John Williams’ Butchers Crossing is a novel I have a long history with.
I first read the book in 2010 and became obsessed with it. The chaotic way nature was represented was unlike any other western I had ever read or seen before. Williams’ denial of Emerson’s idealism and descriptions of the protagonist Will as he came face to face with futility had me quite enamored. So much so that I started a long process of trying to acquire the rights to make the book a film. I’ll spare the details but nothing ever became of my attempts and two years ago I had to quit the conquest.
When we were given the opportunity to create an environment in Unreal, my mood board was about a preconceived idea about baseball. That was until Butcher’s Crossing came back into my brain and I couldn’t resist the urge to have another go with the text.
The atmosphere I was looking to represent was two-fold. I wanted one that had some warm colors, that appeared as if it was occurring at dawn to connote a sense of newness. Unfortunately, my limitations with the software presented me from adorning the landscape with other features – different sorts of foliage, more muted colors, a more craggy “cliff”. I wanted this first part to convey a sense of stumbling onto something untouched and private.
My other atmospheric goal – and one in which I feel I didn’t succeed so well – was to convey a slight touch of danger; some sort of harbinger of ill-will. I put a light fog over the scene and sprinkled in some sharp rocks in an attempt to convey this. I also made sure some of the lake was touched by the sun to give it a sort of “on-fire” look.
At the end of the day, while I would like to make a few changes – a slightly more ominous atmosphere, a better looking horse, a few cowboys – I was really happy with what I was able to create with just a few days of UE4 under my belt.
As a result of using source material, I have three characters that have already been created and fleshed out for me. They are:
Will: A 23 year-old Harvard drop out who has ventured out to “find himself in the great West”.
Miller: A surly hunter who is eager for wealth.
Charley Hoge: A one-armed veteran and companion of Miller’s.
Fred Schneider: The stubborn voice of dissent.
Part Two: Lab
This past Saturday Izzy, Ran, Spencer, Manning, Teresa and I got together to gather some movement data.
Izzy and I were a little early so we calibrated the space without any issue and began to suit up.
Manning, Ran and Teresa handled most of the software while sporadically aiding Spencer in getting all of the sensors on Izzy and I.
Once we were all suited up and skeletons had been made of us, Izzy and I began running though various movements.
We had conversations to get natural hand gestures, we climbed on ladders, we rode pretend horses (really excited to see that one), and ‘went for a swim’. We did some flying, some dancing and some crawling around in the sewers (per Teresa’s request).
Each member of the group made known what specific gestures they needed (Manning needed some jumping, I needed the horseback, etc), we saved and stored the data and went about our ways. I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re all eager to see what it looks like and integrate it into our environments!