April 19, 2017
Behind the Scenes

Creating a Cinematic

Lindsey Tropf

Hey, everybody! I’m Kevin from Immersed, and I make cinematics. Since I’m a braggart, I figured it might be fun to write about the process of producing one in UE4.So, in the initial stages of the cutscene process, the most important step is... coming up with what the cutscene is about. That’s where I throw it to Caroline, our Creative Director, to come up with a script. I asked if I could write the script, instead (due to her busy schedule), and she just laughed and walked away. She forges the script, paints the scene, and even draws up a storyboard to go along with it. All of this is immensely helpful in the pre-production process, and we begin work on our Rainforest Intro cutscene starring Cherie and Mr. Tipps.

But, just to get back at Caroline for not letting me write the script, I tell her the board isn’t good enough for production, as they lack a certain...specificity for me and the animators. With her blessing, I conjure up something only my not-so-good-at-drawing hands could: an in-engine storyboard! This was my first time doing something like this, and it saved me a lot of work later down the line. And, since we were using the same models in the engine as the animators were in their own modeling programs, the representation of the scene was as good as it was going to get.

With the more up-to-date storyboard in hand, me and Caroline begrudgingly went into the Immersed meeting room to record voice over for Cherie. Mr. Tipps was already covered (he’s an animal with simple sound effects), but Cherie was going to need some custom voice work done. After being made to experience a dangerous amount of puns, I finally made it out of the session with the VO I needed, and was ready for the next step: the animatic.

This would be the final thing I do before handing off responsibility to the animators. I took the in-engine boards and merged them with some filler music and the freshly obtained VO. This is extremely important in the process, as the animatic helps give the animators (and my future self) a better idea of how to pace the scene.

Now, with responsibility safely placed atop the heads of others, I spin my cocoon and hibernate for the next two weeks. Kassandra and Scott had plenty to work from, and I could emerge from my slumber a beautiful, credit-stealing butterfly.

Kassandra and Scott are the animators, for the record. I can’t speak to Scott’s process here (as he’s working remote), but Kassandra had decided to record live-action reference footage based on the animatic’s timing. This gives her a basis to work off of in designing her animations. It especially helps in creating facial animations.

We actually put some of the reference animations and voice over into a picture-in-picture walk-through of the entire cinematic.  Enjoy!

When Kassandra and Scott get their animations to a good, blocking level, I hoard them up and send the two back to their cells. While the animators polish up their work, I begin the technical implementation with the help of Sam, our Technical Co-founder, and Nick, our Blueprint Wizard. Nick and I spend a good amount of time sussing out how to send the player character into the cutscene and have it all transition cleanly in and out of gameplay. Sam spends time telling the server how to know when it’s okay for the player to view the cutscene. It’s all very easy, very simple work, so we actually spend half the work week playing Pogs.

Once I’ve become the Pog King, I use an extremely useful program in Unreal called Matinee to animate the cameras and lights for the scene (pretty much copying the same shots used in the storyboard and animatic). Unreal actually has a more advanced version of Matinee called Sequencer that would improve my workflow (really, anyone’s workflow), but, for some reason, Matinee is the only one that goes through the server. I’m used to it by now, though, and can block out the scene pretty quick with all the pre-production reference.

Now it’s just a matter of plugging in the more up-to-date animations. Since we were pretty thorough in pre-production, the timing of the scene would be pretty much the same throughout the entire process. I use the same actors as before and simply delegate the appropriate animation on their animation tracks. Since we’re using whole, animation assets (as opposed to an Animation Blueprints), I really don’t have to worry about it too much.

And...well, that’s it, really. Past that is more polish and the repetition of post-production. I hope this was, at the very least, an interesting read for you, whether it be to get some insight into how we do things here at Immersed, or just to understand the cinematic pipeline of UE4 a little bit better. But, ultimately, I hope you enjoy the Rainforest introductory scene in Tyto Online!

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