12 Weeks with Unity: Week 10 - Post Processing Stack

May 22, 2018 at 01:52 pm by -gToon

This is the tenth of a series of articles that cover my journey learning and exploring one of the most powerful indie game creation tools available - Unity. I’ll be sharing my knowledge and discoveries over a 12 week period. Each week I’ll post primarily on the process of learning Unity 3D along with other topics such as the history of the game engine, the community, and prominent artists/creators. Last week we covered the Particle System in Unity and watched a great introduction video from YouTube artist Brackeys.

I’ve been learning Unity using the Lynda.com course, “Unity 3D Essential Training” by Craig Barr as a guide. At this point, I’m nearing the end of the course

Unity’s Post Processing Stack

Once your scene is done it’s time to start fine-tuning the in-game look of the scene by adding in various components like ambient occlusion, color mapping, and bloom. And although these additions are small, they can make a huge difference in the look of your scene through your game camera. In effect, you are making your scene look more cinematic.

Unity offers a free Post Processing Stack from the asset store which is very powerful. This is what we will use in our scene. Using the asset store tab inside of Unity, search for “post-processing” and you’ll come up with the free asset. Now you simply download and install into your Unity project.

Before you install the Post Processing Stack into your scene you’ll need to make two quick adjustments. First, go to the Edit Menu and under Project Settings select Player. Look in the inspector window and under Color Space choose “linear” because post processing works in a linear color space. Once you’ve checked the linear color space box your scene look may change a bit so you might have to make a few adjustments like the color of the material on the hazmat suit (we’ll change it to a gray color instead of white because the white color pops out too much).

Second, we’ll need to make sure that the camera we are working with (the player camera) is set to allow HDR. Again, just select the camera in the Hierarchy and in the Inspector window choose HDR. It should already be checked because it is the default, but it’s good to see that this is selected anyway

One very important thing to remember about post-processing is that you have to set up an individual post-processing stack for each camera you use in your game. I haven’t figured out how to copy a stack from one camera to another, but I’ll share it with you when I do.

Post Processing Effects

Keeping in mind that the more post-processing effects you add the more you’ll be adding to the burden of the rendering the scene, so we don’t want to add too much. There are an amazing amount of effects you can add (there are roughly 16 effects according to the Unity manual). In the Lynda.com course I’m following, Craig Barr uses only Anti-Aliasing, which reduces any jaggy edges to your models, Bloom (adds a slight glow to objects), Vignette (adds a dark outside fade to the camera image), Tone Mapping (gives a specific color look to the scene), Ambient Occlusion (adds soft shadows to objects) and Depth of Field (makes objects further away slightly blurry).

Adding these post-processing effects make our scene have much more depth and realism. In effect, you are making the scene more believable to the player. The only limit to applying effects is your imagination. The goal of using these effects is to bring your scene to life for the player.

For a detailed explanation of Post Processing effects check the Unity manual’s chapter on the Post-Processing Stack. You can also find a great introductory tutorial created by Unity on how to use post-processing effects to make your scene look great.

Fixing Problems After Adding Post Processing Effects

Adding post-processing effects can create problems in your scene especially if they conflict with settings you’ve made on lighting, materials, and color. You should play your scene after adding each effect and look carefully to find any problems that come up. In our scene, one of the lights is adding a slight illumination underneath the bin making it look like it’s floating off of the floor. We can fix this by selecting the light that shines on the bin and then adjusting its bias to move the light further underneath the bin so it can’t be seen.

Careful detailed work on looking for problems and making adjustments both on the effect itself and the general game settings can really get your post-processing effects to look their best.

I had hoped to share with you some Unity artists and designers this week, but the post-processing work kept me from doing so. I promise I’ll connect you with these artists next week.

Next Week: Creating Cinematics and Some Great Unity Designer/Artists Redux

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