‘Battlesuit’ Make High-Quality Animated Sci-Fi in Realtime with Unreal Engine
May 29, 2020 – Think virtual production is the preserve of James Cameron? Find out how filmmaker Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull creates cinema-quality animated sci-fi in realtime using Unreal Engine, under lockdown, with a 3-person crew (plus voice actors and sound composer).
Having made sci-fi features 2036 Origin Unknown and The Beyond (both were on Netflix), as well as the action-comedy show Fast Layne (now available on Disney +), the UK-based director/producer Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull is establishing quite a profile. Neil Gibson, graphic novelist and owner of TPub Comics, reached out to him online looking for a director to create a proof of concept based on one of the publisher’s IP.
Dulull, who grew up watching anime, was asked by Gibson to read his graphic novel, The Theory, and pick a story in the anthology. HaZ was instantly attracted to Battlesuit.
The short test sequence was made using the paragon assets, which are free to download and use from The Epic marketplace.
Setting the benchmark
The test informed Dulull that he could pull it off, but it also set expectations for TPub, too. “We decided to take a realtime approach mainly because of the low budget and tight schedule we had for this ambitious project,” Dulull says. “We weren’t going to be making something that looks like Pixar but the benchmark was still high. Audiences don’t really care how much budget you have – it’s the end result that matters.”
Rather than creating everything from scratch, they took a “kitbash” approach to building some of the key assets, by licensing 3D kits and pre-existing models (from Kitbash3D, Turbosquid and Unreal’s Marketplace). Tedechi used these as the base to build and design principal assets such as the Mech robots and the warzone environment. Dulull was able to animate the assets and FX in realtime within Unreal’s sequencer tool and begin assembling sequences.
Workflow under lockdown
By the time COVID-19 lockdown measures were announced across the UK in mid-March, they were already working in a remote studio workflow.
Virtual camera work
A large part of the film takes place in a war zone, for which Dulull wanted a visceral, raw, handheld action vibe to the camera work.
Powering it all, Dulull used the latest Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition laptop PC. This comes with Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 card on-board.
Review and approval
He sent versions of the edit, which would have mostly first pass animation and lighting, to the publisher for their notes.
Indie filmmaking goes virtual
With the cancelation of Comic-Con, TPub decided to release the short online exclusively with Razer. There is a TV series in development and it’s hoped Battlesuit can showcase not only TPub’s IP but also what is possible with this way of creating animated narrative content.
Source: No Film School, Battlesuit
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