Narrative VR — The City

DEMO VIDEO

***This project is built in Unreal Engine and is an individual project that I developed for Narrative VR class***

My initial idea is to personify a city and narrate a story about the city’s life. In this film, the city has her own body. She is a giant and also the spirit of the city. This city used to be very prosperous and have tons of commercial activities. However, now she is no longer young and energetic. All the prosperous scenes in the film are her memory.

As I mentioned in week 4’s post: https://medium.com/@yhl437/narrative-vr-mood-board-tilt-brush-cf6ce927a041, there are 4 scenes in the story, but after consideration, I delete the tunnel scene and tried to make the story simpler.

Mood Board & StoryBoard

01

The first scene is about the city’s current situation. She is old and nearly dying. Players can use teleport to approach the woman and there will be only one television on her head still working. Viewers can touch the television and enter her memory. I did not finish this scene this time, but I plan to complete this part in my final project.

02

The second scene is about the city’s memory which depicts the most prosperous time in her life and it is also the scene that I created this time. I applied hologram effect to some ads and short video to make it looks more sci-fi and commercial. This idea was inspired by Ghost in Shell which also has giant hologram ads in the scenes.

Hologram & its material

Other than hologram, I tried to apply point cloud effect in the scene. In the city, all the residents used particle animal as their vehicles. The effect is also used on the texts in the city. After viewers run through the tunnel, they can see a welcome message which is composed of glowing points. The only one problem of this particle system is that it can only be applied to static meshes which means I cannot apply the effect to animated models.

03

The third scene is actually the same scene as the first one. After viewing her memory, viewers come back to the current time and see the last television , which also symbolizes her life, running out of power and turning off.

How did the medium and it’s tools shape how your told the story? How did it facilitate / How did it hinder the story?

Originally, I want to use Tilt Brush to create the character since I was totally into the art style in Dear Angelica. However, after I tried to paint her in Tilt Brush, I found it looked so different and the style was not what I imagined, so I give up to use it as painting medium.

Tried to use Tilt Brush to draw the character

Instead, I tried to use 3ds Max to create the character. I found a free 3D model as the city’s body and tried to add some wires and metal on her head so she looks more like a cyborg. I also collected 5 different types of televisions and put them one her head.

Draft and the 3d model

After finish the mesh, I started to do some research and learn about how to put textures on her body. It is probably the most difficult part in the project. I tried several softwares like Photoshop(yeah, surprisingly it has the 3D painting function), Paint 3D, ZBrush and Substance painter. Finally, I decided to use Substance painter which is much simpler for me to export normal maps and color maps to Unreal.

After I import the model to Unreal, I put some screens on her head to make the TVs look more realistic. Also, I created several particle system(the blue rings) to make the city more sci-fi.

Where would you take this project if you had more time/resources?

I would do rigging and add animation to the city. Originally, I want her to turn her head around and open her mouth, but I don’t have enough time to finish it. Secondly, I want to finish the first and third scene in the film, creating a scene which is full of debris and rubbles. Thirdly, I would add more stores and buildings to the city to make it look more prosperous.

What would you do differently if you had to start the project over from scratch?

I am really interested in the GPU particle system, so if I can start the project from scratch again, I would apply the effect to everything.

Why are you going to or not going to stick with idea?

I am going to stick with the idea since I like the story and also am so inspired by the sci-fi scene in Ghost in Shell. I have conducted research on hologram effect, point clouds and particle system and would apply hologram effect on different objects such as hologram maps, hologram buildings and so on to make it look more sci-fi.