More City Designs & Traffic. Shortfilm Diary Part V

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So I thought it was time for a quick update on the Unreal Engine 5 short film project.

I’m still testing out city designs and building different scenes. I’ve created a more gritty look for the city, which I like.

As I wrote in my last post, I found my initial design too pretty. I want a more industrial look.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I like this more industrialized – almost brutalist – look with a lot of smog.

I’ll probably have to dial the smog and foggy clouds back, though, because the YouTube codec compresses the scene so much that it’s almost unwatchable.

I should have known since volumetric fog is essentially noise in the scene, which the YouTube codec can’t handle.

I probably still overdid it, but it will be nice when getting to a point where we don’t have to dial back on artistic, creative choices because of codec compression.

Traffic Trouble

AI traffic Unreal Engine 5.1

I’ve also begun testing out some traffic solutions.

This has turned out to be much more difficult than I had expected.

When you watch the Matrix Awakens short film and read about all the AI crowd and traffic possibilities, it’s easy to get excited.

But it isn’t straightforward to get to work in real life.

My initial idea was to use a traffic system to populate the roads in the city.

And then record the movement of the cars into the sequencer.

I would then record and animate the characters’ vehicles in the movie by playing the scene using an Xbox controller and recording the gameplay.

But it turns out that this might not be possible.

AI traffic seems only to work when simulating or playing a scene in real time.

So if you automatically spawn cars and use AI to get them to follow a spline fx, they won’t get recorded into the sequencer, i.e., they only work in run time.

So I might have to manually add every car I want on the road to each scene, which sucks since one of those roads is a highway with lots of traffic.

Closing thoughts

I like to learn new stuff, but Unreal Engine is undoubtedly the steepest learning curve I’ve ever had to climb.

It’s so cool that UE is free and that Epic Games puts it in the hands of creators of video games, animators, and film producers.

But while creating a gorgeous landscape scene is easy enough, animating stuff is tough.

And often find myself running into problems with no apparent solution since every project is different.

In Adobe After Effects fx, it’s often possible to search for a solution to a problem you have.

But in Unreal Engine, so much goes on so many different levels that it is often hard to figure out what the problem is.

If you’re interested in getting into UE as a video content creator and are used to apps like Premiere Pro or After Effects, you’re constantly reminded that you are working with a game engine first.

The animation tools are built on top of this, and it shows.

At this stage, I spend 90 percent of my time troubleshooting and learning to do stuff instead of getting stuff done for the short film.

Hopefully, this gets down to 50-50 at some point as I get to know the software more.

And then there are the crashes…. oh, the crashes…


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  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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