Development Approaches

To help me gain more confidence in the immersive design aspects of Maya, I decided to do some initial experiments into some of the effects and features that I was aiming for in my final piece. By experimenting with these effects, it has also helped me to adapt and improve upon my ideas and therefore hopefully to get a better immersive designed experience for my final piece.  

VR Practice 

My short initial test render video to see how scene 1 was going to appear 

Some screenshots showing how the wraparound texture appeared in the rendered VR video

First, I decided to do a small test render on one of my scenes that I had created but not animated yet. This was to help me visualise how my environment was going to look in VR, it also helped me to see that the rendering would take a long time. I didn’t end up rendering very much of it because of this, but I did render just enough footage to be able to turn it into a Youtube video where I was then able to look through the Google cardboard and have a look around my environment. Here, I realised that some aspects didn’t look exactly how I wanted, particularly the wraparound tree texture. I really liked how this looked when the user is looking straight on (see fig 1) as it adds lots of depth to the scene, but when looking up in the video (fig 2), you can see where they end. I am going to be considering ways I can alter this in my final video, particularly as it is very important to consider the entire 360 view within immersive design.

Ghost and Pumpkin Animations

My test screen recording of the ghost animation

Then, to refresh myself in animating and using keyframes I decided to animate some of my assets. I decided to make the ghosts look as if they were floating and achieved this through key framing their positions. I do feel that the ghosts move slightly too fast in this practice video and therefore I will ensure to slow down their animation for the final piece. I also decided to animate the pumpkins and wanted them to all appear near the door. I used keyframes for this, and altered their visibility. Similar to the ghosts, I think in my final piece I will slow down this animation so they don’t appear too abruptly.

Bottle Animation

My test screen recording of the bottle animation 

I then wanted to experiment with some different styles of animation. In scene 2 which takes place in the hallway of the house, I wanted the bottle that is placed on the table to make its way to the user as if they are drinking something from it. To achieve this, I created a curve and attached the bottle to it as a motion path. The curve that I created here was a very basic one, in my final piece I plan on making it go up to the users face level and it will tip up at the end to replicate the drinking process, I will also slow down the animation slightly as I feel that it is too fast.

Appearing Ghosts

My test screen recording of the appearing ghosts 

Next I decided to have a go at animating the ghosts appearing. I wanted them to look as if they were appearing through the walls and the small Alice in Wonderland style doors that are on the wall. This animation ended up being straightforward to create as it mainly involved key framing the ghosts position.

Movement/Transition Through Door

My test screen recording of the camera movement 

This experiment was slightly more complicated than the others. I created a curve for the camera to follow and then attached a camera to it as a motion path, similar to what I did for the bottle animation. For some reason I couldn’t get the camera to face the right way along the path despite altering the axis in the motion path settings and rotating the camera around. After more experimenting after filming this screen recording, I realised that the camera needed to match the scenes setting and axis so I was able to rectify this issue ready for my final piece.

MASH Floor Effect

My test screen recording of the MASH effect

I then had a go at using Maya’s MASH feature. I used this feature briefly in one of our lab tutorials and managed to gain an understanding of the basics. I then had a go at using it myself, where I gained confidence in using it, I experimented with the randomise and colour settings in particular and I really like the effect these give. I plan on incorporating this effect into the flooring of my final scene as I think it looks really effective, but it actually surprised me as the MASH feature on Maya was really straightforward to use.

Lighting Experiment

Finally, I did some experiments with other types of lighting, as from doing some test renders shown in my Individual assets and environment development blog post, I realised that I didn’t like the look of the directional lighting that I had initially used as they seemed to create too many shadows and I wanted something more natural looking. 

Some renders showing how the lighting will look and the new skydome light sky

In scene 1, I added a skydome light which gave it a much more natural effect, especially since this scene takes place outdoors. To give it an even moodier look, I made sure to turn down the exposure on the settings to make the overall scene darker but ensuring the assets were still visible. I then added a sky texture to it which I had edited using Photoshop – the texture image of the sky was originally blue so I altered the settings on it, particularly the saturation, which made it more grey toned to add to the spooky atmosphere. I also decided to be more creative with the lighting for this scene and I created a sphere mesh with a mesh light added to it. I added two of these into my scene as seen in the renders above – one inside the pumpkin to light it up from within and one on the street lamp which gave that area of the scene a golden glow.

For scenes 2, I also utilised the mesh lighting method as it seemed to produce the more natural look I was after. For this scene, the mesh lighting was added to the ceiling mesh. I was able to alter the intensity, exposure and colour of the light mesh using the render view which gave me much more control and freedom to get to the levels I desired. Finally, for scene 3, I also used a skydome light. 

A comparison of my first render of scene 1 (left) to my current render (right) with the improved lighting 

Overall, I found out just how important it is to do test renders throughout the development process. They enabled me to see parts of the scenes that didn’t look as good as I thought they did and gave me a chance to rectify these issues and therefore improve my piece. As seen in the above comparison of the different renders of the same scene, the lighting now looks so much better on the right compared to my first test render on the left which was too shadowy. The addition of the mesh light inside the pumpkin helps to light up the scene but also emphasises the face and adds to the atmosphere.

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