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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a very strong likelihood you’ve heard of Unreal Engine in some capacity. For those that are unaware, Unreal Engine is a digital platform designed to create real-time graphics. It was originally created for the video game industry, but has rapidly evolved into something more. The engine employs volumetric real-time lighting that is reactive to the surfaces of models, and environmental conditions that you determine. Just about anyone can learn how to use it in a short period of time, as the learning curve isn’t entirely steep. It’s also a free to use application, with a very open source, community based feel to the entire platform. Truly, the only barrier to it’s access is the limits of your own imagination. With hundreds of thousands of free models and textures to use, you can create anything that you can think of, literally anything, and have it look exceptionally well.
It’s almost overwhelming when you stand back, and look at the Unreal Engine platform in it’s entirety. With the ability to create entire scenes that are on par with some of the CGI VFX of major motion pictures, it’s surprising how this tool has become democratized for the masses. So with the ability to create content like this, it has given a tremendous amount of power to content creators looking to construct realistic, or stylized scenes with little to no experience. Take this a step further with user friendliness, and in enters Twinmotion. Built inside the Unreal Engine platform, Twinmotion takes steps to use Unreal’s modeling and lighting engine, and apply it to their own user interface. You can then build your own scenes, or world inside Twinmotion, and even import it later into Unreal for more advanced options.
EXAMPLE: Pre-Production Storyboard We Created With Twinmotion
So what does this all have to do with integrating this into your own creative content? Well, Twinmotion in particular could be utilized as a previsualization tool before you start your productions. In that regard, it could be an invaluable asset to streamline your creative vision. With the ability to construct, place, light, and select the camera angle of your scene, you could construct a total pre-production story board. That said, it would sort of be a disservice to the platform’s true potential, as its capable of so much more. Recently, we utilized Twinmotion in our 2021 demo reel to create two animated scenes across two different landscapes. The idea was to start in a desert, pushing forward into a cube during a thunderstorm to reveal all of the creative content we worked on this past year. When the edit of the content is finished, we exit the cube in an entirely different geographical location. This scene was designed to be a snow-stricken tundra with some mountains off in the distance amidst a blizzard. With some polishing of the grade, and laying on some heavy effects inside Final Cut Pro X, the scene really sprung to life. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of Unreal’s potential, but our sample illustrates just how creative you can get with all of this with very little effort.
EXAMPLE: Opening Scene We Created With Twinmotion & FCP X
With the power of Unreal Engine, and a simplification of it’s utility in Twinmotion, it’s no wonder why productions like Disney’s “The Mandalorian” are utilizing this technology. While this is an entirely separate subject, I’ll take a moment to illustrate how they’ve harnessed Unreal Engine’s power. Disny have cleverly taken Unreal’s platform, and created digital scenes. Then they’ve projected those scenes onto a large scale stage of LED screens on an array called “The Volume”. This technology is quite powerful as it puts the actors, and set pieces entirely inside the world they are creating. The Volume is massive, and encompasses the stage, with almost a full 360 degree curvature. The ceiling is also built with an entire array of LEDS, wrapping the cast & crew in the environmental lighting. Then, with the real time graphical rendering of Unreal, the actual camera operator on set is utilizing a motion tracker to move inside the projected three dimensional space. This creates a parallax in motion between the real life actors, practical sets, and the digital scene projected behind them on the LED screens. Since The Volume is omitting light from the LED nodes, that light scatters like real ambient lighting, falling on the subject matters, creating a true to life, reactive environments. EXAMPLE: The Volume BTS | Credit - Industrial Light & Magic
There is nothing proprietary about this technology, and there are even “home-brew” solutions found on Facebook groups that have built similar stages with off the shelf components. Of course, At Capion Studio we are mere mortals, so this application of Unreal in our own video production at this time seems to be more of a dream, than a reality. Of course one could scale this technology down to a smaller footprint, and apply it to product commercial applications. Just to make this clear, Unreal & Twinmotion do not need to be utilized exclusively as a scene creation tool. One could actually use it for model animation, rendering rigged shapes on alpha transparencies. For instance, say you have a new mechanical product. You could import your CAD files into Unreal, or Twinmotion, and then explode the parts to create a dynamic overview of your merchandise. You could also create really polished graphics, logo animations, or even particle simulations within Unreal that could then be used in your video, still digital, or print adverts.
As we started this conversation, your imagination is really the only limiting factor here. Now with the newly released “Meta-Humans” builder which are real time human models, the sky is the limit. These Meta-Humans are completely customizable inside Unreal Engine right down to the freckles on their cheekbones. We can now create digital actors for our creative content to stand in our environments without the need for extras. They are so convincing, you might even be able to use them as a featured talent in your piece depending on the subject matter, and application.
EXAMPLE: MetaHumans Sample | Credit - Epic Games
So as we always do with these topics, lets look at a couple of ways we can use this technology from a practical application with the following ideas;
Create scenes, lighting setups, and camera angles for pre-production story-boards
Use Unreal Engine to project onto a large scale LED array for a real time, interactive stages
Scale the technology down, and use Unreal by projecting it onto smaller screens for product photography.
Create fully rigged and animated models, logos, are particles with alpha transparencies to be overlayed, and integrated on digital plates.
Utilize Meta-Humans to replace extra actors in our digital content.
While this shortlist is completely underwhelming, and pales in the face of Unreal’s true potential, it’s a jump-off point to get your feet wet, and start thinking about how you can integrate this technology. At Capion we have slowly, but surely started to utilize this technology into our own works. If you’re interested in Unreal Engine, we can help point you in the right direction, or even create scenes for you in your next digital campaign by visiting our main page at www.capionstudio.com. So don’t be afraid to get into the platform, and try having a play with it. With no barrier of cost, such a small learning curve, and such a high reward with the end results, there’s more reasons for using it than not! Until the next article, take care and stay creative!