Drawn from talent up and down the Atlantic coast, LightHammer aims to be a starting point for a new game development focal point in central Pennsylvania, a region flush with technical talent but with few opportunities. Backed by its sister company, digital media and mobile app developer MudBrick Creative, LightHammer's six-person team has a range of skills from high-level programming to 3D modeling and animation.
When MudBrick needed to make a demo reel to show off their creative talents, Paul Benninghove, the founder of MudBrick Creative and a principal at LightHammer, found UDK to be not only the most cost-effective, but most powerful option available anywhere.
MudBrick Creative 2012 Demo Reel
“Being an indie means you have no budget,” Benninghove explains, “so you do what you can to put food on the table until your big hit ships. Money is a concern, and UDK is free. But the decision to use UDK as the method of delivery was primarily out of experimentation. We wanted to compare UDK’s Matinee tools to other, more traditional cinematography software.”
He sees access to high-end visuals at no cost as a game changer for small developers and producers like LightHammer. Experience with Unreal Engine tools and achieving desirable results gives the studio and employees valuable skills that publishers look for, as well as a firm base to develop secondary skills and visions.
LightHammer had never seen anyone use a game engine to create a filmic demo reel, either, so using the Unreal Engine 3 toolset had a whiff of originality to it. “It is a true test of what is possible on the video side of the production pipeline using a game engine for production instead of the standard path using more expensive products,” said Jordan Cain, lead artist at LightHammer.
Since time is money for an independent producer, it was important for LightHammer to be able to quickly learn the software and implement all the effects that were necessary to give the demo reel the pop it needed to make an impact. Benninghove singles out the Unreal Matinee cinematic editor for special praise.
“It was exceedingly easy to use and competitive with the abilities of more popular video editing suites, Cain added. “The ability to check the final product without needing to set up a render each time we made changes to the lighting or materials or camera movements allowed us to develop this reel over roughly one month.”
As the Unreal Engine community expands, skills and tips are being shared through the UDK forums and the Unreal Developer Network (UDN) – resources that LightHammer turned to in order to get up to speed. From understanding the basics of getting Matinee properly configured to challenging the limits of synching animations in Unreal Kismet, LightHammer has found the Unreal Engine community a resource that saved time and that continues to be an excellent way to keep their skillset current.
“It’s a complete no-brainer to take advantage of what’s been provided with UDK and the community around it,” Benninghove concludes. “People are more than happy to lend a hand with technical advice or critique.”
Would his team use UDK again? “Absolutely! You can create just about anything, and you also get the added bonus of being able to build iOS and mobile apps if that’s your business. Real-time rendering of what you are creating streamlines the process, giving us a flow we enjoyed to the end.”