Grasping scale using animation and storytelling

I thought I’d try something different, and post updates on progressing an idea of grasping scale through animation and storytelling and at the same time do something that might be useful to alerting people of the issues of Covid-19.

I thought I’d try something different, and post updates on progressing an idea of grasping scale through animation and storytelling and at the same time do something that might be useful to alerting people of the issues of Covid-19.

This data visualisation from Dr Eric Ding really struck me at odds with the indifference shown by so many Americans advocating personal freedoms over taking simple measures such as wearing masks and social isolation.

A story and and an animation perhaps could be helpful to highlight the issue and get people think twice about their behaviours and its impact on their country. I don’t want this to be macabre of sensationalist but to get an important story across.

My current thought is to show a cinematic visualisation of American football fields full of people.

At the time of writing there’s been 296,000 deaths due to Covid-19.

As a field length is 120 yards (109.75m), width 53.3 yards (48.8) that comes to 5355.8 people per square metre and 55.27 fields.

Using Unity

Do I use Unity or Adobe After Effects?

I’ve opted for Unity to advanced cinematics, 3D capabilities and AI possibilities for the engine.

I’ll have to dust off old skills and learn a number of new ones which maybe a challenge.

Showing 5k+ animations on a screen may be too much for my old mac and I may have to ask a favour of one of my children to get some time on their GPU card enabled gaming desktops!

The Steps in the Journey

  • Ragdolls
  • Multiple characters
  • Animation controllers
  • Grass
  • American football field
  • Football stadium
  • Multiple stadiums
  • Lighting effects
  • Cinematics
  • UI interactivity
  • Recording

Multiple Characters

Ragdolls

First step is how to show a character falling down realistically…

The ragdoll feature in Unity animates characters falling down and also reacting to objects that they collide with.

Multiple Characters

Now where to get multiple characters?

Unity Asset Store has a few free character assets.

Another great source is Adobe Mixamo where you can download fbx based characters with animations using their web based tool. For some crazy reason Adobe have decide to end-of-life Muse which means you can’t create your own and upload them.

I also create my own character using the much improved MakingHuman open source tool. It offers great diversity and I suspect I’ll generate many characters using this tool.

With these four characters at hand, the next was to create a simple animation loop using a single animation controller with an idle animation.

Animation Controllers

Here I’ve added an animation controller – a state machine with events from keyboard input to drive idle, fall down, stand up and walk animations. I used a common avatar body for all the models and animations clips from Mixamo.

I had to experiment a bit to get the Y Root Transform correct as characters were not staying correctly on the ground. I also had some issues with models and copying from common avatar rather than from each model… luckily Penny De Byl’s Unity animation course came to the rescue for me!

I’ll have to look at different randomised animations so that movements are not exactly the same.

Next step maybe will be modelling an American Football stadium pitch.

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