ZAFARI: Tapping into Unreal Engine for Episodic Animation | Project Spotlight | Unreal Engine


[MUSIC]>>The Zafari project is,
to my knowledge, the first broadcast
television show that’s being rendered completely
in the Unreal Engine. I had a pretty
healthy skepticism when Digital Dimension
came to me and said, “Let’s use the game engine
Unreal to render Zafari.” It needed to meet
certain production qualities in order for me to say, “Yes, that’s the renderer
for our show.” Subsurface scattering,
ambient occlusion, vector-based motion blur, and it’s got to do
really good-looking water. And Digital Dimension,
using Unreal, has stepped up
to all of them.>>When you get to a project
the size of Zafari, when you’re looking
at hours of material, ten thousand shots,
one episode a week, you have to reach a velocity
of output and minimize errors. So for me, rendering has
always been a big stressor. In previous iterations
of the pipeline, we were lucky to get
two test renders in a day. We can now do 20
within half an hour.>>I’ve never worried so little
about rendering on a project. Ever. We might get
20 notes per episode, whereas probably
in a traditional Pipeline, I would look like 120.>>It was, like, just finished
animation and 10 minutes later I get to see the shot rendered? I’m in. We went from
being very concerned about the post-production
part of the process, where we didn’t know
how the hell we were going
to render this stuff, to very quickly thinking that
that was going to be no problem. But effects animation, things like water effects
and fire effects, that’s the potential bottomless
pit of iterations, and time, and therefore money.
I don’t worry about it anymore, because now we just do
all the work in Unreal and the effects are
pretty much real-time.>>The fact that you go into
lighting and effects and rendering
and compositing in one package and that you’ll be able
to see results in real-time, that basically opened up
a number of advantages to the studio that we’re reaping
the benefits right now.>>I can’t imagine wanting
to work on a production that’s done
in a traditional pipeline. On a show like this at our pace, usually a lighting department,
is probably eight people. We’re three.>>Overall, our estimate is that
we’ve reduced the size of our
lighting/rendering/comp team by about 75%
from a traditional pipeline, which translates into a 300% increase in efficiency and
productivity for a given artist.>>It’s so different. I think it’s really motivating
for them to work in real-time like that.>>I don’t think we’ve scratched
the surface yet about what using Unreal
is going to allow us to do. I think my only regret
is that it took us so long to say yes and do it.>>I think the interesting
takeaway from using Unreal is that it has allowed us
to have our cake and eat it too. On the one hand,
our costs are coming down. At the same time,
the quality’s going up. This is one of the only times
in my career I’ve been able to say
that.

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