How to make a movie in Unreal

This question demands some considerable breakdown, First of all, are we talking about a professional 3D Animated movie on the level of Pixar, or are we talking about adding a cutscene to your game with matinee? The distinction is important. It is perhaps unwise of me to skip over the professional grade movie-making tools so conveniently baked into the Unreal Engine 5, but I think the majority of this article will discuss how to build the professional grade stuff.

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Unreal 5 is equipped with all the features you need to make a realistic and complex 3D Animated Movie, in a similar fashion to Pixar.

What movies used Unreal engine?

For instance, The Mandalorian, was made largely in Unreal Engine, this allowed them to streamline a lot of usually complex and expensive technologies and the production of the movie went faster and cheaper than they would otherwise have. Unreal features a slew of technologies and plugins that make building movies in Unreal a viable option for big studios.

You can actually consider it a more economical option than the standard tools of the trade. Essentially you’d just be making one big gigantic cutscene. Cutscenes are standard throughout gaming, there are a thousand examples available in Unreal without even trying, but I think that’s not really what we’re going for here.

Is Unreal engine free for filmmakers?

Unreal Engine is free for all filmmakers or game designers. Until you earn your first million you don’t even pay 5%.

Unreal as a replacement for traditional MOCAP in live action movies

You can also use it in more traditional movies. You can use it as a total replacement for standard MOCAP technologies, you can cut down on the difficulty of the actor wearing said MOCAP technologies, overall, you can improve and streamline your movie production by leagues and bounds if you get good with Unreal Technology, it could literally save your company millions of dollars if applied properly. You would pay a fraction of that and get comparable results.

Another difference is the use of LED screens instead of greenscreens. Greenscreen technology is more expensive and complicated, and sometimes the actor will just prefer to be acting in front of a high quality LED screen environment, with everything fully visible, instead of a greenscreen where they can imagine how things would look when the work is done.

This helps with immersion, and makes it easier for the actor to feel like they have really been teleported to the location they are acting in. Usually a small modest setup is required for the actor to move around in, with LED screens surrounding it to fill in the rest of the scene.

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3D Mocap on an Indie Budget

Even with a more modest setup, if I used Character Creator 3 with iClone 7 and started buying some of the more expensive plugins, I think I could get a decent mocap system going for under 5000 dollars during a sale. It won’t exactly live up to a 500 million dollar Pixar monstrosity, but it is motion capture on an indie filmmaker’s budget, which is something you don’t see very often, but with Unreal, it becomes not just possible but soon commonplace. You will see people with discount motion capture rigs becoming more and more common, mark my words.

Realtime In-Camera VFX for Next-Gen Filmmaking

These realtime VFX sets for Unreal are really interesting. Instead of waiting for months to make changes to their 3D environments, the director and their staff can just make changes on the fly, whenever they want, through the use of Unreal, as if it was just another game scene, they can setup and create whatever environment they could possibly require and the actor will actually see it right there in front of them, as if they were really there. Just a few of the features on offer with this new suite of technologies Unreal is providing to movie makers.

But if 3D Animated Pixar Style movies are what your heart desires, then your task will be even easier. Just look above for what you’ll be capable of producing in Unreal with anything resembling a significant budget. You could make a whole movie like this with little to no difficulty, in terms of how much effort usually goes into a movie like this. You could really make that dream movie in Unreal, straight up you could do it at a fraction of the cost.

Checkout this official Epic Games post about Filmmaking in Unreal.

Wrapping up

There are lots of ways you can use Unreal 5 to make a movie, it is one of the core types of functionality offered by the Unreal Engine, and as this technology is getting better and better, and cheaper and cheaper, and eventually starting to outpace even professional grade multimillion dollar technologies, you’d be pretty foolish to overlook Unreal when making your next big movie.

Now for an indie moviemaker, the world is your oyster, you could invest 10k in a project that would make David Lynch blush, but I’m not really talking about you here.

Big time companies are starting to realize they can spend a lot less, and get way better results, faster, and more efficiently, and bring their vision to life in a way that gives them more control, more features, more functionality, and more immersion for their actors and staff, as they technologies improve the legacy dinosaur tech of yesteryear is beginning to really show it’s age.

Invest in a winner and at least check out Unreal technologies for your next movie, save money, get better results, faster, with more control, why not?

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