Predator: Last Stand (WIP)
Note: This is a work-in-progress project with more updates to come soon!
Last Edited: 26 July 2023
This portfolio entry highlights my solo endeavor to create a fan concept teaser cinematic for a Predator Vs Aliens game. With a strong focus on learning and implementing best practices, this project allowed me to explore the capabilities of Unreal Engine 5 while honing my skills in various aspects of cinematic creation.
I also deeply delved into learning materials, physics, and blueprints to help with more technical cinematic aspects.
Responsible for Blocking, Animation Retargeting, Camera, Editing,
Environment Creation, Lighting, Rendering, and Audio Mixing.
- Unreal Engine 5
- Adobe Premiere Pro (Audio Mixing)
- Rokoko Studio
To begin this project, I worked on the task of crafting a story outline. Considering my limitations at hand, I made a deliberate decision to set the story within a single location. This allowed me to allocate more attention to developing a compelling narrative rather than investing excessive time into environment creation. Ultimately, I opted for a classic Predator setting, immersing the story in the depths of a forest. I finalized this version of the script as a reliable reference to guide the blocking process for my animatic.
PREDATOR: LAST STAND
EXT. DAY - THE WOODS - MAIN PATH
Four soldiers, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, move cautiously through a dense forest. They maintain a tactical formation, their senses on high alert. The tension is high as they navigate through the terrain.
On review, my initial block out needed a lot of work but it was a good base to improve on!
Preparing the Predator
This short film incorporates the Predator character model sourced from 'Predator: Hunting Grounds,' a video game developed by IllFonic.
After importing the model into Unreal Engine, I created an IK Rig and Retargeter. This setup enables me to seamlessly apply Unreal mannequin animations to the new Predator rig. The same technique was applied to the soldier characters in the film.
To enhance animation diversity and offer more customization, I adjusted the mannequin control rig to work with my Predator rig. This tool grants me the ability to modify motion capture data directly in Unreal Engine according to my needs.
The 'dreadlocks' are a crucial element of the Predator's appearance in the movies, so it was essential to accurately incorporate them into the cinematic.
To ensure realistic physics for the locks, I opted to detach them from the main mesh and skeleton of the body. This separation granted me greater control over their movement. Subsequently, I created individual physics bodies for each strand, enabling simulated physics for their motion. After refining the physics simulation, I reattached the dreadlocks to the body by creating a character blueprint and connecting them to the head socket. This involved adding collision detection with the head, neck, and shoulders, ensuring that the dreadlocks interact convincingly with the Predator's body during animations.
Another fundamental element of the Predator's look is their cloaking technology, which grants them the ability to become nearly invisible, allowing them to stalk their prey.
Prey (2022). Directed by Dan Trachtenberg.
To recreate this effect in Unreal Engine I based my effect on a material transition tutorial by UnrealCG. However, its application was restricted to altering between textures within a single material. This wasn't useful for my character as it utilized a combination of materials with different shading models (Default Lit/Subsurface), and to achieve the desired cloak effect, I had to transition into a Translucent material shading model. Thus, I needed to enhance and expand upon the existing approach to accommodate this unique requirement.
The resolution entailed crafting two master materials, each utilizing the masked blend mode. One of these master materials encompassed the Predator's materials (instanced to change the textures for each mesh), while the other was the cloaked material. Both materials were then equipped with the 'Transition Effect' nodes, which I linked to the opacity through a Lerp node and to transition between the base material's opacity and 0.
Next, I ensured that one of the master material's transition effect nodes were connected to a 1-x node, effectively inverting the effect. This configuration allowed for a smooth transition, where when one material was transitioning on, the other would automatically turn off, with only one parameter slider within the actor blueprint.
Lastly, I had to have two versions of the Predator mesh in the actor blueprint one with the normal materials and one with the cloaked materials. I then introduced the 'Transition' variable to control all the transition parameter variables in all the materials at the same time.
This approach streamlined the transition between the two states, making the implementation of the cloaking effect more efficient and user-friendly.