I just wanted to share a music video I created using the new Unreal 4 Sequencer. I was blown away at how easy and user friendly the whole sequencer experience was. It has inspired me to look at uses outside of the traditional game sphere to expand the potential of creation with this awesome tool!
A Bit of Background
After creating the track we started to discuss the potential of doing a music video. Coming from a gaming background I really wanted to do something that would strike a chord with the gamer community. The typical music videos shot in HD these days typically end up look pretty dull unless you’ve got a 200k plus budget plus post plus all sorts of organizational headaches that come along with dealing with Real Life!
I reached out to some 3D content creators and started to get quotes back in excess of 25k for approx 3mins of animation that would be done in Maya, Blender etc etc. Knowing this would be such a massive investment I started to feel like a low budget music video was in my future. Being a total novice in Unreal I often go in and play around with the new developments of the engine for my own amusement. Lately on the Epic game launcher I noticed they were spotlighting a new plugin called eXi’s Sound Visualization Plugin. If you haven’t heard of it you should grab it. Such an awesome easy plugin to use that reacts to sound across the frequency spectrum. I downloaded the demo level that is provided and thought to myself that this would be an awesome starting point for my vision of the music video. The entire concept was spawned from this one plugin.
The Production Process
So I had an awesome plugin but 0 experience shooting cinematics inside Unreal. The next step was to head over to youtube and search for a solution. Thankfully the Unreal Team is just awesome at making great tutorial sessions and after watching this particular video I felt that I could start playing around with sequencer to get a rough draft going of my music video. As I started to play around I was just amazed at how easy and fast it was to pick up. This tool really is awesome and you can see the care and detail that went into its creation.
Getting your hands on characters can sometimes be a daunting task. I reached out to some friends of mine over at NEVERDIE Studios who lent me the T-Poses of two of their characters from their online MMO POPtropia. Their entire MMO is centered around music and they were big supporters of my idea to bring their characters to life outside of their virtual world. But the characters were rigged for cryEngine 2 which for anyone who has dabbled into that engine can be a real pain to deal with outside of cryEngine. In fact its a massive pain to deal with inside cryEngine haha. So to save time and money Mixamo became my new best friend. Using their auto rigging tool I was able to get a decent enough rig going and with their simple export for Unreal 4 options the characters ported in seamlessly! Now that I had some Mixamo rigged characters I browsed through their dance library and found all sorts of cool animations that again with their export to Unreal option a simple drag and drop and Boom ready to go in Unreal! No problems!
The textures however were only 512x512 as the game they are used in is an MMO where hundreds of characters in view at any given time and has been live since 2008. Even though the textures were so low I was amazed at how Unreal’s lighting made them look. I’m not saying they look next gen or anything but given that these character models are over 6 years old the quality I was able to achieve thanks to Unreals rendering engine was amazing.
So now I had some awesome characters, cool animations and a great visual background. The time came to start messing around with Sequencer. Typically in music videos the cuts are very quick to keep the viewers attention. While I could have used just a few cameras with keyframes I felt it was easier to just use new cameras per shot and cut between them rapidly to create this fast cutting effect. In total I used 85 cameras to achieve this which my 4 year old laptop could totally handle. Again Sequencer being so user friendly with its preview window and whatnot it took barely any time at all to set up the shots. Plus with the audio waveform visualizer inside Sequencer it was really easy to get some rough ideas of when I wanted to cut to various cameras in the song.
By tracking the transform of the cameras I was able to get some classic music video style shots that move around the actors in a chaotic way to increase the intensity for the viewer. I’m sure that seasoned pros would add all sorts of curves and whatnot to make the shots look even more pro but keep in mind I am a novice and just wanted to keep things simple.
Then came the challenge of making the animations transform fluidly between each other. I used a bit of blendspacing when needed but for the most part I used a very simple trick. I would line up sequencer with a cut from camera to another and on that exact keyframe I would swap the animation that was being tracked. Again Sequencer just snaps so easily so it took no time at all to accomplish the transitions.
For the particles a very simple attachActortoComponent was used which gave the characters some cool particles attached to their hands and feet during the intense dance sequences. The particles all came from the marketplace FT Magic Pack01 and KY Magic Chant FX. Now I had the whole sequence laid out I simply added a few camera shakes to emphasize the growling in the track, some very basic point lights to add some mood and better illumination of the characters and presto the music video was done!
When I first ventured out on this project it seemed very doom and gloom. I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars and also didn’t want to have to wait months to get the content live. By utilizing the awesome tools found in Unreal 4, some assets from the marketplace and by watching the great tutorials made by the community and Unreal Developers I was able to achieve my vision for under 150 bucks! Also I got the whole thing done in under a week! I just wanted to extend my gratitude to all the developers at Unreal who do such a great job at keeping things rolling out that are easy to use and inspire creativity. I also want to thank the community who makes such cool plugins and tutorials that help get a novice like me through the trenches to produce content that would in the past be way out of the realm of a realistic possibility.