Collada plugin for After Effects

More info here
WIP(2013) - Apollo 11

Government shutdown slowed down research, but found the internet archive of the downed pages. Started using non-Apollo 11 videos for research. Learned rigging and the limitations of trueSpace rigging. Started modeling the space suits. Improved fbx and t3d exporters. FK animation scripts for truespace.

October, November, December 2013

Spent time writing tools to make animation easier in trueSpace: autokey and interpolation tools. Research videos, pdf documents and images.

September 2013

Landing audio added to udk - press to play the in-game footage

Only a portion of the ground is visible which is the reason for the floating rocks in the distance. The dust is a little light, so I'll increase the density for the next iteration.

main level kismet

Kismet nodes for the level

September 13, 2013


The MI, material instance actor is used in the scene so that the texture effect can be animated with Matinee. The image also shows the result of the color R&D for the LEM. The images from the mission can be misleading because the foil and specular surfaces of the LEM reflect the blackness of space making some surfaces look black when they actually have some color.

dust 2

In game dust effects

dust nodes

Dust material. Uses a panner node to animate the texture, the fade section makes the dust fade in from the center and fade out at the outer edge. There is a brightness control so it can be turned up as the lander gets closer to the surface. The dust wipe off section does a wipe effect for when the engine is shutdown. That way the dust doesn't just disappear or fade out as if it is hanging in the air. Need to go back to the source material to figure out how dense and big the dust should be and how fast the texture should flow. The UDK transparency isn't 100 percent so at the end of the animation the dust mesh moves below the ground. This game material uses the same texture as in the R&D portion except that it's been painted to be tileable in the direction of motion. the only real problem with the dust mesh is that when you go down into a crater you can see the mesh structure from beneath.

Dust effects R&D - click to see the animated material

The first idea for the rocket exhaust dust effects was to use particles, but an animated material seemed like an better way to go. The dust plume is made of 3 identical cylinders flattened and the v value of the uv space is animated. The texture is just a noise with directional blur applied. The material is set to fade at the middle and outer edges. The exact same techniques were used to recreate the texture in the UDK material editor.

September 10, 2013
Default - large rocks were ok, medium rocks have a halo shadow shown here and small rocks had no shadows at all.

Shadows are better here - all rocks have shadows that point in one direction instead of all directions halo effect.

Had trouble with lighting all the rocks. The shadows were not ideal. When the large rocks looked good, the small rocks looked bad, when the craters looked good the rocks looked bad, when the little rocks looked good the craters looked bad. The best balance so far is with the following changes:

remove cast dynamic shadow from ground
dominant light whole scene dyn range 3000, num cascades 8, light angle 0.01, indirect 0.25 and 2 for cascade exponent
convert problem rocks to movers/intepactors - these cast strange shadows near the craters

I like that the rocks all have well defined shadows, but I don't like the lose of quality in the ground and craters and the rocks have a noise pattern on them. Adjusting the lighting will be an ongoing effort. One idea is to bake the shadows in an external application and add it to the diffuse map.

light settings 01

Current light settings

test render to texture

Render to Texture test - ScreenCapture2D actor and the capture material applied to csg geometry

Test for simulating the cameras used during the mission. The idea is to simulate the tv camera, the movie camera and the still cameras used. The fps of the camera can be set to simulate the 1 fps setting of the movie camera looking down from the LEM to get that choppy Apollo look.

September 5, 2013
The game flow
  1. The config files are set to start the menu level when the game starts
  2. The menu level runs the flash movie to show the UI
  3. The start button is pressed and the ui fades to an image of the moon then calls the StartTheGame in the unreal script
  4. The unreal script plays the bink movie, "moonZoom_02.bik", then loads the main level, "Apollo11DD_MainLevel.udk"
menu kismet

class MainMenuMoviePlayer extends GFxMoviePlayer;

//in flash do this
//import flash.external.ExternalInterface;

function StartTheGame()
ConsoleCommand("MOVIETEST moonZoom_02");
`log("###### ExternalInterface Call Received #####");
//some command to load the level - ExampleEntry.udk
ConsoleCommand("open Apollo11DD_MainLevel");
August 10, 2013

Created a menu using Flash. I originally started the menu using actionscript 3, but almost all the samples I found used actionscript 2, so I swirched to the older version. The start button and the blue triangle cursor are temporary placeholders. The scrolling text is from the official press release kit introduction. The fade out at the end is the portion of the flash after the user presses the start button. It fades to an image of the moon and then the bink movie moon zoom starts moving closer to the landing site. The text from the lro image needs to be removed from both the flash and the bink movie.

Created a transition movie between the menu level and the main level.

The moon image, a 24000x24000 tif, used for the zoom is found here:

The image was reduced to 6000x6000 and animated inside Sony Vegas were sound was also added. rad video tools for bink was used to create the UDK compatible bik video file.

July 6, 2013
Created simple level called Apollo11DD_MenuLevel.udk and created Apollo11DDMoviePlayer.uc which extends from GfxMoviePlayer for the future scaleform menu.

changes to DefaultEngine.ini so that Apollo11DD_MenuLevel.udk is the default map to load when running the game


The same changes were made to the DefaultGameUDK.ini and UDKEngine.ini

At this point the menu level will load when running the game.

July 2, 2013

Installed a blank style UDK.
Apollo11DD was the project name which resulted in C:\UDK\Apollo11DD path for the installation. My notes are sparse but I think the installer setup the following files with references to the project name.





Quote from the forums, ffejnosliw, "The Default*.ini files are used to build/rebuild the UDK*.ini files.
They should contain default values.
The UDK*.ini files contain configurable values."

The quote and these 2 web pages to help me edit the necessary files later:

July 1, 2013
first udk import
Scene imported to the UDK editor
All the models the lander, the rocks, the earth and the sun were exported as fbx meshes and imported into UDK. Then the scene in truespace was exported as a t3d file that contained the positions of all the elements including the sunlight directional light and the rocks. The animation for the lander was exported as a seperate special udk matinee format fbx file.
May 28, 2013
random rock placement
Image shows the manually placed rocks and red dots are the pricked geometry points from Lightwave. Random rocks are copied to the random red dots. The larger rocks were scaled and placed according to the map. Random smaller rocks were placed and scaled using the point clone script for truespace. The points to clone too were created in lightwave by using the random pricks tool on flat geometry. This was triangulated and then heat shrink was used to comform to the ground geometry.
May 28, 2013

The rocks are the result of procedural deformations in lightwave. Most of the shape comes from a crust node with an animated position. Other nodes, a crumple, another crust and a flake node were used to add detail and texture to the image. The video above shows the 120 frame animation. The rocks used were sampled from 10 frame increments. The same deformations were applied to low resolution meshes and a normalmap was generated using the dpont Normal Cast node and the surface baking camera. A youtube video tutorial shows the basic process - Baking Normal Maps in LightWave 11.5 with the Normal Cast Node from DP_Kit
random rock nodes
the rocks
May 7, 2013
landing site with collision mesh
Ground was modeled from a map found at Only a few craters in the area show on the map. The rest of the craters were added using LRO images as a refertence and they don't have collision meshes yet. The colored lines show the collision mesh. The texture was created from an LRO image of the area that had similar lighting to the time of the landing. The shadows were de-emphasized and noise was added to the image. The nvidia normalmap plugin for photoshop was used to generate a normalmap for the texture.

base map
Map: See link above
Craters are yellow, rocks are red, blue arrows are photo locations
May 4, 2013

Click the image to play the video

This animatic of the last 2 minutes of the landing is the first step in the "Apollo 11 - A Living Diorama" project. The animation was created in trueSpace and compiled to video using Sony Vegas. The upper left is the view from the ground and represents the view as it will appear in game. Lower left is the original video of the landing. The right side is the view from the animated lander used to approximate the flight path.

The image of the ground was taken from an LRO image of the Apollo 11 landing site. The descent stage, it's shadow and other smaller items left behind can be seen in the image. The sun and earth images are from pictures taken during the EVA. The text is from the audio transcripts of the flight. The balls are simplified representations of the larger rocks in the area. There are also some random geometry left over from other tests.

The ultimate goal is to recreate the landing on the moon and the EVA activities using the UDK game engine. The player will be an observer and will not interact with the events that take place.

The next step is to import the result into UDK. A particle system will be added inside the UDK for the dust effects and the player will be given a HUD to display the text of the audio events. After that the final models will be built for the LEM, the terrain and the rocks.

May 2, 2013

EVA blocking

Neil(blue) takes a picture of Buzz(red) as he steps down.