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


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.

Ivy – a domestic violence survivor’s story

An angry fella. His face full of red rage. Full of hate.

An angry fella

His face full of red rage

Full of hate

His rancid, putrid breath

Stinking of cheap whiskey

His rotten, decayed teeth

On full display

His brain shut off

To rhyme or reason

His visceral thoughts

A myopic focus.

Staggering forward in false bravado

He’d pick up his well worn bat

Caressing it’s end in theatrical play

His old trusted friend

His old acquaintance firmly at hand

In prelude

And for devastating effect

He would smile

His all-knowing smile

And with eyes full of malice

Slurring incoherently

“Smash your fucking face”.

Then tensing at his fullest

He would swing that bat

With all his might

In violence, in vengeful hate

The reward for some small slight

That made him remember

Who he was


A pitiful man

Exercising his daemons

His self-loathing

And his terrible ritual would continue


Now a muscle memory

He would slap her bloodied face

Again and again.

And if she did not fall, or cried or moaned or whimpered

Or if she did not cower or crawl away

Or if she did show the fear

Or respect his twisted brain craved

As close to adulation as he came

If she did not do it

His way

If he did not see it

His way

“That bitch”

He would kick her for the justice

He demanded

His way.

And as she laid down in her own blood

And as she laid down in pain

While that pathetic bastard had

His way.

In silence

In her shame…

To take his own anguish away

That angry man

That coward

That wife beater

All the while

Our survivor would pray

Her tears would mix with her blood

Pooling again

On that oh so stained floor

Which had seen this play

Play out this encore



This time though enough was enough

Inside her a barrier

Taunt from years of abuse

Beyond breaking point

Finally snapped

Shattering Into a thousand pieces

And she saw the universal truth

One she had tried so hard

To put aside

To ignore

This dangerous game

He would not stop

Or change

For this was his way

Why he had sought her out in the first place.

For nine times she had left him

And nine times she had returned

Nine incomprehensible times

To us

But not to her

The denier of history

To replicate

Her fate.

This time though

With new resolve

She reached an escape velocity

An escape trajectory


This time she would break free of her shackles

He would not bind her

This time she would not come back

This time

He would not own her

This time

She would be the master

Of her destiny.

So this time she fled

She ran away

Far from her land

Away from her people

Away from her shame

Alone, she would have to start again.

The best years of her life behind her.

To fight for existence

To battle her own demons

To fan her own faltering flame

A future yet uncertain

A life of continuous subsistence

But a life that was free.

But a life full of unknowing

Ill prepared

Not required you see

In ignorance of the economy

Now with white fella’s cards

To dig in their claws

To abuse

To misuse

A new ritual

To bash her another way.

For the cycle continues

Despite all our good intentions.


One of series of stories that were inspired by workshops around financial inclusion I helped organise and run for the Salvos in Australia in Nov 2018 while working for Deloitte’s.

We collaborated with the Salvos, on our national charity day, looking at how to resolve issues related to the stigma and access to Salvos financial services across the five personas, each with complex issues. In this case it was of an individual who was also facing domestic violence.

I’m a bit of a newbie at Unity but I’ve given a go using it for animation, using Mixamo for the character creation and Adobe tools to try to bring these stories to life. I’ve updated the Unity 3D animation with improved models and lighting effects. It’s a step up with what I was able to do with Unity before but I have so much more than I can do!

Poems and videos by Vinod Ralh. 2018. All rights reserved.

Illustrations in video by Jean-Baptiste Vincent. 2018. All rights reserved.
Music in video Life Is by Scott Buckley -

Photos modified from