About the project

While creating my Adaptive Camouflage shader I thought about different scenarios in which it could come into play and one of those involved a military UAV. When I started to look into it I decided to expand on it and just make it into its own project. The goal for this project was to recreate the look of a military UAV camera and create a VFX explosion to simulate a drone strike.


This project is split into three parts:

  • Camera Effect

  • HUD

  • VFX


I took inspirations from several different sources to recreate the look, both real life examples, video games and movies. After compiling a moodboard I decided on what elements I wanted to keep and what functions they would serve, I threaded a thin line between having the screen be too crowded and being too empty.



Camera Effect

To recreate the camera look of a UAV i created a post process material, in it i combined 3 different effects; pixelation, distortion and a noise lerp. Combined they create a convincing screen effect, as a final detail i made a LUT to give the screen more of a teal tint.



To pixelate the screen we can multiply the screen uv coordinates with a value, floor the result and then divide that with the same value. The value is calculated by taking the screen resolution and dividing that without a new resolution value. We can then change the new resolution value to make the screen appear more or less pixelated. 



This effect is rather subtle but still adds to the overall effect. The effect is rather simple as it adds a panning noise texture to the viewport UV to slightly distort the camera as it pans across the screen.



In this effect I created by generating a noise similar to that of a static tv effect, panning it and then lerp between the noise and the viewport to create an overlay effect. This gave me quite a bit of control as well as it allows me to adjust the visibility of the noise. I could potentially have it cover the entire screen inorder to create a death effect if the drone was shot down.


Camera Zoom

To make a more cinematic feeling to the camera I decided to add the ability to zoom in and out. The zoom effect is very simple, rather than moving the camera back and forth I simply change the field of view between 15-90 to simulate the same effect. I also decided to link it to my pixelation effect to make the screen more pixelated while zooming.



The main difficulty with the HUD elements was that it could not be affected by any post process effect. The best solution I could find was to simply make the HUD slightly transparent so that it would pick up some of the effects on the screen behind it, making the files low res to fit with the pixelation on the screen and manually create fake artifacts in photoshop. This did clash with the clock HUD which used pre existing fonts in unreal, since i didn't have a way to recreate the effects i made in photoshop it stood out. This was something I would have liked to solve but I ran out of time.

I also knew pretty early on that I needed some HUD elements that were not static to avoid the feeling of it just being a picture glued to the screen. At the same time I didn't want the HUD to draw too much attention to itself. Tried out several HUD elements but in the end I went with a compass, a clock and a symbol to show whether or not the UAV was ready to fire.



The drone strike explosion was the last thing i did in this project and when i made it i had to make sure the effect looked good with the drone screen effect. I wanted the effect to pop and to do so I played around a lot with the colors as certain colors were more visible with the fullscreen effect. The downside with this is that the explosion does not look as good if you turn off the screen effect but for the purpose of this project it was only supposed to be seen through the eyes of the drone.

I created the effect in Unreal Engines 4 Niagara system using several different components.



Looking back at the project I wish I had made explosions alongside the screen effect so that later in the project I did not have to choose between having the explosion looking good normally and looking through the drone camera. I would also have added an actual projectile for the missile strike rather than just have an explosion appear but due to time restraints I had to wrap up the project. Other than that i'm quite happy with the final product and i feel like i was able to accomplish what i set out to do.


Military UAV