It’s Thursday and I’ve set aside today to do some experimentation with Epic Games Unreal Engines new metahuman creation tool – a new tool that will empower anyone with some basic Unreal Engine skills to create a bespoke photorealistic digital human, fully rigged and complete with hair and clothing, in a matter of minutes.
As an avid photographer and videographer, the Unreal Engine enables me to create realistic 3D virtual environments and, combined with their cinematic tools, to control virtual camera and lighting as if in my physical studio – e.g. from camera choice and lens to aperture and shutter speed. I can set the bokeh shape, vignettes, colour temperature and a heap of post-production capabilities (that I’ve yet to explore fully).
Following are a few shots I took today with my virtual metamodel “Hadley” in the virtual pub I created this year for my weekly Naked Punt Footy Show (my virtual production sandbox project).
Note: The lighting is from virtual stage lighting setup to replicate the physical lights I have in my physical studio. On my todo list is adding DMX lighting control into the virtual set to control the physical studio lights on the model/ presenter.
Simply bloody WOW – the skin tones are so good and notice the catchlight in her eyes. The hair is simply amazing. Note: I’m going to experiment with video creation and add things like wind and water later.
Nothing in this shot is real. If you look closely you can see the weave in the jumper Hadley is wearing. The fashion opportunities are very interesting to explore.
Note: I’m thinking this may be the next area I explore and add to my research list.
The final shot is putting my portrait photography hat back on – beautiful black and white with a very wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field.
In summary, simply amazing. From a commercial perspective – will this disrupt the modelling, photographic and film production industry – YES! From product development and marketing perspectives? Yes – I think so.
3:41AM – I sit here at my keyboard about to go through last nights show – to see what worked and what didn’t..
Each week, there’s the process of constant improvement – elements either in front of the camera or behind the scenes. There’s nothing unique in this post-event activity – we all do it in some way at some time, whether that’s a sporting or musical performance; a business review; an event debrief or maybe a bug report of a new software release.
This blog is part of my review process – the benefits of a weekly live show is the ability to implement changes and test week by week – the negative being that major changes (such as the new virtual set have to be done in the off-season when there is more time to fail and learn big.
1. – Added a virtual showroom level above the pub/ studio to the set. Livestream viewers only saw this for about 10 seconds before we cut into the show introduction (these scenes trimmed from the replay). This level created as another example of native content advertising for the new Naked Punt commercialisation presentation, that I’ve been working on over the last week. The Commercial Proposal is in the final revision stage and plans to get into the market next week.
Gamification and Storytelling – adding clues.
2. Each week other elements are also thrown in – the crate on the back of the ute; the sports car in the alleyway – the Easter eggs on the desk – either as props to add the show theme, product placement or clues for something later.
Within this idea of something later, there are gamification and storytelling components that I’m beginning to play and evolve as part of the production process and customer/ viewer experience. eg The AFS Group security guard on the door is called “Cooper”.
New Decal capabilities
Unreal Engine Ultra Dynamic Sky and Weather System
Added Ultra Dynamic Sky – a real-time weather system including sound effects to the scene. This worked really well (except for rain coming into the studio at times and water running down the walls). (note to self: make sure windows are shut upstairs and add a roof to the building)
Implemented Zoom Guests via NDI
Rugby League Parramatta Eels blue (and gold) blood, talented muso & Instagram funny man Eric Grothe Jnr joined us live via Zoom to talk footy, music, fashion, dogs & social media madness.
This week (and beyond)
It’s a short week for Easter and I’ve meetings in the City on Tuesday so preparation for this week’s show will be minimal. Technically I want to look at how to trigger a camera motion sequence.
Other items are
NDI Broadcast of different cameras
Playing a website (online viewer chat) onto one of the TV’s within the set
Updating digital signage – eg Naked Punt neon sign
Skeletal mesh animation
Adding a jukebox into the scene for backing music and segment crosses (alternatively this may be best done over on the video switch computer)
It’s 3 AM and very quiet – great creative thinking time for ideation.
Now the studio is technically at a level I’m happy (for now) it’s time to get back working on the commercial side of things.
Before I put pen to paper and start to mind-map out the problem I can hear the voice of my marketing professor echoing in the distance – the need to have a market-orientated approach followed by research and segmentation, before any of the other shiny marketing branding and communications stuff.
With every new project there’s the question of “where do you start?” – metaphorically I think of it as a wide level landscape.
With the customer at the centre (that’s the circle in the image above), it’s finding out what problems do they have, how do we provide a solution and what are the customer benefits? The aim of this process to explore possibilities and then develop a clearer focus and plan.
Marketing Professor Mark Ritson resonates again in my head again “Researching and developing your customer segmentation is key to then creating the strategy and downstream tactical communications”
The next few hours of brainstorming or ideation I break down my potential customers based upon the answers we’d like to know – it’s like a large mixing bowl of spaghetti – every idea or thought like a strand of pasta coming from different angles and intertwined.
Like making a great spag-bog there’s no one way to best – it’s a matter of the ingredients and skills – the understanding that with every project or business there are thousands of different ways to the destination.
The question is – what is the most effective way to achieve the objective?
A few more hours, then suddenly 💡 – the light-bulb moment! I ring an old business partner to quickly test the hypothesis – she gets it – she loves it – it makes sense – it leverages strengths – it’s easy to understand.
Very quickly I can see how to tie in all the loose spaghetti strands into the idea.
Now to get it from paper onto the computer and test it out?