House of Moves

Lots of AAA game studios and indie game developers already appreciate the many benefits of the Unreal Engine. But the Unreal Engine's usefulness is not limited to creating games.

House of Moves has been a top-shelf motion-capture and animation house in L.A. for years. You can see their work in many blockbuster games, including Gears of War 3, Gears of War: Judgment, Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 & 2, Halo: Reach, and Dead Space 2 & 3, and even in major feature films, such as TRON: Legacy and Super 8.

A frame from House of Moves' Levoreact TV commercial, made with the Unreal Engine. House of Moves made even the backgrounds using Unreal, not matte paintings.

A few years ago, when House of Moves was approached to produce a massive, high-resolution, broadcast-quality project in a very short period of time, they turned to the UDK.

Peter Krygowski, Creative Director at House of Moves, explained, "When it came to choosing an engine, Unreal Engine 3 was the obvious choice. The UDK is free to download, the community and documentation are extensive and supportive, and most importantly, the software is user-friendly. It was easy to pick up."

More than just being easy to use, Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) gave House of Moves a lot of flexibility in making quick changes at various stages of their production pipeline. This led to speedier iterations and the ability to easily test out ideas on the fly, which greatly improved both productivity and quality.

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House of Moves was able to customize UE3 in some unusual ways. For example, at the beginning of the pipeline, for the motion-capture process itself, they wrote software to link Unreal to their internal tools built on top of Vicon's Blade 2 software, which meant that their mo-cap actors could move through an Unreal-generated environment in real time. This allowed directors to easily adjust previz (previsualization, a kind of visual prototyping), including changing camera angles, lighting, and effects, on the fly. 

At the end of the pipeline, House of Moves was able to make their footage frame-accurate by writing code to lock UE3's clock to whatever specific frame rate they wanted. This was essential for creating multiple passes of a shot that were perfectly synchronized. This synchronization was crucial not only for lip-syncing, but also for enabling directors to adjust foreground and background elements, play with alpha channels, experiment with different color palettes and color corrections, and try out various effects, which allowed for speedy iterations of creative experimentation.

While House of Moves customized UE3 to suit project needs, they also liked how easy it was to learn and work with the many toolsets included in UDK, such as Unreal Kismet and the Unreal Content Browser. Adam Lipens, Lead Unreal Tech at House of Moves, said, "When it comes to the toolsets, UDK offers a variety of easy to use and fluid systems, which greatly increased productivity and quality." They particularly appreciated the Content Browser, which kept assets organized and easily searchable, and Kismet, which enabled designers and artists to implement programming changes, such as creating dynamic weather effects triggered by characters' actions, without needing a programmer. "Kismet allowed us to create art and functionality in a very easy to understand format," said Adam.

House of Moves has more big plans up its sleeve when it comes to Unreal Engine projects. Jimmy Corvan, Business Development Manager, said, "We are planning to release more animated content rendered through our Unreal pipeline. That pipeline has shown us significant savings over a traditional animation pipeline, so we will definitely continue to develop and publish fully animated pieces through the Unreal Engine."

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