This month’s VJ clip reward on Patreon is Metaverser. Check it out:
Available On Patreon
Metaverser is a set of 5 VJ clips, in 1080p & 2160p DXV. It starts with 3 light-up clips that reveal just parts of the scene, continues with the Metaverser coming online, the headset display turns on, the cables light-up on the beat, and ends with a surge of energy that causes the Metaverser to headbang fiercely. Who said the Metaverse is going to be easy?
Superfans also get a bonus Resolume Arena project that lines up all the clips in order, with variations, coloring options, twitch effects that emphasize the surge and other goodies.
Metaverser was created by fusing together a couple of 3D assets. The Metaverser is a Sci-fi Character that was added with Cables & Wires, and the headset display runs elements from a Cyberpunk HUD pack.
When I saw the character on CGtrader, I immediately felt it was meant to be. I love Sci-fi, Cyborgs, and cables. I even made the Cyborgasm VJ pack a while ago, where I investigated the probability of spiritual Cyborgs.
In my mind’s eye, I started to connect cables to it, with one reference in particular – a scene from the film Ghost In The Shell – where everyone is connected through cables. I later went and rewatched the film in order to find that reference and realized that it wasn’t similar to what I remembered. Mysterious are the ways of the mind and how we “remember” things. I also collected references in Pinterest into this board. I believe that’s where the idea for a holographic headset display came from.
Making The Composition
I imported the Metaverser and Cables & Wires set into Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), and started to kitbash my way into the composition you now see, by placing cables, moving them, scaling, bringing other cables in, and so on. Once I had a composition I kinda liked I applied some emissive materials to see if this is going in the direction I imagined. I liked how it looked and at this point shared a video of the current state with Superfans on Patreon to get feedback and suggestions.
My next move was to apply materials to the scene. I recreated the materials that came with the Sci-fi Character (Metaverser, from now on). I also recalled a free Automotive Materials Pack I saw recommended in a tutorial. I then did the trick where I make a material emit light on the beat – a trick I learned while creating the Arabian Nights pack and since then have been using quite often. The basics for pulsating light are explained in this Tutorial and timing the the pulsation is done with Curve Atlases.
Animating The Head
I had the materials emitting on the beat and it looked good, but I thought I could add more character to the character )) if I would animate the Metaverser’s head. Did that with keyframes inside the sequence.
I was about to run a test render when I recalled I watched an Introduction to Path Tracing tutorial by WInbush about the improved path Tracer renderer in UE5.1. I followed the tutorial, rendered a test sequence and really liked the outcome. I had, in the past, some artifacts while using emissive materials with Lumen GI, and I was happy to see that the path tracer rendered without issues. It does take longer to render, but the outcome is so much more beautiful – especially in this scene – with all the reflections on the chrome materials.
In The HUD
I looked good, but I thought I could take it to the next level if I would add a holographic headset display. I went searching for some motion graphics for that – and found the Cyberpunk HUD pack. I learned that, in order to have it run as an animation in UE5 I need to make it into a Flipbook (with sprite sheet). I tried a couple of online tools to turn an image sequence into a sprite sheet, but it didn’t work and was frustrating. I then found this free Sprite Sheet Generator for After Effects script that does just that, right inside AE.
With the sprite sheet in hand, I created that flipbook animation and applied it to a box object that I placed right in front of the Metaverser’s Headset. To make it look even more interesting, I duplicated that box, and moved it a bit away from the first box – to create a “parallax” look. I then chose a different animation to run on that box and did the whole -sprite sheet to flipbook maneuver again. The translucent materials didn’t render as they should have in the path tracer and that’s because it needs to be Thin Translucent material, as the Unreal Engine documentation specifies.
Let There Be Light(s)
Now that I had the first clip ready, I went on to play with some lights. The idea was that as there’s a break in the music, the lights in the club are going dark and so should the screens. This would be a perfect time to introduce the Metaverser to the audience. So it would start in complete darkness and then lights will light-up the scene and reveal the Metaverser.
I duplicated the level I was creating in, duplicated and replaced the cables – so they would not emit light, added two Rect lights and upped their size so they would reflect nicely on the chrome parts of the Metaverser. Check Lighting in Unreal Engine 5 for beginners tutorial by William Faucher for more info about Rect Lights. I made one light to be Reddish and the other one to be Bluish – an interesting color palette that would also be very easy to control later in Resolume Arena with the Hue Rotate effect. Then I got carried away and instead of just turning the lights on and off, parented them to an object in the Metaverser’s center and rotated that center so the lights would rotate around him. It reflected so well on the chrome parts and was looking delicious ))
Now that I had the lights in place, I thought it would be easy to create the turning-on-&-off lights, that I originally came to make – so I postponed that and went on to create a more challenging clip – a Headbanging. It’s always good to have a clip that expresses the Beat Drop in the DJ’s set and headbanging is just perfect for that.
I duplicated the level with emitting cables, created a new sequence and animated the headbanging with keyframes. It looked ok, but in order to give it more oomph, I added a tilt of the torso along with the headbanging. Then I decided that if the torso moves so should the cables and animated them.
To give it a last touch, I decided/realized that the whole reason for the Metaverser to headbang in the first place was that a data overflow manifested a surge of energy – causing that oomphy headbanging. It meant that I had to present that info on the headset display – so I went and chose another animation – this time a “Warning”message, made it into a sprite sheet and loaded it to the headset display instead of the original one. The last thing was to express this surge of energy in the cables – so I made all the cables emit light at once during the headbanging moment.
Back To Playing With Lights
Now that I had the Beat, roving lights, and headbanging clips, I went back to making some light-ups. I already had two Rect Lights on both sides of the metaverser, and added two more lights above and below it. I keyframed the turning-on-&-off of these 4 lights and this became the Blinks clip.
More Light Games
While making the blinks clip I played with moving the above and below lights and loved how it reflected on the Metavereser. So for this last clip I animated these lights on the depth axis. And this was it.
Arranging the deck in Resolume Arena
Of course, throughout this process I was constantly checking how does the VJ clips look inside Resolume Arena, and what effects can be applied to make them even better. While creating the Headbanging clip I wanted to have a camera shake to emphasize the banging moment – but realized that this could be made in Arena later – this way I could give superfans a “clean” clip that they could decide if they wanted that camera shake or not. I also prefer to create slower clips, so perhaps the headbanging could look a bit slow in its nominal speed – but remember that speeding up a clip is really simple – but slowing a clip down always results in a reduced frame-rate that looks bad.
I separated some of the light-ups to become short accents, duplicated and bounced back & forth some other light-ups. Did some tricks with rotating the hues on the Clip Position w/ Envelope in the Beat clip – so that each cable’s emission would show in a different color. I added the twitch effect, also in Clip Position w/ Envelope – to create that camera shake effect I wanted, and to emphasize the data overflow state the metaverser was in – with some RGB shift, blur, and light.
I’m considering creating more characters. With supernatural powers. With mystical gadgets. With levitation abilities. Will they have elements that emit on the beat? Probably ))
Let me know if you have any feedback, ideas for better workflows, or got inspired to make your own visuals – in an email to [email protected] or DM on Patreon / Facebook / Instagram.