Image courtesy of Mutant Year Zero ® and © Cabinet Licensing LLC

From idea to pitchvis in record time: filmmaking with Unreal Engine

Ben Lumsden
When Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull set out to become a filmmaker, he faced the usual challenge of pitching his ideas. But when HaZ discovered how Unreal Engine could accelerate the process, the game changed completely.

“The use of real-time technology has redefined my career as a filmmaker,” HaZ says. 

Check out this interview about HaZ’s workflow and recent projects, where he embodies the spirit of virtual production—instead of doing traditional concept art and storyboarding, he goes straight to pitchvis, reaping the dual benefits of a shorter development process and enhanced creativity.

HaZ’s first film was sci-fi feature The Beyond, one of the highest-rated video-on-demand feature films of 2018. For his third film, Lunar, he got into Unreal Engine “out of necessity”—he wanted to cut out the process of concept art and go straight to pitchvis. 

His latest project, Battlesuit, was developed in Unreal Engine as a proof-of-concept for an animated series. Battlesuit was quickly greenlit and is currently in development, with the team using Unreal Engine for all the animation.
The use of real-time technology has redefined my career as a filmmaker. 
- HaZ Dulull
“Traditionally, you would have to try ideas out using the resources, or an allocated pre-production time,” says HaZ. “Now, essentially, I'm in the sandbox and I can do whatever I want in that sandbox. In the middle of the night if I have an idea, I can just quickly get up, whip out the laptop and block it out and see if it works or not. And I can do all of that in real time, and not need to have a conversation with a gaffer or cinematographer or DP. I can do whatever I want because essentially, I'm in control as a filmmaker.”

HaZ credits Unreal Engine with giving him the tools to fast-track his projects. “Usually when you're doing animation like this, you have to go through at least 20 various stages,” says HaZ. “We've done all of that in the pilot. It's liberating that, as a filmmaker, I can keep experimenting and trying ideas out without breaking the budget, without breaking the schedule.”
Alistair Thompson, Head of Innovation Lab at Epic Games London, agrees. “The whole point of Unreal Engine is to democratize 3D creation, to make it simpler, quicker, and easier to do what would have felt like very complex things in the past,” he says.

HaZ feels that Unreal Engine gives him access to an entirely new area of filmmaking that he otherwise wouldn’t have had. “Thanks to the success of Battlesuit, it's opened the doors hugely for me as a filmmaker to dive into the world of animation,” he says. 
Image courtesy of Mutant Year Zero ® and © Cabinet Licensing LLC
One animated project in particular is a companion film for the game Mutant Year Zero. “I noticed when playing the game that it was built in Unreal Engine,” HaZ says, “so the first thing I did was reach out to the game developers to send me over some key assets. I then put together a quick pitch using Unreal Engine to basically depict my vision of the film.”
Image courtesy of Mutant Year Zero ® and © Cabinet Licensing LLC
HaZ is enthusiastic about the world of possibilities that Unreal Engine has opened up for him and his team. “I've had so much joy using Unreal Engine in terms of realizing my vision, realizing the ideas I've had, and ultimately making me a better filmmaker than I was a year ago,” says HaZ. “I'm really excited about the fact that this technology is now accessible to literally anyone who has the drive to want to make content. That's what excites me.”

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