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Camera Map Your Teaser Trailer
by Koen Deetman on 07/14/14 11:27:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

In the early stages of game development, it's sometimes too early to showcase some gameplay. Especially when you are working on a 3D game in a small team. However you want to start the promotion early on in the process. Let me assume you do not have the money nor the resources to pull of a high-end CGI trailer, but you still want to deliver a decent teaser trailer shortly. In this article would like to share my experiences with 'camera mapping' while creating a teaser for my studio's upcoming horror game 'Horrinth'.

 

('Horrinth' Concept art by Kerim Akyuz Ⓒ KeokeN Interactive)

 

What Is Camera Mapping?

At first I wasn't aware this technique existed and is frequently used in many TV-series. This is mostly used to fake 'helicopter flights' going over New York City for example

 

So what does camera mapping exactly do? It's actually really simple. You take a beautiful photograph or take a piece of concept art that has a certain amount of 'depth' in there. You can make this 'flat' image come alive with just a few basic 3D, texture and animation skills, resulting in a smooth camera motion 'through' the photograph and/or picture.

Pro's
- Very fast method to capture an awesome scene.
- Low rendering times.
- Fast and easy texturing.
- No lighting required.
- Low modeling and animation skills required.

Cons
- Only great for a 'fly troughs'. (Or you have to become very creative).
- Not really possible to turn the camera (projected from 1 side).
- You need great high resolution art / or artist to create something worthwhile.
- Artist needs to be aware about 'moving objects' for separate layers.


Design The Teaser
Before you start camera mapping, you should definitely design your teaser first. It sounds logical, but some parts could become very complicated if you do not have the 'complete idea' about the teaser.

My Example:
Horrinth is about demonic possession and takes place in a large Labyrinth. To stay in control of your character you have to keep 'breathing'. If you fail to do this, the top labyrinth will drop on you.

I liked to tease this concept, so I suggested we made a large labyrinth hallway, and have the camera travel (in a walking motion) to the end of the labyrinth path. While doing so, the top labyrinth would rapidly fall down, mixed with awesome sound effects and uprising soundscapes. This would hopefully set the 'tone' of the game.

 

(Early teaser design Horrinth)



Use Some Awesome Concept Art or Photographs
So I asked my concept artist 'Kerim' to create a layered set piece like this, and he provided me with a collection of layered images. I will explain why I needed layers in a moment. For the best result I would advise to use a very high resolution photo or concept art, because moving the camera straightforward is actually 'zooming in' on the picture.

 

(Layers of the image I want to camera map)



How Did I Use Camera Mapping?

When the concept art was done, I was able to start camera mapping this flat (2D 3500x7000px) image and magically turn it into a 3D world.

I used blender for this task, because it's open-source and there were some tutorials explaining this technique really accurate.

First you place your image on the camera projection view, because we want to create some models simulating the image 'depth'. Modeling certain assets in the image is best done when viewing through camera perspective. In my case, I had to create models of the walls in order to move along them with the camera.


1. Camera View
If you take a look at the first example in the picture below, you can see the selected models are exactly in line with the walls in the picture. Moving the camera along these walls would already create depth. It doesn't matter if the models look weird beyond camera view, because we will only record the camera perspective.

2. Models & Depth Amount
In the second example you can see how these models are very simple and seem like a disastrous mess ;). That is totally fine, but I had to create an actual hallway. My advise would be to create a set of models (for example the amount of walls) and restructure them from Camera perspective. I repeated this process until I had the desired 'length' of the hallway.

3. Subdivide & Camera Resolution
When you 'project your image from view' and use these projections as textures you have to keep the size dimensions (resolutions) of the picture. Don't forget the camera also needs these dimensions before projecting them on the models. If you want to have the best result, I recommend subdividing these models, so the projection has more 'data' (polygons/faces) to calculate the image more accurately as seen in example three.

After these projections, you can change the camera perspective to a more cinematic resolution (1920x1080). By doing this, you will also create more camera freedom, so it's possible to move the camera up & down without immediately reaching the borders of the picture (example three).

 

(Camera view, Models, Subdivide & Camera resolution)

 

(models in line with the picture)

 

Layering Images Is Important
When I was trying this camera mapping technique, I discovered a problem when you do not layer these images as separate textures. As you can see in the example below, the floating walls in this drawing are showing up again when the camera moves through. This would be resolved if the background is drawn on a separate layer and used as texture on the background model.

 

(Duplicate floating walls problem when no layers are used)

 

 

Simple Key-Frame Animation
When you are done mapping the scene you can easily animate the camera through the scene with simple keyframes. It's up to you what you want to record and where the camera moves as long as it keeps moving forward. I decided to simulate a walking animation. It took me a while to figure out what's best, and I still think it needs some improvement, but we had to release the teaser trailer. 

Eventually we used 'Final Cut Pro' to edit the video and used some subtle effects while my brother created the soundsfx & soundscapes. You can take a look at the final result in the video below.

 

 

(Horrinth Debut Teaser by KeokeN Interactive)

 

Concluding
Most of the camera-mapping techniques are best explained by guys like "Blenderguru" especially in this tutorial. In my opinion camera mapping is a nice and easy way to create a teaser sequence rather fast. You could also consider chaining different scenes together, or have more elements moving in the scene, all what is within your creative boundaries. Maybe it's not the best way to create a cool teaser, at least its a fast and effective one!

Do you have any cool and easy to use tools or techniques for trailer creation?

/Koen

 

Find Me On:

Twitter: @KoenDeetman
Facebook: Koen.Deetman

Company: KeokeNInteractive

Find Horrinth On:
Twitter: @Horrinth

Facebook: Horrinth
Website: Horrinth.com


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Comments


Christopher Myburgh
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I really wish devs would stop with pre-rendered teasers and "announcement" trailers. If you're not ready to show gameplay, you're not ready to start promoting. It's a waste of the player's time because it doesn't show them the actual product, and it's time the developer could have put to much better use making the gameplay presentable.

Jennis Kartens
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I disagree.

Teasers and CGI trailers can establish a very good first impression of the mood, the setting, the characters, the overal atmosphere of a game. They als can help to get you interested in the first place, even if the actual gameplay may differ a lot.

Of course, it can be a two sided sword where a trailer promises more as the game could possibly deliver, but it's not necessarily so.

Often enough, a core concept is better representet in an artificial created movie, as just in gameplay scenes which may only show a small part or are lacking of other content that can get the peoples attention or properly showing what the creators may want to show.

Later on in development, or when the game is released, gameplay footage should be provided though. But it's never the only way. Especially teasers are attention grabbers and not an honest demonstration. Hence their name :)

Koen Deetman
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I agree Jennis :)

George Burdell
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It is often said that it's never to early to start promoting. Why not make a "simple" teaser which at least communicates the feel of the game? I think there's a clear line between this and duping your customers with pre-rendered 3D gameplay which is actually never going to be in the game, and more importantly: I think the audience can see that line aswell. Why post such a negative comment on a technical and helpful post? :S

Christopher Myburgh
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From a strictly technical standpoint, it is a great article! But I strongly feel its motivation is misguided and chose to comment because if no-one ever speaks up, nothing will ever improve.

Colin Clark
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Non-gameplay trailers leave me with a bad taste. This is my opinion.

Koen Deetman
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Can I try to change your mind?

Check out this 'teaser cgi' trailer of Assassins Creed Unity
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzCEdSKMkdU

Does this really leave you with a bad taste? :)

Kevin Fishburne
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I agree completely. Let's all pretend the advice in this article is about how to make anime-style cutscenes, rather than trailers. Problem solved, and nice article. :)

Koen Deetman
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Thank you Kevin! :)

Koen Deetman
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Thanks Kevin!

Koen Deetman
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Wow, excuse me double post!

Koen Deetman
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Hey Christopher!

When developers release a pre-rendered teaser trailer or a form of announcement and the next thing they do is silent development for 2 years, I certainly agree with you.

However, I disagree with you about the promotional intention. Teasers and pre-rendered trailers are meant to set moods and give you a little taste of the atmosphere. Players could already determine if this game is something they would like to play.

My aim with this article was to explain a 'less' time consuming but effective way to showcase the mood of your game in a teaser. You claim we'd better invest time in making the game more playable, so what if I told you we did that as well ;)? this teaser would be something extra right? Especially since it did not take up much of our time :).

I agree with you we have to make the gameplay presentable, that is why we intend to release the gameplay trailer in 'September', very close to this teaser release (July).
On our website we even have a timer counting down to that moment ;) (www.horrinth.com)

Also, 'its a waste of the players time' really? It could only be a waste of their time when I force feed them this trailer through a persistent 30 second advertisement in front of something else. Other than that, they have clicked to see the trailer themselves.

Anyway thank you for your comment. When I wrote this article I was already expecting people to comment about 'teaser integrity'.

Koen Deetman
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@Christopher

Maybe I shouldn't have focussed on "pre-rendered" or "teaser" but rephrase it like; How to quickly showcase your game's 'mood' without gameplay.

And its great to speak up, you've opened up the discussion :)!

Terry Matthes
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I really like that you've pointed this technique out. I'm always surprised by how underused it is in video games. It's such an easy technique that can really speed up asset production.

I think this technique is really really useful for background art on 2D games or shots where you have a limited camera movement. Think of doing a cityscape where you have repeating chunks of buildings in the background. You could use several different skyline photographs to project onto a few very simple meshes and boom you have some great background assets. Take it a step further by using the lights in the cityscape to drive the materials emmisive property. So much fun to be had :)

Koen Deetman
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Hey Terry,

Yes I can imagine it to be used for many other purposes!
And it's fun to do!

Curtiss Murphy
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Why was the first comment so negative? Having always wondered how this effect was achieved and not having a name to google for, I thought this was a wonderful article for Gamasutra. Koen's short, simple description of Camera Mapping told a wonderful story - challenge, struggle, conclusion. And ended with an actual trailer that I loved watching. Congratulations and good luck!

Gigi

Koen Deetman
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Hey Curtiss,

Thanks for the compliments and I am glad you liked the result :)!
Christopher is only criticizing the 'use' of teaser/cgi trailers in particular.
Some developers tend to wait a long time before they release actual gameplay footage :)

A fair argument, that is why we planned a gameplay trailer release just 1,5 month after the teaser :)

Anyway thanks for your comment!

R. Hunter Gough
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cool stuff! Coincidentally, I JUST learned about this technique a couple days ago from a video a friend of mine made (although he didn't name the technique in the video):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVEU4tBnzmc

Koen Deetman
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Hey R.Hunter,

Cool video! He is definitely using camera mapping there ;)


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