October 25, 2012

Just Cause Uses Unreal Engine 3 to Create “Persephone” Teaser Trailer

By Dana Cowley

Four Developers Complete Project in One Week Using UDK

Just Cause Entertainment, a motion capture and animation studio with offices in Los Angeles and Tokyo, creates game cinematics from concept to completion on titles such as “Resident Evil 5” and “Lost Planet 2.”

Just Cause began investigating the Unreal Engine as part of an effort to develop new tools using the power of video game engines for use in the feature film pipeline. After some initial investigation, they found themselves more comfortable with the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), the edition of Unreal Engine 3 (UE3), than any other engine option.

"The first and most important reason was that Unreal Engine technology is open and easy to access," said Simone Lombardo, who handles computer graphics and visual effects at Just Cause. "Additionally, the implementation of the Unreal Engine was less painful than other engines and we were able to develop workarounds and tools so that we could implement this engine in our pipeline seamlessly." 

Lombardo also cites the lack of constraints for importing and exporting into and out of the Unreal Engine, calling it "a big benefit in regards to our in-house custom rigs. They were smoothly imported into Unreal without having to follow any custom game engine naming convention. Unreal seemed to be a perfect fit because of its non-disruptive integration into our pipeline, as well as the stunning real-time visual quality."

While he'd worked with the Unreal Engine five years before, Lombardo says he was surprised to see how far the editor and tool suite had advanced since that time. Just Cause found it easy to implement custom animation rigs into the UE3 pipeline, and tools including Unreal Kismet, Unreal Matinee, NVIDIA PhysX, and built-in VFX made their workflow incredibly efficient.

"With UnrealScript, it seems there is no limit," he added. "After a few tweaks and some scripting, we were able to use Unreal Engine as a platform for rendering our previz and cinematics without having to think about it anymore." 

The Just Cause team eagerly pushes the capabilities of UE3 technology. For their "Persephone" teaser, everything from modeling to texturing to motion capture and animation was completed by a team of four people in a single week. 

“Persephone” teaser:

"By implementing UE3 into our pipeline, we're still able to utilize our pre-existing real-time mocap pipeline, and in about 10 minutes from cutting the action on our stage, we're able to have a render out of UE3, with lighting and moving characters with props, giving the director a detailed look into the virtual world he or she is creating," Lombardo said, adding that the Just Cause team also uses an acoustically optimized mocap stage that can record dialogue for implementation into the render as well.

"The new pipeline we have developed with UE3 is seamless and efficient. We're currently developing a variety of different tools and implementations using our motion capture technology and the Unreal Engine as a base." 

Lombardo sees a bright future for Just Cause and Unreal Engine technology, especially in feature film production. "I personally think that game engines as a whole should be used more frequently in the feature film industry. This is the beginning, and UE3 is a friendly and efficient way to start merging the gaming and film industry into one group. I can't wait to get my hands on Unreal Engine 4 and see how much farther we can push it!"

 Read more about Just Cause Entertainment.