Creating a Haunted House Animation Project

Creating a Haunted House Animation Project

Mike Peterson gave a small talk on lighting in one of his recent projects My Haunted House, post effects, modification of ready scenes and more.

Mike Peterson gave a small talk on lighting in one of his recent projects My Haunted House, post effects, modification of ready scenes and more.


Hello, my name is Mike Peterson.

My original intention and the reason for getting into game engines in the first place was to merge them with live action. I come from a filmmaking background and picked up 3D as a cost-saving necessity. I fell in love with 3ds Max, but then Unreal Engine and the real-time aspects blew me away!  I loved not having to wait overnight to see a good-quality animation sequence.

I still want to merge 3D with live action, and I’m really waiting for Adobe to release a consumer tool using Deep Image Matting. I think something like Unreal would be a natural fit for this because you could easily track background and apply the track to Unreal. But now I’m switching directions a bit because I have an idea for a great game and I want to try it out.

Previously, Mike also talked with us about an interior made in UE4. Check it out here:

My Haunted House: Start of the Project

This was a test for putting animations in and I just decided to make a little video using some haunted house tropes. Everything I do is about learning the engine because I know that building even a simple game that looks great is a ton of work.

There is a wonderful Mansion Hall interior in the UE Marketplace by Joel Zakrisson and it is very nicely detailed. I have some other ones purchased, but I liked his work most of all. It also had really nice lighting that I could expand on. Plus, I had just watched The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix so I was in the haunted house mood! So I began working on the project.

Sources of Ready Assets & Tools

There is a lot of good and bad stuff in the Marketplace, but there are also some great tools on blogs and developer sites, so I’m always searching and grabbing what looks useful to me. What’s more, it’s a lot of hit or miss. For example, I think I have five tools for birds, but I end up using mainly one because of its simplicity and realism. I have a bunch of stuff I bought that I never use, so there isn’t much of a rule of thumb. Something may look good on the web, but you try it out and it’s awful. Datasmith is fantastic for bringing in assets I have in 3ds Max, and I like that UE4 is trying out the glTF importer, but they must also have an export in glTF.

Modifying Ready Scenes

If it’s a scene I almost always start changing the lighting. Not because it is necessarily bad, but because it might not fit the mood I’m after. Sometimes it’s just best to start from scratch as I did with my latest project, Victorian Seamstress. I use more reflections to bring out details and make things look crisper. The reflection balls are great, and I’m prone to overuse them because they are so fun.

Lighting in Haunted House

I put in two directional light sources and reflection balls. I use Ultra Dynamic Sky by Everett Gunther which not only allows good control of the sky and clouds, but also controlling the skylight, exponential fog, and directional light from a single tool, and you can easily balance from that. Then I worked with the post-processing FX and finally the CineCamera with the nice depth of field settings.

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At first, I was softening up everything to mimic cameras, but then someone pointed out they liked my stuff but it was too soft. So, then I went the other way and tried to get things as sharp as possible. Now, even if it doesn’t look as real to me, it has a look I like, so, for now, I’m sticking with it. It works well with lights in the glass because you can use the bloom settings to get a good soft glow and at the same time sharpen the glass.

Post Process Effects

The first thing I do is turn off the auto-exposure, or at least turn it way down. I don’t know how you can get good lighting with the exposure flying all over the place. I hate it! I love the particles and volumetric lighting and try to throw in light shafts whenever I can, whether fake or natural ones. An example of that is the Cathedral I did just before the Haunted House. I love bloom, Ambient Occlusion, Global Illumination.

It’s just a dance between all these things as one will affect the other, so by adjusting these and the global settings you can get some really fun and realistic looks. The other thing is LUTs. I have a TON of LUTs. And they are tweaked so well that I can get the look I want without ever having to go into After Effects or Premier for that.

If you found this article interesting, below we are listing a couple of related Unity Store Assets that may be useful for you.

Mike Peterson, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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