Adam Myhill, our Head of Cinematics, has been overwhelmed by the great reactions to how our community has been using Cinemachine and Timeline. Here are a few words from him on how it came together and his thoughts on the future.
As someone who loves cameras and shot a lot projects both in games and real life, I designed Cinemachine to make it easy for everyone to add dynamic and beautiful shots to their projects. One of my goals was to make storytelling fun, fast, and iterative, so that you can create shot sequences quickly and with the power of procedural cameras. This lets you spend your time on the creative problems instead of technical or implementation ones.
As a video game cinematic artist, I was frustrated by having to re-work scenes that broke when animations were changed. A huge goal I had was to make cameras ‘smart’, so I didn’t have to spend a week fixing issues I had spent two months creating in the first place. I wanted cameras to know about their targets, and I wanted to work with them in a compositional way — just like you do with a real camera. Give the cameras some direction and intention, and let them do their job in variable scenarios when things change.
Think of typical keyframed cameras — they don’t know anything about what they’re shooting! I wanted to create a relationship between the cameras and their subjects so they would act as an army of little camera operator robots, following your direction. That’s how Cinemachine was born.
What a lot of people don’t know is that the origins of Cinemachine started with in-game camera modules. In addition to the cinematic features, there’s a lot of gameplay camera tools included for 3rd person orbit cameras, follow cameras, state driven systems to easily trigger camera changes from animations, priority systems, a really robust camera blending matrix configurator and more. The heart of Cinemachine is for interactive gameplay, but when it met Timeline, well they became BFFs pretty fast. Using them together sure makes creating cutscenes, replays and in-game cinematic moments a whole lot faster.
Experimentation should be easy — try out those crazy ideas and see what works. I want artists and designers to be able to create sophisticated camera behaviors that reinforce gameplay and the story. This allows your precious engineers to work on other problems instead of making and maintaining a giant ‘ball of code’ camera which can so easily become this frustrating scary fragile thing. I’m happy to say, those days are behind us with Unity!
Your reaction to all this has been amazing! Thank you! People are really seeing the potential of working with instant iteration time, zero/minimal code camera systems.
Here are some comments and community projects that caught my attention:
Titles Using Cinemachine or Timeline
Some Unity users had early access to these features, and put them to the test in some great game, experience, and film work. Here are some of my favorites, including the project where Cinemachine was born, that you can check out right now.
Deserts of Kharak by Blackbird Interactive
This is a project very dear to my heart, and it’s where Cinemachine was born. I’ve been building camera systems in a number of engines for many years, but this is where we built Cinemachine from the best of all those learnings, in Unity, with this amazing game. Somebody even made a movie from all of the cutscenes. The cinematics in this game are all done with procedural cameras. We wouldn’t know the size of your fleet so we had to use procedural composition and movement — all features in Cinemachine. Also, the designers kept changing the speeds of the vehicles! I would come to work, and all the Baserunners would be 15% faster or something — no problem, the cameras still got the shots. If we didn’t have Cinemachine we simply could not have done the cutscenes in this game, let alone over an hour of them.
Life of Us by Within
This multi-person interactive experience tells the story of the evolution of life on earth, and is directed by Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin — VR innovators best known for The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive Arcade Fire music video. “The characters’ movements through space presented major implementation challenges—the flying mechanic, running through the environments, etc. Those were very difficult to get right and feel comfortable,” said Koblin. “We’re also proud of our character rigs—which combine animation, IK, and ragdolls—in order to support up to 6 people in the space. The most important feature we used was Timeline. The experience is highly scripted and linear, so Timeline made it easy to trigger animations, music, and events, and so we could just slide things around and change things in real-time.”
Zero Days VR by Scatter
This VR adaptation of the Zero Days film by Scatter took Sundance by storm. Timeline allowed Scatter to iterate and experiment with different timings quickly when building the effects and transitions for ZDVR. The familiar non-linear editing style interface granted non-programmer members of the team the power to easily tweak animations without requiring any coding skills. “I think pretty much everyone on the core team used Timeline in this project, from the programmers to the 3D artists, and even the director” says Elie Zananiri, the Scatter Lead Interaction Developer. “I’m honestly not sure how we would have built Zero Days VR without Timeline.”
Timeline, Cinemachine and You
There are a lot of great ways to use Cinemachine and Timeline to help your stories!
Here’s a video from my Siggraph talk — Real-time Cinematics and Storytelling — it gives an overview of a number of the features, plus Timeline and the Post Processing Stack.
Below is a brand-new walk-through tutorial setting up a character in Timeline and some camera clips in Cinemachine.
I’ll be posting more demos soon. Until then, check out the Unity YouTube Playlist to see some other great examples such as:
- Overview of Timeline & Cinemachine: learn the fundamentals, build something from scratch (by Mike Wuetherick and Adam Myhill)
- Timeline & Cinemachine to mix Gameplay and Interactive Cutscenes: more advanced use cases (by Andy Touch)
- Advanced Cinemachine: From 1st person shooter to 3rd person action adventure, revolutionize your in-game cameras (by Adam Myhill)
- Extending Timeline with your own playables: unleash more power (by James Bouckley)