Project DAVE - Unreal 4 animated short

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DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
We are a team of three students and, for this semester, decided to create an animation of about 2 minutes and render it inside Unreal Engine 4.
It has been a very busy semester. So busy, in fact, that I didn't get around creating a thread until the end of the project, which is now. ;)


Project DAVE  

The Plot

In a future where AIs take care of everything, a teenager named Dave lives a comfortable life. This changes when a misunderstanding prevents him from seeing his crush, Laina. Now he has to find a way to get out of his apartment to meet her - quickly!

The Team

Carl (Me): Character art, environment and hard-surface concept design, Environment art, rigging, motion graphics and cinematography, management
Rohan: Character concept art, story, rigging, animation
Felix Schmid: Environment art, story, animation
Jeremy Ondrey, Richard Deffner: Music, Sound

Concept Art

I won't bore you with what feels like the 10 different story lines which we had to throw away to prevent the scope of the project from exploding or because they just didn't work. Let's start with some character concepts from Rohan instead.

And one from myself just to bounce some ideas around:

+ some environment sketches:

And some neat apartment mockups from Felix:


  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    A little environment concept by myself:

    Sculpting the main character:

    ...aand the girl. SPOILER: won't appear in final animation, because no time for second character ):

    Meanwhile Felix starts building the living room:
  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    Progress on the high poly. Clothing's all sculpted. There will be two versions of the character. One with the complete outfit and one wearing only boxers. That's why he's wearing them over his pants right now. :wink:

    And here is the process up to the final version of the high poly (don't mind the first sculpt, we were brainstorming the story while I sculpted this :open_mouth: ):
    Meanwhile, Bedroom by Felix:

  • ZombieDawgs
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    ZombieDawgs polycounter lvl 5
    Great concept art and the characters area really going somewhere. Is there any more on the plot? What's stopping him from leaving?
  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    @ZombieDawgs ;
    The description is kind of vague I must admit ;).
    Rather than explaining, here is about the first half of the story in animatic form. To the left, mostly Rohan's drawings, animated by myself, and to the right, a 3D version by Felix.
    This one does not have dialogue yet. So, imagine the AI talking Dave through his morning routine. She then worries about Dave's health when he gets excited by Laina's message and decides to keep him locked up until he recovers from his "condition":

    Also, wireframes!

    For the final topology, I decided to move away from using a number of eyelash cards and used continuous meshes for the upper and lower eyelids respectively because when texturing the individual cards didn't give me enough coverage.
  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    Texturing Dave. The hair strands were originally done in Substance Painter but the normal it gave me was too harsh, so I ran it through nDo2 which resulted in something much better:

    Quick color concept of the exterior of Dave's house done by myself and some initial modeling by Felix:

    Introducing another character: RESCUE BOT!
    This will be Dave's ticket out of his home. Concepts by Rohan, further concepting and model by me (created mostly using MODO and Substance Painter):

  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    View of the interior with some lighting and a screen added. The screen is a video texture with some motion graphics I did in After Effects. Had a hard time at first syncing it to the audio in Blueprint because I was using individual video files for the shots. In the end I just rendered out one WMV for the whole animation which solved the issue:

    Concept sculpt for the AI's arm which will appear when she tries to calm Dave down:

    We're almost ready to reveal the final animation. Until then, enjoy some environment WIP shots, a look into the simulation process and also Dave in underwear. Hope, you're not too lost on what will happen plot-wise after watching this :smiley:

    Rigging - Mostly Advanced Skeleton with a Jason Osipa-style face rig for Dave.

    Environment Art -
    I had to pick up work on the environment because at one point because Felix got too busy with the animation. Modeled some assets in MODO and did most of the textures inside Substance Designer (for the tileables) and Painter.

    Simulation -
     All of the cloth simulation had to be baked to joints. His blanket and pillow in the first shot have a total of ~2000 joints. The animation is actually baked at 7.5 fps to keep the file size down (and smooth out possible simulation hiccups). Still waiting for official cache file support inside UE4. :smile:
  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    It is FINISHED! Sorry for the delay guys. I was waiting for an animation to be fixed and had to move in the meantime, but here it is:

    The "rendering" was rather cumbersome. Most of it was done using Matinee's built-in recording function. Unfortunately, ALL of the screens had to be recorded in realtime using OBS Studio and then inserted into the pre-rendered sequences because the tool screwed up frame rates on video textures. Relying on realtime recording only was not an option, since my machine would drop frames occasionally and for quality reasons.
    Luckily, Unreal's tool let me render the whole short in 4K, so I could downsample the final version to remove some of the motion blur, screen space reflection and DOF artifacts.
    Nevertheless, I take a little hassle over an offline rendering solution any time. ;)
  • DerRazputin
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    DerRazputin polycounter lvl 3
    Some final shots of the character from my ArtStation. Thanks to everyone from the team :)

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