Working with Cinemachine & Timelines

Learning how to install and work with Timelines and Virtual Cameras

In this article we will gain a better understanding of what is Cinemachine and Timeline within Unity. Both systems are including when you download Unity or downloaded manually within the package manager (if you are working with Unity 2019 and below). Although you can view both of these two functions as separate pieces within the production puzzle, they are in fact very intertwined with each other and can be used together.

What is Cinemachine?

Think of Cinemachine as the Main camera but with more functions and more flexibility. With Cinemachine you are able to setup cutscenes with perfect angles or set up a dolly track that the virtual camera can follow creating a scene where the camera can pan across several scenes. With Cinemachine you become an director and have the ability to control what the camera sees and when it sees it, you are able to change the lens, change the target, and even have the camera move in different locations (think of spy camera setups).

What is Timeline?

Timeline is like a control center that is able to toggle what events happens and when the events happens in a very controlled and linear sequence. Similar to how you stitch together movies clips and images in an movie editor, you are able to control multiple objects, and animation and even Cinemachine’s virtual cameras. An example would be having a small cut scene with several things happening all at once, using the timeline to trigger precisely what happens makes everything much much easier.

The beautiful thing about these two functions within Unity is that they are all able to function without a single line of code. This means that you can automatically trigger something or point the camera to follow something all through Timeline and Cinemachine.

How to get Started with Cinemachine and Timeline:

First we need to install Cinemachine since it is the only functionality that isn’t installed on Unity by default (Timeline is installed by default). On the top menu bar go to Windows > Package Manager and try to find Cinemachine in the Unity Registry section.

Once you have imported Cinemachine into your project you will see a brand new menu in the top bar of Unity.

Within that drop down menu you will be able to see all the different virtual cameras that you can add in the scene, from just the basic VM camera to VM that are lock into a dolly track.

To get started with Timeline, simple go to Windows > Sequencing > Timeline. This will have the timeline window popup.

In the next few articles we will focus on how to use both functions optimally.

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