by John Gaudiosi
LOS ANGELES—Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 technology is grabbing the attention of Hollywood producers. Once Warner Bros. Television's "Chadam" project, a 10-part, short form Internet series produced by HDFilms, appears online, Jace Hall, former game developer, Hollywood executive and technology expert believes the floodgates could open for more entertainment business.
"The bottom line is that generally speaking, for every dollar you spend on 3D you're going to get a better result out of the Unreal Engine 3 than you would from a standard package like Maya up to a certain point," said Hall, founder of HDFilms. "There's this area where if you are given $US 5,000 to make animation using UE3 where it will be better than what you'd get out of giving the same amount of money to Pixar to use Maya. You'd get maybe a texture. We're not trying to set a new bar for 3D, we'll leave that to the films that come out and spend $US 100 million. But we will bring the best 3D yet seen in short form online entertainment." Hall and his small team of creators are laying the groundwork for what he believes will be a new way for other shows to be made. "Chadam" is the beginning of a new franchise, which could lead to other UE3 projects.
"If we successfully tell this story and it's enjoyed by people, we'll potentially be able to increase the budget and re-use the production pathways that we've created and really push the engine as far as it can go and maybe create a longer-form 3D film like a direct-to-DVD or something like that," said Hall.
Since the team is working within a videogame format, that gives them an advantage should Alex Pardee's "Chadam" migrate to gaming.
"Having all of your assets game-ready lends itself towards moving toward the game medium," said Hall. "There are some constraints because when we do render this series, we don't have to produce 60 frames per second in real-time. We'll be able to create scenes that generally wouldn't work on Xbox 360. We can construct an elaborate room that has nothing behind it. But at least we're starting with something that we know will work inside the engine and we can move forward from this when working on games."
Hall said the look of "Chadam" is only limited by its budget.
"You can't expect cinematic quality of 3D movies that are coming out today with $100 million budgets," said Hall. "You can expect a quality level that's on par with some of the more common Unreal videogames that you've seen. We're not selling this show on graphics."
As a former game creator and founder of Monolith, Hall said "Chadam" will combine the best of the game and Hollywood creative worlds.
"Part of this is a little avant gard because you're going to get a hybrid of game production and television production," said Hall. "Typically, with a game you'll capture all of your animations and then inside the Unreal Engine you'll have a character play the animation but you'll map out the pathway of him walking down the hall. In movies, you capture the entire scene with him walking down the hall and you play the whole thing in one big chunk. There's no discreet break-up like in games, which require flexibility for interactivity. The balance we're trying to do is when does it make sense to do it like a game and when does it make sense to do it like a film? We have to figure all of that out and once it's figured out it will help with future shows."
Once this new process is established, not only will additional "Chadam" opportunities arise, but HDFilms will be able to explore other entertainment ideas utilising this new technology.
"Chadam" creator Pardee had his original plan of bringing his hero to Hollywood squashed because of technology constraints.
"Alex had always envisioned telling this story via live action," said Hall. "The problem with that is because of the nature of the content, it'd be very expensive to shoot and have it feel authentic. In some parts of his world there are fronts without backs, lefts without rights. That's difficult to shoot. When we brought Unreal Engine 3 to him, the limitation became our own imagination rather than the physicality of the camera. We can do camera movements that replicate what's done in the real world, while depicting things that could never been done in the real world."
Gamers will be able to explore the world of "Chadam" in multiple formats over the coming years.