Pendulum – Unreal Engine & Virtual Camera Tech Demo

PRIMAL is a short demonstration piece that uses the Unreal3 game engine to exhibit the effective combination of Pendulum’s real-time cinematic pipeline, with keyframed character animation and the studio’s proprietary vCam virtual camera-capture system (shown in the video’s behind-the-scenes footage). Using a pipeline that leverages Autodesk’s Motionbuilder, Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, and the studio’s 50×50 optical motion-capture stage, along with a suite of in-house virtual production tools that blend it all together, the fast-paced animation helps illustrate the substantial benefit a digital filmmaker gains when armed with the right tools.

Slower dramatic scenes, like conversations or environmental establishing sequences, typically require fewer cuts and are more visually predictable & easily shot. Action sequences, however, usually have much faster edits and more frantic camera movements… and require a very different directing approach. In the production of high-intensity animation projects –such as their work on Marvel’s “Captain America” or Disney’s “Tron: Evolution” games– the Pendulum team has gained a huge appreciation for the visual inspiration found in live on-set shot-framing, and the impact it’s had on their approach to cinematography and the storytelling process. The desire to facilitate and encourage this flexibility played a key role in the development of the studio’s virtual production pipeline, and helped fuel tough R&D decisions, like pursuing a truly wireless (untethered) camera system.

For PRIMAL, Pendulum used its vCam system to quickly “shoot” as many versions of each shot as desired, while the animated sequence repeatedly played back in Unreal; giving them plenty of “shot coverage” to choose from when editing the final piece. The simplicity of this process allowed them to easily & inexpensively capture different versions of the project’s pre-planned shots, while allowing a level of on-set spontaneity & experimentation that isn’t typically available or affordable in traditional 3D animation pipelines. The use of pre-recorded character mocap or, in the case of PRIMAL, pre-keyframed character animation is a method the studio often uses to increase the efficiency & flexibility of the camera capture process… though actor & camera capture can also occur simultaneously. As integration of virtual production techniques become more common in film, TV and game development, Pendulum is excited to be on the leading-edge of this industry-wide trend; pioneering the use of tools like Unreal and Crytek’s CryENGINE with the studio’s own virtual camera technology to bring a new level of flexibility, control and creativity to digital filmmaking!

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