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Ascending and descending to and from Space

Hi everyone,

I’ve been tasked to create an Oculus experience which is a mix of unknown + not the best engine for the job + not really done before kind of difficult.

It goes like this:

  1. Player starts in a room. He can look around for a few seconds, then the room dissolves away
  2. Player is now found above ground level (let’s say top of Empire State Building altitude) in a real location, flying towards the sky.
  3. He continues flying until he’s outside of the atmosphere and can see the whole earth in front of him
  4. He’s allowed to float a bit and gaze at the Earth
  5. He then proceeds to descend but towards another real location
  6. When his descend is complete he should be at ground level in a real location.

I already started the project and I’m using the Cinematics sequencer to control the experience as there is no interactivity and the Sequencer allows me to check the flow of things without having to play the experience numerous times.

Now, issues and questions…

I’m not expecting to be able to render the whole world and freely zoom in and zoom out like Google Earth with 3D rendered buildings and what not so I’m taking a more simple/fake approach.
I’ve imported a few 4k photos of satellite views centered on the location I want the player to start from, at different zoom levels and layered them on top of each other making sure they fit into each other as well as possible. This allows me to get a zoom from close to ground level up to Earth view with decent texture quality where the player is close to the map. Here’s a gif of the zoom out: Screen capture - 1e0ef720c25cd49e01bd498e5d109d05 - Gyazo

I’m using a mix of player going up + scaling and moving the texture down, to avoid moving the player outside the 10km range and avoid any issues with floating point calculations.
I’m planning on adding some 3D buildings at the low level to make it slightly more immersive and maybe import some terrain data to apply some displacement to the closest part of the map.

The main problem with my technique is the transition towards space view. Since my Earth is basically a flat plane of layered textures (Screenshot - 784a28ee57c4cc9f5bd3881b17ad00df - Gyazo) I can’t figure out a way of transitioning from under the skybox, to being outside the atmosphere and seeing the blue rim of the atmosphere around the Earth. I’ve tried faking it with a mix of Skybox and Exponential Height Fog, animating their colours and values to make it seem like the player is actually going up in the atmosphere but the results aren’t believable enough.
In some ways it’s almost there but I’d need the horizon to wrap around the flat earth instead of just fading out like I have it now: Screen capture - 21a84d1326845b5121f491fd796ff73f - Gyazo

Any help is much appreciated. Thanks :slight_smile:

TLDR: How do I make this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95NDkABAsSk ) in VR in UE4?

What about a large, circular animated mesh, some kilometers in diameter… it starts off flat, and you have the circumference deform/bend downwards or the middle bulge upwards so it eventually becomes a hemisphere…

I’d be tempted to fake the atmosphere by fading the skybox to black as you go up in altitude, and maybe have some haze material fade in on or above the landscape mesh.

I’ve been thinking about something similar for a spaceship launch sequence but haven’t implemented much yet. Let me know whats working and not working for you!

I like the idea! Thanks. Will let you know how if it works.