Real-Time Animation Workflows: A New Paradigm for Production

As animators, we’re always looking for faster, more efficient ways to get the job done, and also for resources that help us experiment and be more creative. Whether you’re working on games, educational content, films, TV series, or personal projects, it’s always great to find a new tool that gives you more options while reducing tweaks and do-overs.

Over the past few years, Epic Games has been hard at work making upgrades to its signature software, Unreal Engine, to make it far more than just a game engine. Its real-time rendering capabilities not only provide instant feedback on a sequence, but also facilitate remote collaboration for story review sessions.

Animators and creative directors at a number of studios, both large and small, are now using Unreal Engine as their primary production tool for everything from broadcast series to in-house projects. In the latest episode of Epic Games’ video series The Pulse, Real-time Animation: Unlocking Story and Style, you can hear directly from many of these creatives.

Yuki 7 is a Chromosphere production

Another recent addition to the Epic Games suite of tools is MetaHuman Creator, a tool for quickly creating high-quality digital humans complete with rigs.

Image courtesy of Aaron Sims Creative

Image courtesy of Epic Games

Animation teams using Unreal Engine cite real-time review as one of its biggest benefits. The ability to see the entire sequence at any time means everyone—including the director, animators, lighters, and visual effects artists—can see how the project is shaping up. Want to try a different camera angle for a particular scene, or test a lighting setup? You can see the result in just a few minutes. Review sessions are transformed from verbal discussions with long waits to see changes, to interactive tests that invite the entire team to experiment.

Such interactive sessions naturally lead to better storytelling, and higher satisfaction for the entire team. Instead of waiting several weeks to see the result (and crossing your fingers that it will all work out), you can see the project shaping up before your eyes, and can tweak and adjust it to perfection.

Image courtesy of Aaron Sims Creative

Learning a Real-Time Animation Workflow

While mastering a new tool can be daunting, Epic has also put together a number of free resources for learning how to animate in the engine.

Many artists like the flexibility of animating in engine by placing keyframes in the Sequencer. When your animation needs are too complex for keyframes, animators can define controls and triggers with Blueprint scripts that eliminate the need for programming. For character animation, the Control Rig feature gives you greater in-engine control over character animation than ever before.

Image courtesy of Epic Games

You can also import animation from your 3D software of choice via the FBX file format, or bring in a mocap file, whether by loading the file directly or using the Live Link plugin to bring in live data as it’s recorded. Your choice of method depends on which one gets you where you want to go, and which one does it the most efficiently.

Image courtesy of Epic Games

To help you get the most out of the animation tools and processes in Unreal Engine, here’s a tour of some of Epic’s most popular training materials.

Getting Started

Just starting out with animation in Unreal Engine? Check out these resources to jumpstart your knowledge.

Advanced Learning

Once you have the basics of animating in Unreal Engine, take your skills to the next level with these resources.

Unreal Engine 5 Sneak Peek

Epic Games’ suite of animation tools will continue to evolve in Unreal Engine 5. Check out these articles and videos that explore these features.

One of the best things about Unreal Engine is that it’s free to download. Get it today, and start exploring the exciting world of real-time animation.

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