Why Unreal is a critical player for telling a story
Unreal has been playing a role in animation for years and is quickly becoming a critical piece of production in film, commercials, broadcasting, architectural rendering and so much more. I suppose for many of us, we thought that a game engine is specifically used for just games but as time progress, a handful of innovators found ways to branch off into other industries. Who could blame you for thinking this powerful software is specifically for games, am I right? Well, one of the main and exciting reasons for this is "real-time" rendering. Now if you don't know what that means, that's okay because it took me forever to understand what that meant until I saw it in action. This basically means that everything you see in the viewport in Unreal Engine is exactly what you'll get. All of the shadows, highlights, textures, motion blurs, and whatever else is calculated as you go and move throughout the scene. Leaving little to no wait time, unlike other rendering engines where you might have to wait a minute or so for an intense lighting scene because the engine needs to calculate the number of rays bouncing off of different surfaces for that photorealistic look. On top of that, the rendering speed in Unreal Engine is hard to beat considering the quality you get. As an example, a simple animation that is about 30 seconds long may take close to a few days to render in Redshift but in Unreal, maybe 10 seconds if not less. Allowing for tremendous flexibility when meeting deadlines, making adjustments, and even stylizing your animated projects.
A lot like this Healin' Good PreCure animation that was done by a team-up between Toei Animation and Guild Studio.
Unreal Engine in Film Production
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of film studios both big and small had to come to a sudden halt. Traveling from one location to another became impossible without taking some extreme risk. Now adding to that is the cost of traveling and the risk of damaging the equipment during the commute. Even being stress to meet the time crunch to film as much as you can before the day or night runs out.
This is where virtual production comes into play with the help of Unreal Engine. This quickly became the answer to many problems and most importantly became extremely cost-effective once you have your setup. Of course, I can explain the whole thing to you but that's a lot of typing and I don't consider myself to be a great writer by any means. So I'll share with you a breakdown from the show The Mandalorian on Disney +. What is important to note, is that virtual production has been around for a little while before the epic Star Wars series and became popular through the pandemic.
Unreal in Animation
As I mentioned before, Unreal has played a role in animation for quite some time and I want to share with you an animation called Morgan Lives In A Rocket House that is done in Unreal Engine. Done by a really small team and yet, still has the high-quality look of what you would get from a larger studio. Before I go any further, check out the video below!
As you can see the animation quality is probably better than what you had expected. If you're like me, I like to do my animations in another software like Cinema 4D, maybe for you, you would prefer Blender or Maya. Doesn't matter, whatever makes you happy and comfortable is totally on you and that's another great thing about Unreal. As long as you can find a way to export your animations as an FBX or whatever file type that would work then you're basically set.
If you have an Adobe account then you have access to Mixamo and access to a wide range of their large number of motion capture animations to build your narrative animation. In turn, this saves money and allows you to focus on other parts of the projects. Maybe you need a large environmental scene but you don't have the money to hire a team of 3D artists to do it. Well, the good news for you is that you can go through the Unreal Engine marketplace to find all kinds of free assets to use and look into KitBash to purchase high-end city models to build your world.
The Future of Film making
So I'm throwing a lot at you and still have some left to make you spin in circles. As mentioned before, filming is taking a totally new direction by diving more into virtual production, and those who have a filmmaking background will find this incredibly helpful. Taking all of the basics of filming such as scene setup, focal length, angles, blocking, and whatever else is all translated into Unreal. I will admit, it does look intimidating at first but you'll get the hang of it faster than you think. You don't need to have this in-depth knowledge of 3D or game development to get started, trust me, I barely know what I'm doing.
I hope this helps and gives you valuable insight on where to get started as you move further into your career. Whether you like it or not, this is the future of production in every industry, and it's constantly evolving as technology progresses. So I'll do my best to keep writing on the topic and providing you all with valuable information, plus some notes from my own experiences. So to stay up to date, subscribe to the newsletter, comment below and I'll catch you next time.