Day one of KAM Summit 2021 witnessed many brainstorming and insightful sessions, one of them was on “The future of animation using Unreal Engine where industry stalwarts like Toonz Animation CEO P Jayakumar, Gametronics technical director Vishnumurthy A, Charuvi Design founder Charuvi Agarwal, 88 pictures Milind Shinde shared their experiences and challenges they faced while working with Unreal.
Moderated by Epic Games evangelist – India/ASEAN Arvind Neelakantan, the session began with Agarwal sharing her thoughts on how Unreal Engine brought a lot of creativity and freedom to the creative community. She said, “Unreal Engine is leading to a lot of creativity and freedom for the creative community. For content creators, visualisation of shorts in real-time has been very liberating. The platform allows you to merge various departments which has increased productivity by 100 per cent.”
She further added, “Unreal is really encouraging towards iterations and co-iterations. The availability of building blocks for content creations through Pixel, Megascans, Blueprint Visual Scripting system, the Unreal marketplace provides major production hack and its nerve to create anything in micro and macro levels. In couple of projects, we have had so much flexibility in achieving ultra and high resolution renders, which was a pain previously. For service provider, besides achieving high quality, the speed and cost-saving was huge.”
Adding to that Jayakumar said, “Game engines like Unreal have brought revolutionary change to the animation production pipeline especially in real-time rendering because the artist can have a glance at the end result almost instantly.”
He further mentioned, “Studios are constantly under pressure to do the work faster, cheaper and better in service point of view and in co-production it is important that we do project effectively and we are all under tremendous pressures. From a business point of view, it is more important to answer the questions like how will you able to do things faster, better and cheaper. So this reason leads studios to real-time technology.”
Commenting about the upgrading technologies, Shinde said, “We are in a great time. Everything at the core is at ease with technology. Every few years there are some technology components that come up and make creative people do the job in a better manner. What the Unreal Engine is doing is epic. The amount of tools and flexibility it is offering for filmmakers is huge. In this part of the world, the business has to be cheaper, faster and better, and what the future holds with this Engine and for all of us is great!”
Calling the Unreal Engine a learning and evolving process, Agarwal said, “There is an increase in demand for quicker turnarounds, high-quality content which has turned the industry to adapt and integrate gaming engines in their pipeline. It’s been two years since we adopted Unreal Engine into our pipeline and there has been a lot of learning which is still there that we have to imbibe and understand.”
Talking about traditional and Unreal pipelines, Jayakumar said, “Most of our customers embrace the traditional pipeline. We are using the Unreal pipeline for our projects and co-production projects. Now we have agreed with some of our large level co-production partners that we will be using Unreal technologies. There are a lot of learnings and challenges.”
Talking about how people are adapting Unreal Engine, Jayakumar explained, “Once people understand the benefits of this technology where they have the freedom to create content exactly the way they want and the benefit of the process and profit gained for the organization from it, then I think they will easily adapt to it.”
Vishnumurthy briefed about how Unreal evolved over the years and how they came up with automated tools to make the animation production easier. He added, “Animation comes like everything in one go , all we have to do is a full cycle of animation and render it in a short while. We made a lot of tools to automate the process and since we have a lot of programmers in our studio, we made many super automated tools with which everything goes right from modeling to shading. Everything goes smoothly.”
The speakers also gave their perspectives and list of improvements to be implemented in Unreal for the betterment of animation production.
Shinde said, “As a studio, we tried to push ourselves technologically and creatively. One of the goals for our studio was to get into Unreal as early as possible and we tried to push that. In our first movie, we faced many challenges but a new release came up and that problem was resolved. But by then new problems popped up. I think the hair and fur remains the area of development.”
Agarwal highlighted the bugs and technical glitches caused which needs to be resolved or improved in coming updates to make the Unreal bugs free.
As the technology is updating and evolving, the switching over from the traditional method to Unreal Engine pipeline is still a challenge. Jayakumar said, “Virtual production capabilities will immediately become a competitive advantage. It is high time for small and big studios to get into it as quickly as possible. The studios need to embrace Unreal and have to accept it because they cannot escape from future technology.”
Appreciating the Unreal training program, Jayakumar said, “Congratulations to the Unreal Engine team as they provide a complete training package for better understanding and it is very supportive for the studios who are migrating to newer technology.”
Shinde dropped his piece of advice for the new studios who are adapting the newer technology. He said, “Play safe and play simple. Because Unreal is not future ready yet, but will be future ready. Technology is growing and evolving in every six months we can predict. For new studios it is best implemented which is already tried and tested. Unreal requires a lot of technical brains.”
While signing off the session, Neelakantan said, “ Animation Industry in India and South-East Asia is considered to be quite small in size. It is better to work as a community and help each other out which in turn lead to a great success. We have an Unreal whatsapp group where community is always on fire to help each other.”
You can watch the panel discussion starting from 1:17:30