From Fortnite to Star Wars: Realtime VFX are Changing the Game

From Fortnite to Star Wars: Realtime VFX are Changing the Game

January 14, 2022
Logan Leavitt

Realtime VFX are changing the game; quite literally.

One of the truest pleasures (and sometimes pains) of the visual effects industry is how coupled we are with technology. From dedicated Flame compositing machines to the latest version of Fusion, the development of the artform runs parallel to the development of technology. 

In the modern era, it is even more so the case that as this needle of innovation moves the industry follows. So what’s the next big thing? There’s a strong case for realtime fx. You’ve seen it, you’ve heard about it, here’s how it's changing the game.

ILM, StageCraft, Unreal Engine

When a piece of work brings something new to the table, it stays in the conversation for a long time. Though the streamable content calendar has long moved past The Mandalorian, the now-beloved bounty hunter tale continues to be analyzed for its incredible visuals.

More specifically, ILM’s StageCraft stole the show. This innovation story is often about the screens themselves used for StageCraft—a massive semi-circular LED wall—but the meat and potatoes come from the real-time rendering that goes down under the hood. 

Created using Unreal Engine, this virtual production provides an entirely new level of fidelity and control. Environments froze in time, infinite set pieces which can be swapped in and out seamlessly, accurate environmental lighting—this flexibility is the promise of realtime.

It’s not the first time that ILM has taken a step towards realtime either, with Rogue One’s snarky sidekick K2SO being touted as a realtime-rendered character during the film’s release.

StageCraft is intriguing because of the gravity of the paradigm shift. For many years, the simple question of altered backgrounds has been core to VFX for filmmaking and we’ve tried all we have from rear-projection to matte paintings with incredible detail.

Through it all, we’ve used greenscreens for nearly 80 years, but if there’s anything ILM has a track record for, it’s knowing when it’s time to take the next leap in tech advancement. StageCraft will be a hot topic for years to come.

Realtime Stock Footage

As a stock footage company in the space, we’re always looking for new ways to innovate and stay at the forefront of what's coming next. For the realtime revolution, this starts with the core business.

Earlier this month, we announced our collaboration with Undertone FX to create realtime game-engine-ready stock assets.
Assets curated for game engine use are truly the assets of the future. Whether it's Unreal Engine or any of the other options in the space, realtime flexibility and control will be a must for visual storytellers as we continue to break new ground and bring low-cost high-value additions to your creative toolkit. 

Ultimately, the application of these assets is as free as your imagination takes them. With the continuous growth of realtime software, a simple fire and smoke combo could be used just as easily for an indie game cutscene as it could be for ILM’s high-budget production tech. 

And yes, we started with some good fire and smoke, it’s only natural. As realtime continues to grow, we’ll expand collections and add new assets, so get a head start and get in the engine with these new assets. 

Video Games as Visual Storytelling

Amidst the buzzwords, new products, and revolutions in how we work one thing is certain: the many mediums of visual storytelling are colliding. Skills and programs have always been shared with our cousins over in the game world but as time goes on we’re becoming even closer.

In the last decade, Epic Games has shaken the world with Unreal Engine, all the same, they have with Fortnite itself. It’s not just the advancements in render technology either—the very mixed bag of internet entertainment blurs lines at every opportunity and the culture follows.

In the news right now are several smash-hit video game story adaptations and a groundbreaking Unreal Engine experience for the new Matrix film. It’s truly a melting pot of mediums, platforms, and a whole lot of synthesis. 

As entertainment continues to evolve, realtime fx will be a toolset of growing importance. VR, AR, games, and, dare I say, the metaverse all run realtime and film is following.

You’re not too late to jump in and, as an artist in the digital world, we’ll always be upgrading our tools. Just this month, our friends at The Foundry released Nuke 13.1 which includes an all-new UnrealReader node and it's a perfect place to start.
The programs can be learned and tutorials can be made, however, but the best thing to develop in this time of great change is your mind as an artist. Get in VR, get in Unreal Engine, get realtime, and keep creating!

Want to get started in Realtime? Check out our Ultimate Fire collection, available now on the Unreal Engine store.

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