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July 2017

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Page 37 of 43 36 POST JULY 2017 TECHNOLOGY any blockbuster feature films in the past decade have made heavy use of visual effects to tell epic stories. As technology progresses, creatives continue to push the envelope, producing more impressive shows, each better and more efficiently realized than the one before. Now, whether audienc- es are watching in the theater or on a mobile device, they're accustomed to a certain level of content quality, regard- less of the medium. Discerning viewers expect sophisticated effects, and studios continue to demand visuals that raise the bar, regardless of project timelines and budgets. Consequently, visual effects and animation providers are under pressure to provide more with less, and are taking strides to optimize their workflows. One of the most time- and resource-in- tensive aspects of post production is rendering. Depending on render farm capacity and image density, a single frame can take hours to render, then require additional days of fine-tuning to achieve the final-quality, photoreal image or meet a certain creative vision. Projects today often have hundreds or thousands of shots, and rendering can tremendously slow down the post process. There are many ways to bypass the render lag, but one that's becoming in- creasingly viable for commercials, episod- ics and feature films is using game engine technology for realtime rendering. Widely used in the emerging VR/AR industries — and, of course, for game development, where environments, objects and charac- ters must be processed quickly enough to be fully interactive — realtime rendering also provides a means for generating live, interactive, immersive and collaborative content. By merging realtime VFX and live-action storytelling, content can be created, altered and produced in realtime, blurring the lines between production and post, giving content creators access to fi- nal pixels in realtime, and slashing project delivery timelines. During the Epic keynote at GDC 2017, ILM's John Knoll revealed that in Star Wars: Rogue One, some shots of the K2SO robots rendered with Unreal Engine 4 made it into the final film; it was an eye-opener for many that realtime rendering is ready for primetime. In June of this year, Epic Games released a new three-minute trailer for the hotly-antic- ipated title Fortnite, currently in beta. Fortnite is a game with diverse charac- ters and plot lines, and very complex environments. The stunning all-CG trailer features six cinematic sequences, with over 130 individual shots. The piece was finished and rendered entirely in Unreal Engine, showcasing the capabilities of the newest UE 4.16 release, while rewrit- ing the traditional CG workflow process. Unreal Engine's Sequencer cinematic editor was used to deliver flexible scene assembly; easily manipulated facial ex- pression control through Alembic caching; dynamic lighting and color correction with realtime results; realtime volumetric effects (FFT bloom, fog, clouds, fluid sim- ulations) and more. This trailer shows that live animated content is now a reality — changes can be made on the fly, without having to wait hours or days for renders. In the broadcast industry, leading providers, including Ross Video, Vizrt and Zero Density, have already made the leap to high-fidelity, realtime rendering, integrating support for Unreal Engine into their virtual studio solutions. Content pro- viders are increasingly relying on virtual sets rather than physical ones, both for cost savings and the flexibility of having creative latitude to make aesthetic chang- es live on-set. When CG environments and in-scene elements can be rendered at final pixel quality in realtime, it fundamental- ly alters the way filmmakers are able to approach and deliver projects. Norwegian mixed-reality company The Future Group leverages Unreal to gener- ate photoreal scenery for Fremantle's Lost in Time, a groundbreaking game show that pushes the boundaries of television with an entertainment format that brings interactive mixed reality to TV sets and mobile devices. The Future Group's vir- tual studio graphics rendering platform, Frontier, takes full advantage of Unreal's hyperrealism capabilities, enabling Lost in Time to virtually transport contestants to different eras to tackle challenges in pursuit of the jackpot prize, with viewers along for the ride every step of the way. With a pipeline built on Unreal, motion capture and creative production studio House of Moves helps Mattel's Barbie dis- cuss current fashion trends and the latest in pop culture by turning around all-CG episodes for the popular Barbie Vlog on YouTube in less than a week. Each episode, which ranges from two-and-a- half to four minutes in length, keeps pace with the 24/7 news cycle because House of Moves is able to not only execute the initial render quickly, and at near-final asset quality, but also make texture and lighting changes in realtime using Unreal, greatly reducing iteration time for their client. When the look, edit and animation are locked, House of Moves completes a final 4K render in-engine, using only a single desktop machine. Applications of realtime rendering are just starting to roll out, and it's simply a matter of time before the technolo- gy becomes standard, given the mas- sive time and cost savings to be had. Production companies realize the value of Unreal assets, as they can be reused across a wide range of cinematic and interactive deliverables. We've only scratched the surface of what's possible, and as we continue to refine and bolster the Unreal Engine feature set, production and post-pro- cesses will inch closer together, unlocking infinite possibilities for content creators. REALTIME TECHNOLOGY BLURS THE LINES BETWEEN PRODUCTION & POST M BY MARC PETIT GENERAL MANAGER EPIC GAMES ENTERPRISE, UNREAL ENGINE CARY, NC UNREALENGINE.COM RELYING ON GAME-ENGINE TECHNOLOGY FOR REALTIME RENDERING Epic Games' new Fortnite trailer was rendered entirely in Unreal Engine. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K

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