Unity: How to Create a Cut-Scene with Cinemachine and Unity Recorder

Hi Xander here,

For Endless Elevator we wanted to do an Introduction Scene for the game. The gameplay, as the name suggests, consists of climbing endless elevators and escalators. The player navigates floor after floor in the bad guys luxury hotel and tries to climb as high as possible while defeating the bad guys. It’s a 2.5D top down scroll mechanism and clipped into the limits of the building. Just dumping the player into the start of the game in the levels of the building felt a little weird as there was no context to where you were in the story. Hence the need for an opening shot to set the scene and to literally drop the player into the game.

Our hero flies into the enemies’ oasis headquarters in a helicopter and storms into the foyer of their luxury hotel. We mocked up a scene and a helicopter in Blender and imported the assets into the main foyer scene of the game. I hadn’t used Unity’s Cinemachine before but wanted to try it out. Previously, in other projects, we had captured gameplay for cut-scenes using external software and video editing suites which was OK but the experience with Cinemachine and Unity Recorder was way smoother. It was much easier to work with and much better quality avi files. Plus we didn’t have to do custom scripts for switching cameras and panning. It was so easy it kind of made me excited about movie making with Unity but you know I don’t need another distraction.

To start working with Cinemachine and Unity Recorder you can download them using the Package Manager. Unity Recorder has only recently been added (it’s still also on the Asset Store) so you need to enable the “Preview Packages” selection from the Advanced menu in the Package Manager.

Cinemachine in the Package Manager

Have a look at the Unity Manual and tutorials for more info about Cinemachine and Unity Recorder.

Below is a screen shot of my scene in Unity. You can see the main building in green and the surrounding buildings and water in the bad guys oasis HQ. The helicopter is just visible down where the camera sight lines join and on the left in the Hierarchy you can see my Timeline component and my two vcams (Virtual Cameras).

The Timeline is where all the magic happens and was very easy to set up.

First we did a few animations on the helicopter to fly it in to the building and make the rotor spin. Then we added an animation to move the character from the helicopter into the building (which looks terrible but remember this is a quick mock up)

The Helicopter Animation

We dragged this animation into a new Animation track on the Timeline object (right click and Add Animation Track). Then we created two Virtual Cameras in the scene. One Camera (vCam1) was set using the properties in the Inspector to automatically Loot At and Follow the helicopter. This means that where ever we flew the Helicopter the camera would follow it round from behind at a set distance and keep it in the frame automatically. This was really fun when we had it under manual control for testing and worked well when under the control of the Animator. We used a preset for a bit of camera jitter and shake to mimic a real camera man in a second helicopter.

The second Camera (vCam2) was stationary at the building site but set to Follow (ie. Look At) the Main Character. We timed the cut from one camera to the other so that once the helicopter landed it would pass control to the second camera and seamlessly start focusing on the Player. This was so easy it was ridiculous. The Camera objects were added to the Timeline and the split where we cut from one camera to the next is clearly visible in the screenshot below (two triangles). The first time I ran it and that view cut automatically from one vcam to the other gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction like I’d just been named a modern day Hitchcock.

The Timeline Editor Window

To record what we had done as an AVI we opened the Recorder Window:

Opening the Recorder Window.

We used the default settings and triggered the Start of the Recording with the start of the animation by having it in the Timeline. The Capture target was the Game View (you can also get the other elements of the Editor if you need it). The Output Resolution is interesting as you can use the Size of the Editor Game window on your screen or set it to standard default movie formats.

The Recorder Window

That’s about it. We hit Play in the Editor and the Timeline starts the Recording of the AVI and synchronises the Animations and the Camera movement automatically. Once we are done we are left with a good quality moving image of our game screen that we will use as the cut-scene to drop the player into the start of our game. Obviously what we got here is just a “screen test” but I was really happy with what we could achieve in just a few hours and with so little complexity.

Xander out…

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