July 13, 2018
Unreal Engine drives monster puppet for The Mill and Monster.com
The only problem was the turnaround time—a mere three weeks.
While The Mill used traditional techniques to produce the original commercial, this workflow wasn’t an option for such a short time frame. “What do you do with that?” says Boo Wong, Group Director of Emerging Technology at The Mill. “We realized there was no way to go down the traditional route.”
A faster way to animate: real-time motion capture and rendering
That’s when The Mill came up with a clever solution: they would use a Leap Motion system to control the monster with finger motions, a kind of virtual puppeteering. The motions would drive the rig and generate real-time finished output of the monster, purple fur and all, with Unreal Engine.
The team quickly put together a system and brought in the agency and clients for a live puppeteering and recording session. “They would give us notes on animation in real time,” says Dates. “As fast as they could say it, we then would make these adjustments and re-perform the next take.”
“The client walked away with hours of finished quality work, basically final pixels,” says Joji Tsuruga, Real-time Supervisor at The Mill. The monster animation was used in videos for social media such as Touchdown Dance and Meet Your Purple Fuzzy Career Coach on Monster.com’s Facebook page.
The process set a new bar for character animation output. “It's really unheard of in animation to get multiple takes of a performance,” says Wong. “For an editor to basically walk away with selects, was really groundbreaking.”
Exploring the future with real-time rendering
Inspired by the success of the Monster.com project, The Mill sees real-time animation as an important new paradigm. “Integrating game engines into your production workflow is critical,” says Wong. “It's essential in storytelling today.”
“Now, it's more like experimenting. I want to do it and do it fast and have fun doing it.”
Making your own animation magic
Want to try out real-time rendering for your own projects? Download Unreal Engine for free today.