleeping guard. The shot begins with an over the shoulder shot that pans up and towards the right side of Darren as he is reaching in for the card. The second half of this scene cuts to Darren's front side and the camera pans down to emphasize and follow Darren reaching for the card and then pans back up to focus on Darren’s face.

To set up the multiple angles needed for the shot, I had to download Cinemachine in order to create virtual cameras that could be set up at our desired angle. Next, in Timeline, you can drag the Main Camera into the Timeline to set it as the CinemachineBrain. From here we can now create two new virtual cameras to create our two different shots. Add those cameras to the timeline. (The timeline can be seen in the picture above)

After the cameras are set it's time to get the main animation put in so we can see where we want to cut from the first to the second shot. To do this is, add an animation track in Timeline and drag the actors with the desired animation from the inspector into the new animation track section on the left. Click the three dots and select “Add from animation clip” to find the animation you want to use. In this case, we want the Get Card Animation. Now you can see the animation of Darren reaching for the card. This makes it easier to see where we want to transition the clip. To do this, locate the time in the clip that you would like to transition and fill the start to that point with the first camera shot. The second camera shot will start after the transition to the end of the clip.

This next step is where the creativity comes in. Now that you have the basis of your scene set up, you are now ready to get animating to create unique visual camera shots and features. In this scene, we kept it pretty minimal as it was a very short clip, but we do use a couple of different methods for creating varying panning effects. The first is a very basic panning up and to the right. When you create a new animator track, set your first camera shot in the animator. From there you can record what you want the camera to do. In the first shot, our camera starts in the original position, you will want to create a slight adjustment just so the position is saved at the start of the clip, you can then move the Timeline slider to the point in time you would like to stop the camera pan, and set your camera to that new location. This will now create an effect of the camera going from point A to point B over that recorded time. I think the clips I post will give a better idea of what I mean.

In the second half of this cutscene, we use a different technique to pan the camera down and then up. For this effect, we created an empty game object and attached it to your second camera, under look at in the CinemachineVirtualCamera section of the inspector. This now sets the camera to follow that object. We then place our object where we would like in our scene, and when we go to animate in the timeline we will set the “look at” object as our animator. Now when we record we can simply move the object down and then once Darren grabs the card we can move the object back up. Don’t forget to drag the timeline slider to the point you would like these effects to begin and end. Very simple camera work, but it really adds a lot to the scene.

One of the final steps for the scene is to set the card active and inactive once it's grabbed. If you don’t do this, the card will still be on the guard's pants when Darren takes the card. This is actually a very simple thing to do. In the timeline, add an activation track. Go into our actors and find the keycard game object and add this to our activation track. You will now see a green activate bar in the timeline. Find the point in time that the card is taken and you can set the end of the active bar to this point and the card will now disappear when the scene hits that point.

The final step is just a little quick polish. We want to add a fade-in effect. So the scene will start from a black screen and fade into the actual scene. To do this we want to create a new UI image in the hierarchy. Set the color to black and the alpha at max. We then want to select the very bottom right feature in the anchor selector and set the left top right bottom to 0. This will fill the screen with your new black image. Also, make sure to go to the Canvas parent and make sure to Scale with screen size. You can now go back to your timeline and create a new animation track. This time add your image to the track, and at the start set the alpha to the max, and then half a second later you can set the alpha to 0. Your scene will now have a very cool fade-in effect. The opposite can be done to create a fade-out effect.

The next scene, the Game Over or Captured scene utilizes a lot of the same functions. The one difference is the use of a dolly track for the camera. To do this, you want to create a dolly camera with track in the Cinemachine tab. Since we already have our camera we can delete the camera with the dolly and attach the dolly to our original camera. Before attaching to camera, place the dolly track where you would like the camera to path. You can do a lot of cool things with the dolly and add new tracks and many other things. Once you have the dolly how you like, you can go to your camera, and in the body section of the Cinemachine setting in inspector, change the setting from transposer to Tracked Dolly. You can now attach your Dolly to the camera path. And for path position, 0 will set the camera to the initial part of the track, 1 will go to the end if you have no additional track added. But if you had an extra track added, 1 would take you to the end of the first track, and then 2 would take you to the very end of the track.