If the primary focus of my career was on creating visual stories, the most important skill set I could acquire would be a full and deep understanding of Unreal Engine. I do not have that deep understanding, but recognize that Unreal is going to revolutionize narrative filmmaking.
By “Unreal” I mean both the literal Unreal Engine from NVIDIA, but it’s technological descendants. Unreal started life as a game engine developed d by Epic Games, first showcased in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal – hence the name!
What makes it valuable for filmmaking is that it is a full 3D environment rendered in real time. In those early gaming days, the resolution was “good enough for gaming,” but no-one pretended it was cinematic quality. As the computer hardware became more powerful, and better graphics routines are written, it became cinematic quality.
Truth be told, in predicting that Unreal is the “future” of filmmaking, is a misnomer. It is the present of filmmaking right now. From the Mandalorian (official video, or a geek breakdown) to low budget short films, Unreal is already at the center of visual storytelling.
With Unreal, and the creative skills to use it, our stories – and to some degree our actors – realizing your imagination just got a whole lot less expensive. But the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to leave your desk to create amazing stories, nor do we have to spend a lot of money.
Spend a few minutes and explore what’s already been done, and then imagine the storytelling possibilities. Then realize the Metahumans are part of the Unreal universe. Whether your actors are synthetic, or traditionally green-screened, Unreal is going to be a very big part of the future of filmmaking. Even if you don’t have a giant wrap-around LED screen you can still composite using ‘traditional’ green screen.
I’m not the first to wonder whether Unreal is the future of narrative filmmaking. Or even the second to wonder!
For example A Hyper Realist CG Animated Short using Unreal Engine: Using a realtime game engine, a motion-capture facility, and off-the-shelf visual assets, acclaimed VFX artist Sava Zivkovic showcases the immense potential of Virtual Production to filter down to indie filmmakers everywhere.
That’s a small sampling of what Unreal brings to our bringing of the unreal to life. There are many, many more examples and tutorials on YouTube, where I came across this Unreal Engine for Filmmakers course.