Devlog for my Neo Noir FMV

Introduction
After seeing unreal engine being used in Disney’s The Mandalorian to get amazing in Camera effects. I’ve been thinking about if it is possible to use it as an indie film maker. After seeing some indies do live compositing with it I’m convinced I could do something with it. With COVID pandemic right now I’m not really working and I can’t go outside to film so it would be a good way to finish a project. I’m going to be posting my progress everyday here in this blog post to document my progress. I’m hoping forcing myself to document it will help me overcome my procrastination by shifting my attention to production rather than perfection. Documenting will help me focus on what I’ve done rather than what I haven’t.

End of August 13:
I didn’t update this devlog for almost a month. Here’s what happened in the mean time. I took a break from figuring out photo realistic rendering from Unreal engine. I tried to implement a GUI in Unreal Engine but Unreal is extremely slow when recompiling. And all changes required me to recompile. So I switched to Godot Engine. Implementing a UI in Godot was extremely easy. I stopped working on the technical details of the game for now and shifted focus to the make or break part of the whole game: the story. This way I can save time on the programming if the story sucks.

I finished writing the first draft of the story. I wanted to test how well it performs. But how can I test a story for a video without programming the UI and stuff? The way I did is by playing it as two person d&d game. Where I was the dungeon master and my friend acted as the detective of the story. This allowed me to find weakness in the plot and see what worked.

End of July 15:
I haven’t made any progress in Unreal. My lighting still looks very fake. I’m still unsure what I’m missing. What I find weird is that the default maniquin from UE4 looks better than the statues I imported from megascans. I think I try using some non megascans models to see what I’m doing wrong. I will look into turbo squid models next.

End of July 14:
Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time going through Blender Guru’s Photorealistic Explained video. I understand why my scene looks so poor. All my objects didn’t have any reflectivity, surface imperfections, surface details. Additionally my lighting had poor direction, size, color, and no reflections. My statues had no surface perfections, or details.

To fix these issues I decided to use Quixel Mixer to edit the default assets to add surface details and gloss. However Mixer had a lot of settings which right now seems opaque to me. I have no idea what setting to reach for to get what I want. I think this skill set is called texturing. Blender Guru has another series on Beginner and Intermediate texturing. Unreal also has its own texturing tools but Blender Guru provides good fundamentals which can be transferred to any 3d rendering software. So it makes sense to start with him then I’ll go through unreal’s documentation. Tomorrow my focus will be improving the office scene with what I’ve learnt so far. This will allow me to prove to myself that I’m actually learning something rather than just procrastinating in the name of learning. More importantly if I make something better I’ll have motivation to keep going.

End of July 12:
I am going Blender Guru’s Lighting Mastery Series. I am trying to learn how light can influence how things look. I know my unreal scenes look bad, but I don’t have the vocabulary to describe why. I feel like this series has given me a lot more vocab to describe lighting.

End of July 11:
I played around with camera settings. With aspect ratio and a little default post processing it looks a lot more film like and realistic. I have a lot stuff to do before it looks decent, but I’m making some progress.

With Vignette intensity of 0.5
Without Vignette

End of July 10, 2020:

I’ve been able to import models and textures from Megascans into Unreal engine. I’ve been able to position the 3D models and build a mock office. I managed to apply textures to the floor and to the walls. Things left to do: I am not able to scale the textures on the walls without effecting the textures on the floor and the statues.

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