12 Weeks with Nightmare Puppeteer, Week 9: Shooting a Scene Continued

Sep 28, 2021 at 04:30 pm by -gToon

This is the ninth episode of a series that will last for 12 weeks where I will learn Nightmare Puppeteer and attempt to create short animated scenes. Along the way, I’ll share with you my discoveries, my mistakes, and my successes using this remarkable game engine. 
Nightmare Puppeteer takes the approach of puppetry where you do something with your hands, but instead of using your hands, you are pressing keys on your keyboard….it’s an animation engine
-M dot Strange
NP is a Game
It’s important to point out that Nightmare Puppeteer is a game and not a 3D application. The gameplay is focused on creating characters, animations, and scenes within the game. And as M dot Strange points out “it’s an animation engine”. Also, the game is built upon the Unity Engine which means it has qualities that only a game made in Unity has (unique shaders and effects, for example). 
Finishing Up Scene 1
As we discovered in last week's episode, it always takes more time than you think to set up a shot. It's not just Nightmare Puppeteer, but any application or game you are using to create a short film. The reason is that in your mind you see the steps to setting up a shot clearly, but when you actually get into the game there is a myriad of problems and issues that take up your time. Oddly, this is much like real-world filmmaking. During many of the movies I've been in the issue has always been to control the time it takes to shoot a scene.
We only got one shot set up and recorded for our last episode. That's out of 6 setups (camera position changes). As usual, I've thought through the brief sketches and descriptions I've made of the shots and have changed my mind. I don't like the look of Bobby's feet going all wonky in the close-up. I argued (rather rationalized) that this was ok because the style of the film is weird. Thinking about it more, I realized this was the first major shot of the story and viewers will be focused on the weird foot distortions rather than the scene. So I moved the camera to more of a frontal position. This makes the feet look fairly normal. 
Shot List 2-6
The second shot on our shot list is a medium shot of Bobby running. This was easy to do; just re-position the camera and record. BTW, I moved back to OBS recording rather than Windows Game Recording because I spent more time learning the OBS setup process and realized I had some bad settings. Once those were fixed, the recording process was easy
The third shot is a top-down shot of Bobby running through the frame of the camera. This was harder to do since the "Running Man" scene I'm using in NP doesn't allow you to move the character independently. I did come up with a fix by moving the camera instead of the character. Holding the alt+down arrow moves the camera down which makes Bobby seem to run from the bottom of the frame to out of the top of the frame. 
The Pain of the NP Level Editor
Just The level editor in Nightmare Puppeteer is really buggy. When I went to set up the scene and camera in NP, I had all kinds of problems. The first one I encountered was that when you place objects in the editor, some of them are very hard to select and then modify. You have to click off then click back on again several times to get the editor to select the object. Then when I tried to set up the lights they would often become separated from the stand they were connected with.
To make matters worse, I accidentally selected one of the character's heads in the editor and moved it to another position which completely destroyed any animation for the character in this scene and in the main menu. I had to close and reopen the program to get back on track. And even then, none of my saved characters had heads anymore (OUCH!). I had to re-make both Bobby and The D from scratch. 
And to add insult to injury, the walking animations in the dark level editor are all screwed up. There's only one animation set that allows for correct walking inside of the editor.
All of these level editor issues caused me to rethink shots 4-6 to something much simpler. I experimented with lights and shadows in the editor (once I got back on track) and saw I could project the shadow of The D character against the alley wall. This actually works better than my original setup idea as it leaves the D character ambiguous.
So I changed shot 4 to Bobby running into an alley from left to right and then stopping. Shot five is the D's shadow appearing on the wall and the dialogue begins. Shot six cuts back to Bobby whining and gesturing. At this point, I'll cut back to shot five with the camera in closer for the D's lines. Then I added a shot 7 which is Bobby fainting and the D laughing which ends the scene.  
Putting Together a Rough Cut
I use Da Vinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere to edit videos. I pulled in the raw footage and roughly cut together a sequence based on the shots I've mentioned before. Here is the result. 
I'm very disappointed with how the filmed shots turned out. There are so many problems that none of the footage is usable. First, the framing of several shots is all out of whack, which is weird because they were all framed correctly in the game. Something in my OBS settings is screwy, I think. Secondly, the screen direction is wrong when the character exits from the top-down shot and then enters from the left in the next shot. And, finally, the animations for Bobby are simply wrong for the scene and hard to believe. Not to mention he's standing up to his ankles in the ground. It's another example of how difficult it is to do realism in Nightmare Puppeteer because it simply isn't designed for 
I'm going to be re-doing this scene once I get better at using the level editor. Still, this has been very useful because it shows the big difference between planning your shots and then actually shooting them. Problems always come up and you have to deal with them which means changing things. And I'm ok with that. I'll put this down to a test run and a learning experience. 

Next up: Advanced Features of Nightmare Puppteer

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