It seems like every time I turn on my computer, check my iPhone, or just connect to the Internet in any way, I’m seeing news of another bold breakthrough in the world of smart computing. From the chilling, but awe-inspiring possibilities of AI-powered image generation, to the possibilities of virtual production tools making on-set filmmaking obsolete, it sure feels like technology is advancing faster than ever.

Well, we have a new report in this catalog of awesome impending digital doom to file with this cool look into how one of the latest episodes of Netflix’sLove Death + Robots was created entirely by using real-time animation in Unreal Engine.

Let’s check out this cool technology and see if it’s a legit new future tech space that filmmakers should try out, or if it’s another reason to run for the hills and prepare ourselves for the robot wars of 2023.

Working with Unreal Engine

Okay, okay, maybe I was overreacting just a bit. As you can see in this cool behind-the-scenes feature from the making of this latest In Vaulted Halls Entombed episode of LD+R, a new age of real-time animation completely replacing modern filmmaking isn’t quite here yet.

However, as you can see, its technology and usefulness are indeed growing quite rapidly. So much so that the idea that a hugely popular streaming program, which prides itself on groundbreaking animation and visual effects, could roll out a completely real-time animated episode that looks remotely close to what audiences have grown to expect is quite impressive indeed. These kinds of tools were once only relegated to Avatar-level films. But now, it's at the fingertips of every creator. 

And it’s all thanks to Unreal Engine and a new real-time animation pipeline developed by the VFX team behind Spider-man. It’s also a really cool look into how these traditional worlds of live action, rotoscope technology, and animation could meet for a new happy medium.


Combining Live Action with Animation

From a behind-the-scenes perspective, it’s actually quite fascinating how live-action and animation can indeed work together. You can see in the video above that the team behind the project started their shoot with live-action performers going through a makeshift obstacle course while wearing body capture suits.

These original actions, which were directed and shot in real-time, were then brought into Unreal Engine and combined with 2D storyboards to build out a rough cut of the scene. (These are the shots that look like they’re from old maps from Counter-Strike CS 1.6.)

However, with Unreal’s involvement, the comps quickly become much more realistic as the characters come to life with their facial scans and updated environments. From there it's up to the director and teams to shift their focus from bringing the elements to life—and directing the scenes as they would a film. 


The Benefits of Real-Time Animation

This is where things get quite enticing (and exciting) for those who might be interested in trying out real-time animation for their own projects. By the time you’re making your decisions on where to place your virtual camera, where you want your cuts to go, and even how you want your lighting to look, you can make those decisions based on footage that looks like the final product.

On top of this, the photo-realistic MetaHuman characters do represent a bright future in the realm of animation that somehow brings the best of both worlds. Your basic filming setups can be quite simple (and certainly safe) in a studio, while your actual footage can take place in other worlds you’ve designed.

If you want to give the MetaHuman creator a test run, you can do so here

Ultimately, it’ll be a tough decision to embrace this Unreal Engine real-time animation pipeline completely and abandon traditional CGI and animation processes. We might not be quite there yet. But if these results are any indication of what the future might hold, then this real-time animation filmmaking process might be another new future tech closer than people might realize.

How do you feel about this Unreal Engine real-time animation pipeline? Are you excited for the future or terrified of its possibilities? Let us know in the comments!