Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2018

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 1 8 | c g w 1 9 EPIC PROVES REAL-TIME WORKFLOW WITH ITS FORTNITE GAME TRAILER BY BRIAN POHL n July 2017, Epic released Fortnite, a video game where players save survivors of a worldwide cataclys- mic storm, building fortifications and constructing weapons from scavenged materials to fight off enemies. In late 2016, in preparation for the game's release, Epic Games began production on a three-minute cinematic trailer for Fortnite. Traditionally, game trailers don't use in-game, real-time graphics because the quality just isn't there. Instead, trailers have been rendered like short films using the same production workflow CG artists have used for decades, involving long wait times between pressing the render button and seeing the result. For the Fortnite trailer, Epic's goal was to create a short movie with the same level of quality expected in a trailer, but rendered in real time with Unreal Engine. Furthermore, real-time rendering would be an integral part of the pipeline from start to finish, including set design, character animation, and special effects. With real-time rendering, they'd be able to collaborate, review, and iterate a lot faster than with the traditional render-and- wait approach. This was a tall order, but Epic had a point to make beyond showing off what Unreal Engine can do – they wanted to show how real-time rendering gives more freedom in the creative process. Here, we'll go over some of the highlights. Rough Layout One of the first steps in an animated short film is a rough layout of character motion and camera placement within the CG set. This usually starts with the creation of low-resolution sets and characters, but Epic had the advantage of existing game assets they could use for the task. To get the rough layout for character an- imation, Epic used a process they call "first unit previs," combining filmmaking terms for the principal photography team (first unit) and methods for visualizing complex action prior to actual filming (previsualization, or previs). First unit previs combines motion capture with real-time rendering. The Fortnite trailer's script included action and dialog from four main characters. For the first unit previs session, actors per- formed the script, and their actions were captured through multiple, long mocap takes. Each take's mocap was immediately added onto a rigged character within the environment so the performances could be reviewed, and any re-takes that were neces- sary could be ordered right then and there. These performances were analyzed to determine which ones were best for the purposes of the trailer. The best long takes became the basis of the interactive rough layout, where the director and others could review, re-capture, and swap out motions until they were satisfied with the result. Because the director and cinematogra- pher were free to conceptualize the movie by their own hands, the result was a more natural cinematic approach to the rough layout process. Set and Character Models The in-game set and character models were improved for the trailer, increasing both poly count and texture resolution. Epic used a variety of DCC soware, such as Autodesk's 3ds Max and Maya, Pixologic's ZBrush, and Foundry's Modo for modeling. As camera placements came through from first unit previs, set models were op- timized for real-time playback by removing IN A ' ' V I R T U A L R E A L I T Y I I

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