Image courtesy of Ben Coello

Winners announced for first ‘Virtual Production for Storytellers’ challenge

March 16, 2021
It never ceases to amaze us what can happen when you give artists some tips and a prompt. Recently, a select group of VFX artists blew our minds yet again, as part of a new hybrid course/challenge we hosted with ArtStation. The invite-only course—’Virtual Production for Storytellers’—was designed to test an idea: Could a group of pros, new to Unreal Engine, start creating cinema-quality scenes in just five weeks with some exclusive content and lessons from industry experts?

The answer is yes.

But this course came with a twist: the “final” would take the form of a challenge hosted on ArtStation. Of the hundreds asked to participate, 68 entered their project for critique. After weeks of self-paced learning, this was where the course really opened up, bringing a community aspect to the proceedings as fellow classmates began to give pointers and encouragement before final projects were turned in. 

The rules

To keep the artists on target (and inspired), they were given a choice of themes that are like catnip to production artists: “Environment: The Discovery” or “Vehicle: The Race.” Participants could also use the Unreal Engine Marketplace, Quixel, and TurboSquid, along with any personal assets (as long as they weren’t from third-party IPs). 

Every week, students were required to submit work in progress via ArtStation, so the challenge hosts and their fellow participants could offer feedback and comments. 

The hosts included:
  • Javier Perez, Senior Material Artist for PlayStation VASG
  • Karen Stanley, Senior Environment Artist for Ubisoft Toronto
  • Mathew Wadstein, game dev and Unreal Dev grant recipient
  • Deepak Chetty, Epic Games Producer
  • Kevin Lyle, Epic Games Technical Training Developer

“This group was really amazing to watch. They were either solving their own problems or talking it out with others, which led to some tight bonds,” said Chetty. “Some even formed little collectives, making their own Discord channels to offer tips and tricks—one group is even planning on making a movie. People really threw themselves into this, and at 20 hours a week that’s pretty impressive in itself.” 

At the end of five weeks, each participant uploaded their video—which had to be running at 24 fps with a minimum resolution of 1920x1080—along with a series of high-quality stills. The top three winners were then ranked and promoted on ArtStation. The submission with the most likes received a special award from Epic Games, which included an assortment of Epic gear. 

The winners

From futuristic soldiers facing synthetic beings to robots caring for birds, the entries were stunning in the sheer level of creative and new technical skills on display. Here’s who stood out the most.
 
  • First place went to Ben Coello for his untitled entry, where a futuristic soldier finds out just how out of their depth they are.
Image courtesy of Ben Coello
Image courtesy of Emanuele Lomello
  • Third place went to ArtStation user and freelance artist Ryan. His submission Ghost Town features a sunken, surrealist city where grief is manifest and the only way through it is forward. 
Image courtesy of Ryan
Five others received ’honorable mention” nods, while 18 more earned the “challenge favorite” title. The challenge was hosted as a private event, but another (wider) one is planned for the fall.

In the meantime, try out our Virtual Production Primer. It’s a great place to start. 

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