Thursday, 30 September 2010

Little Gidding

This short movie shows work in progress on visualising Eliot's poem Little Gidding in CryEngine.  It gives some sense of what I am trying to achieve, a sort of meditation on landscape and time using Eliot's words and the real landscape of Cambridgeshire. Much more to do, and not sure as a concept if it works or not, but as an experimental use of game engines it has some novelty at least.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Little Gidding

history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

TS Eliot's Little Gidding is my favourite poem by my favourite poet.  Written in wartime, it conveys a timeless Englishness and a profound sense of landscape and time.  Little Gidding is of course the location of a secluded church, home to an Anglican religious community founded by Nicholas Ferrer in 1625.  Both the church, the community and the landscape inspired Eliot.  Inspired by Dan Pinchbeck's Dear Esther I have set about translating this wonderful poem into a narrated, free-form landscape-based game in CryEngine.  The landscape of Little Gidding is developed from Ordnance Survey data (some rough drafts below) and the church is to be modelled in SketchUp using crowd-sourced photography.  I'm using the version of the poem spoken by Paul Schofield for the BBC in the 1980s as the basis for the narration.  The imagery of the poem will guide development of the landscape and at present I'm considering whether to fragment the poem (Esther style) so that players encounter the verse in random fragments as they explore the landscape, or to create a guided path around the landscape, revealing verse fragments and imagery in correct order.  Eliot himself inspires the approach:

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from...
If you came this way,

Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same

Why on earth do this?  Well partly in homage to Dear Esther, which I love, and partly to explore the game form as a method for encountering text and landscape.  The idea of uniting Eliot's text with its inspiring landscape intrigues me and I wonder, does such rich text bear mediation in the game form?  I also like the idea of subverting CryTek's violent game engine to the purpose of presenting Eliot's most meditative war poem (well poem written in time of war).  More later.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Spherical Projection

An office move has uncovered our old Elumens Vision Station, which sat running no more than the Elumens demonstration movies and a copy of EventScope for most of its life as no-one ever really got to grips with its peculiarities. A quick investigation revealed Elumens' TrueFrame software still installed.  The challenge was obvious, can CryENGINE be persuaded to generate spherically projected images for the VisionStation?  In the absence of SPI-API (Elumens are now long-defunct) which offered live conversion of Open-GL output I resorted to generating static images (four per spherical image) from a custom camera in Sandbox and stitching these together in TrueFrame. It works (as you can see) although the sky is a little flaky (possibly a misaligned camera; something to investigate).  However, the prospect of trying to produce animated output from CryENGINE, with limited Sandbox camera control and no native animated output, fills me with dread; something for a very rainy day...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Laxton Castle, CryENGINE Anaglyph 3D

Trying to short-cut the anaglyph movie workflow, this short movie of the Laxton Castle game/model uses a single video stream duplicated within Stereo Movie Maker to provide left and right video channels and with the stereo effect created simply by tweaking the registration of the two channels.  It seems to work quite well, although mis-registration is perhaps a little overdone.  Anyway, enough anaglyph for now.

Music "between blue sky and cubicle" by Japanese Seizure Robots on 

Friday, 10 September 2010

CryEngine Anaglyph 3D Movie

After considerable fiddling I appear to have produced an anaglyph 3D movie generated from CryENGINE.

The movie was produced by creating a camera path in Sandbox, running the camera in an out-dolly along the path at 1/8 of its full speed and using Camstudio to capture the results as an AVI (if only AVI output wasn't broken in Sandbox).  The master AVI was exported to an image sequence (5300 frames) using VirtualDub.  The frame sequences were then duplicated (one for left eye and one for right eye) and, through trial and error, a step mismatch was introduced to simulate the view from parallel camera tracks.  It worked out that a mismatch of 10 frames created a good stereo effect.  The mismatched image sequences were then combined to produce a single anaglyph AVI using Masuji Suto's excellent Stereo Movie Maker.

Does it work?  Most of my colleagues can see the 3D effect, so I guess it does.  Improvements required are a higher native resolution (I've upscaled this to 720p from the original 360) a more adventurous camera path and and some work refining the simulated parallel camera paths (requiring a higher frame-rate for the video capture to enable more subtlty in creating the mismatch).

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

CryEngine Anaglyph 3D

Anaglyph 3D in CryEngine 1 has proven surprisingly difficult to master.  The images below use the same technique as for CityScape (manual panning between captures and Takashi Sekitani's AnaMaker to generate the 3D images from two stills).  Getting the separation between images right is (obviously) crucial for producing a good stereo effect and simple trial and error is problematic.  Time to experiment with cameras in CryEngine.

Although imperfect, I do quite like these images, particularly the final one of Laxton castle looming in the virtual mist.  I wonder if access to a (simulated) third dimension increases the evocative power of the images to render landscape accessible?