Rocky Shi on Why Unreal Engine Represents the Future of Virtual Production

Everyone from the streaming giants to the major motion picture studios has started to rely on a new piece of technology when it comes to film and television production: Unreal Engine. This 3D software, initially developed for video games, has already made an impact in Hollywood, and will continue to overtake outdated methods of visual effects production like greenscreen. 

Rocky Shi, founder and CEO of Rise Entertainment and longtime entertainment investor, sees Unreal Engine as the future of virtual production. From the software’s origins in the video game industry to its key role in every aspect of production, read on to learn why Unreal Engine is making waves.  

What Is Unreal Engine?

First, it’s important to understand the history of Unreal Engine and its impact on game development. The software debuted in the late 1990s, created by the founder of Epic Games as an engine to assist in the production of a first-person shooter game. The software has since gone through several iterations and updates, resulting in the latest version of the software, Unreal Engine 5. 

It’s been used to design a number of popular video games, such as Fortnite and Gears of War. With the launch of the Unreal Engine Marketplace in 2014, developers began to be able to upload and share content and tutorials. The latest version of Unreal also allows for the importation of 3D objects and environments, as well as realistic shadow mapping. This has opened the doors for intensely detailed video games but also paved the way for the use of Unreal Engine in film production.

Beyond Video Games

As Unreal Engine has evolved over the decades, developers have become keenly aware of its uses beyond video games. There are many ways in which the software can be used in film production, some of which are just starting to be used, Rocky Shi explained.

By using massive LED screens paired with Unreal Engine, some productions began to experiment with this new technology instead of using traditional greenscreen sets. Westworld and The Mandalorian were among the first shows to do so. Now, as the technology has proved to be more efficient than greenscreen, many Hollywood productions are adapting AR wall-style sets.

Additionally, Unreal Engine has allowed for an evolution of motion capture, where actors are filmed and later layered with special effects in post-production. Advancements in facial recognition technology allow for these SFX to be applied in real-time, as Unreal Engine allows cameras to track mocap markers on an actor’s body.

The Future of TV & Film

Beyond these specific technical applications, using Unreal Engine has a benefit on overall workflow for almost every department. It allows for faster creation of concept art and storyboarding, as pre-production artists can quickly render ideas and pull from large preexisting libraries of images and scenes. 

Unreal Engine also puts the power back in the hands of individual creators — whereas many animators or filmmakers may have previously needed the power of an entire studio to create a pitch for their film, they can now use the tools offered by Unreal Engine to bring their ideas to life. This, Rocky Shi says, will even the playing field for smaller artists in the industry.

As Unreal Engine continues to update, and developers and creators share their insights in Unreal Engine Marketplace, it will only become a more useful tool not only for gamers but for Hollywood. By establishing new, more efficient workflows and replacing outdated tech, Unreal Engine represents the future of the film industry.