Forester VJ Clips

This month’s VJ clip reward on Patreon is Forester 🌲 Check it out:

Available On Patreon

Forester is a set of 3 VJ clips, in 1080p & 2160p DXV. It includes a daytime natural forest, a nighttime mysterious beams and a nighttime triangle tunnel clips. It’s available now and until 31st July to fans who support us on Patreon.

Fans also get a Resolume Arena project that includes pre-made mixes. This is the project where I test the clips to verify that they mix well, it’s where I get creative and try new tricks – and now you get all of those hours condensed into the holy project. More on that in the Tutorial below.

How To Mix The Clips On Resolume Arena

In this tutorial I’m sharing different ways of using the 3 clips and how to create various Masks with the Shaper Source.

Why Forester?

We’ve been staying in Dharamshala, India, for the past month, trailing in the forests, breathing the sweet air. It was during these walks that the inspiration for Forester struck upon me. The idea was to have a perfectly normal nature scene – then spice it up with fantastic elements. 

Unreal Engine

As with recent creations, Forester was made with Unreal Engine. The trees are from Megascans Trees: European Black Alder – a free collection by Quixel Megascans. Ever since this collection was released on Unreal’s Marketplace (half a year ago) I wanted to test these trees and learn how to create a forest. I just kept the idea in the back of my mind and this month everything aligned.

The Plan

My aim was to first create the nighttime Beams scene, because this was the premise of it all. I knew that if I could create it, I could surely create the other clips, too. On the other hand, If I couldn’t create it then making just a natural forest wasn’t that much of an interesting VJ clip. I also knew that having similar clips, each one with a different look, would mix well using the Mask Mode feature in Resolume Arena.

Preparation

I watched several Unreal Engine tutorials about landscape creation, particularly Get started with Megascans TreesMaking a forest with the NEW QUIXEL Megascans trees. I’m still relatively new to Unreal so the following paragraphs describe the path I took to create the clips. In case you’re an experienced user, please let me know if there’s anything I could do better.

Making It

In Unreal, on a Ray-traced enabled project, I started by creating a new level, adding a Directional Light as the sun and a Skylight. I then switched to Landscape mode, created a new landscape and slightly shaped it to have some elevated areas. I then, in Foliage mode, filled-in the trees and plants. I added a new Cine Camera, created a new Level Sequence, then animated the camera’s path in a forward motion along its X axis. I removed some trees so they wouldn’t obstruct the camera in its path and at that point I had one tile of forest ready.

To create a loop I chose to duplicate that tile several times – and continue the forest from where my original tile ended. I harvested all of my actors (Landscape, Trees & Plants) into a Blueprint (convert selection to blueprint class / harvest components) and then added copies of this blueprint to my level and dispersed them in the distance.

Unreal Engine 4 doesn’t support emissive lights (without baking, that is) so I had to fake it. I created the beams with cylinders and attached rectangle lights to them. I had to tweak the light’s intensity, width, height and barn door angle a bit – in order for it to properly light the surrounding area of the beams. I added the set of beams to the sequence and animated them to look like they’re coming from above and disappearing at the bottom.

I changed the lighting of my scene to look like nighttime, added some fog with Exponential Height Fog, and added a Post Process volume so I could control the Ray-tracing’s quality. I then rendered a test sequence and in post processing (After Effects) added some glow with the Deep Glow plugin.

I loved how it looked! In order to finish the clip I had to duplicate the set of beams several times, added them to the sequence and animated them at the right distance.

I planned the clip’s length to be 16 seconds (I was concerned that 8 seconds might be too short and the trees would look repetitive) and I rendered 4 more seconds so I could transition to the clip’s beginning – in order for the distant forest tiles to fade in smoothly.

The next clip was the Triangle Tunnel. I duplicated my level, removed the beams, created one Triangle in C4d, imported it to Unreal, attached lights to it (as I did with the beams), added the triangle to a new sequence, animated it to move towards the camera (remember, the camera also moves) in order for the Triangles to light-up different trees along the way. I Changed the lighting and the overall mode and rendered it out, too.

The last clip I made was the Natural forest one. I duplicated the level again, removed any beams/triangles, adjusted the sun’s angle so it would light-up the trees and forest bed, too. a more natural way and used the same camera animation I used in the previous clips.

Testing It In Resolume

Throughout the creation process I was constantly rendering test clips in order to see how they’ll look inside Arena. My aim was to figure what effects I could add to Forester in Arena in real-time and what effects had to be pre-rendered. I was also creating and testing masks that would make it look wow. I’m happy to share with you the final projects, cleaned and tightened – so you could use it as a starting point when adding Forester to your performances.

Travelling Without Moving

This was quite the voyage. I tested and learned new features along the way: how to create a landscape and sculpt its shape, how to use the Foliage mode to populate the trees, how sky light actually works, how to fake emissive lights, and much more.

I also had issues with Ray-traced shading that I solved with techniques from this tutorial Troubleshooting FOLIAGE issues in Unreal Engine, a landscape that didn’t react to me wanting to fill it with foliage (had to export it as mesh, first), and a bit of a lagging interface because I had too many trees and plants in the scene (yep 16 seconds are twice the length of an 8 seconds clip therefore twice the trees & plants).

What's Next?

For next month’s reward I’m considering creating some close-up trees with fantastic elements (on transparent background) that you could mix with other visuals. Not sure yet if it would render well, or even look good – but hey, a new month – a new challenge )) 

I’m also considering creating a video tutorial that will share how to create such clips along with everything I learned in the process. Are you interested in watching such a tutorial? Let me know in an email to [email protected] or DM me on Patreon / Facebook / Instagram.

Amaze them! 🤘

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