Unless you’ve been on a social media cleanse lately, you’ve probably come across the Mannequin Challenge, a viral video trend that’s taken the internet by storm. As the name suggests, the challenge involves depicting a scene at a stand-still, while the camera flies around freely, showcasing a snapshot in time.
Inspired by Rogue One, Imaginfinity decided to make an unofficial, comedic Star Wars-themed Mannequin Challenge in VR. The catch? Get it done in a week's time.
Here are 6 fun facts about our fanmade experience.
Here are 6 fun facts about our fanmade experience.
1/ Maya was the ideal choice for our quick turnaround
Maya played an essential role as the aggregator in our content pipeline, enabling us to do a bulk of the work inside one software.
Maya’s interoperability and extensive plugin support let us leverage tools like Adobe’s Fuse CC for rapid character generation, moculus.io’s VR-Plugin for HMD preview, and OTOY’s Octane 3 for blazing fast rendering letting us hit a high-quality threshold in record time.
Given Maya’s open and extensible nature, we were also able to use 3rd party MEL scripts like Mixamo’s Auto-Control Rig Script to quickly transfer and re-create character rigs from Fuse CC inside of Maya.
2/ It was made for VR but is viewable everywhere
Our goal was to create an experience that worked well in 360/VR but was just as compelling on popular social video platforms. This required us to deliver the experience as a 360 lat-long video, but also as 2D rectilinear video in range of aspect ratios - 16:9 for YouTube, Square for Facebook/Instagram and 9:16 vertical video for Snapchat/Instagram Stories. Given our timeline, we wanted to accomplish this without maintaining multiple versions of the same project. Our solution was to construct the scene in such a way that a single camera move would work for all required versions.
3/ Quickly rigging character models for posing was a cakewalk
To depict a realistic battle scene on Tatooine, we needed to aggregate 3D character models from a wide range of sources, often with little consistency. While importing assets from Fuse CC was a breeze (thanks to a convenient MEL script), rigging 3rd party models for posing was shaping up to be a challenge. Maya’s improved Skin Binding functionality coupled with the convenient tools like the Delta Mush deformer, made rigging a cake walk, enabling us to set up all character models for posing in a largely automated fashion. Since the scene itself was static, we weren’t looking for perfection, but Maya’s rigging toolkit got us exceedingly close with just a few clicks.
4/ Iterative VR environment and set design, without leaving Maya
Our environment and scene layout needed to work for both 360 video (where the viewer can look anywhere), and in widescreen and vertical video versions (where we tightly control framing). Using the VR-Plugin (by moculus.io) alongside Maya’s robust modeling toolkit, we were able to construct an environment rapidly and immediately test to see it inside a VR headset, all without leaving Maya. No other 3D software comes close to offering this type of flexibility. Maya’s Sculpt Geometry Tool let us blend the extremities of the scene seamlessly with our desert HDRI environment plate, moving buildings around to cover any problem areas. Adding environmental details was a breeze using Maya’s MASH toolkit to populate the scene with small rocks and stones randomly.
5/ Camera movement finalized so that it works in all versions
Camera movement was a crucial part of the clip as we wanted the movement to feel handheld at some parts and cinematic at others. The camera was animated manually inside Maya, where we heavily used the Editable Motion Trail feature to iterate towards a final camera move. Being able to visualize the camera path and manipulate control points made this process easy. Using the VR-Plugin (by moculus.io), we were able to test out different versions of the camera move inside a VR headset. We also applied different resolution gates to ensure our “thin lens” camera framing worked for all screen sizes.
6/ We had a blast making it
It’s hard to find a write-up or talk about VR in a way that doesn’t draw the analogy of VR today being much like the wild west. And it’s true there are no hard and fast rules yet. VR is very much in its infancy and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with spatial media like VR, AR and everything in between. So if you’re just getting started with VR, and come across 'rules' like don’t move the camera, don’t do fast cuts, don’t bother with stereo, feel free to ignore them.
Now is the time to dive in and experiment with the new capabilities spatial media open up to create more immersive worlds and tell richer stories. Our Star Wars Mannequin Challenge was an absolute blast because we made something light hearted and fun, that allowed us to solidify an entirely new workflow to create a piece of content that can be made once and deployed to any device VR or otherwise. Needless to say, we couldn’t have done it without Maya.
Kudos to Imaginfinity for their "impressive...most impressive" Star Wars-inspired, fanmade creation. Thanks for sharing your story with us!