07 - The Unity Game Engine

The Unity game engine was chosen as a production platform due to its ease of use, real-time navigation, and rapid prototyping capabilities. It proved to be an important element of our teaching strategy with teen producers, as they could instantly try their creations and navigate through 3D environments in real-time, without waiting for a rendering process. 

Unity is a free download, although some features that we need for hemispheric projection require the paid Pro version. It is cross-platform, both in the systems that the program will run on (Mac and Windows) and in the platforms that your finished game or scene can play on (Mac, Windows, web browser, iOS, Android, and Flash.

One of the most useful, and free, utiilities is the iTween animation and path editing system for Unity. The "UFOMG" sample Unity project shows an object moving on a path, and the camera moving on a separate path. This has great potential for navigating an environment in a dome show, or creating cinematic camera moves for narrative purposes.

The key to using Unity in hemispheric projection is the Paul Bourke fisheye lens, created with a multiple camera rig in the Unity editor. This provides the circular, pre-warped image necessary for proper perspective in the dome. The first links in the resources section of this page provide the source of that camera rig and information on how to use it. There will also be a tutorial page on how to implement it in a Unity project on this site.