Psyop generates huge brand love with real-time characters in UE4
Together, the companies came up with a unique approach. First, the characters would star in a three-minute film that was part entertainment, part commercial. Then, Psyop took the characters into real time.
To test the concept, Psyop took one of the character models and brought it into Unreal Engine. They were quickly able to create a demo with the character moving around and talking in real time. In fact, to sell the idea to Argonaut, they did a Skype call with the character as one of the participants. To pull it off, they used Xsens suits for the body capture and Faceware software for the facial capture. The ease with which they were able to integrate these systems was one of the reasons Psyop chose Unreal Engine.
“Unreal was for sure the best option for us because everything plugged into it so nicely,” says Jack Anderson, Director at Psyop. “I was amazed that after a couple of days we were able to instantly have all of that feeding in, in real time, ready to go without any major problems.”
Technical Director Sean Kealey highlights another reason. “We decided to use Unreal Engine because of the fast turnaround times, the easy methodology of prototyping stuff,” he says. “We were able to harness Blueprints and kind of get something on screen as quickly as possible. It also allows people that are coming from a more artistic background to dive in and kind of get their hands dirty.”
The first project to test the system publicly was a digital billboard in the Santa Monica Place mall, where bystanders could talk to and interact with one of the characters, Rose. The reaction was over 97% positive.
With that success under their belt, the agency decided to up the ante, putting on a live press junket (supposedly to promote the movie that the characters had starred in) hosted by Mario Lopez and featuring two of the CG characters: Rose, who had featured in the billboard, and her friend Dusty.
The press junket was simulcast on Facebook Live and Twitter, with viewers able to ask questions and get responses from the characters. It received half a million views on Facebook, and over four million views on Twitter.
The success of the Cricket Wireless project has engendered a new confidence in the team at Psyop to embrace real-time technology, and specifically Unreal Engine, more broadly.
“Our clients have been coming to us more and more wanting so many different forms of storytelling: longer form, web series, TV shows,” says Anderson. “It was finally when we started using Unreal, it clicked for me that we could be able to do that stuff very quickly and satisfy our clients in a way that we wouldn't have usually been able to using a traditional animation pipeline.”
Psyop’s Executive Producer Matthew Seymour is equally enthusiastic about the use of the technology. “Real time is where it's at!” he says. “We know we can push this engine, and we know all the plugins and other vendors and partners are supporting Unreal. So there's really nothing we can’t do.”
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