Composing a scene in Unity for cutscenes.

As discussed yesterday, planning a scene is incredibly important in the creation of any visual medium like film or videogames. In today's example, we’ll use this storyboard as a basis to compose our scene in Unity.

There are 3 shots, the first one has us pan across the shoulder of Darrel, our thief protagonist. The scene then cuts to the opposite side of showing Darrel taking the keycard from the guard, and finally panning up with Darrel looking triumphant.

We begin with our current scene with a guard asset behind the desk.

There’s a prefab called Get_Card_Cutscene that we’ll need to play instead of this guard asset, so we’ll place the prefab in and turn off the guard asset.

Get_Card_Cutscene
Placing the animated prefab down and turning off the game version of the guard.

We’ll also rename the prefab to Sleeping_Guard_Cutscene_Actors while we’re at it.

To create the shot, we need a virtual camera, a virtual camera is one used by the main camera to compose the shot.

After activating Cinemachine from the package manager, we’ll create a camera called CM_OTS_Shot

As in the first demonstration a few days ago, we’ll align the camera with ctrl-shift-f, but this time, we’ll match it with the storyboard.

There’s a middle square in the virtual camera called the dead zone and it can be increased. Essentially this gives the camera a bit of stability as long as the items being looked at don’t move out the zone, the camera itself won’t move. The bigger the zone, the more static the scene.

This is pretty good, but we can make this even better compositionally using the rule of 3’s where essentially you align elements on a tic-tac-toe like grid.

Moving it a little to the side, we give more visual interest as well as context to the scene by showing the environment of the guards desk.

Next, we’ll create another virtual camera and call it CM_Midshot and we’ll have it conform to the next storyboard scene.

For organizational purposes, we’ll create a new empty with Ctrl-shift-n in the hierarchy and call it CM Virtual Cameras and place both cameras inside.

Then we’ll create another empty and call it Sleeping Guard Cutscene.

Next place the CMVirtual Cameras and Actors prefab inside it.

Now it’s time to bring out the timeline to block out the cuts:

Select Window/Sequence/Timeline and place the timeline at the bottom of the menu.

Now that everything is under the umbrella of the Sleeping Guard Cutscene empty, we’ll select that to create a new animation. We’ll also create a new folder called Timeline to place our animation (called Sleeping Guard Timeline). With the newly created animation, the timeline will add a Playable director to the empty.

We’ll need to add Cinemachines brain to the timeline, add a cinemachine track to the timeline and drag the main camera into its slot.

Next drag the OTS camera into the Cinemachine timeline, and do the same for the midshot.

Since this is a 5 second clip, let’s bring down the first shot to 2.5 seconds and also the last shot as well.

What you saw in the middle was Unity can also blend shots, but we want hard cuts so we’ll keep them separated.

Our shot is now blocked in and we have a nice animatic from the storyboard! And with that, you’ve just learned how easy it is to block in a cutscene!

cartoonist, game artist, and wanabe gamedev.