Diving into a fantastical miniature world of fairies, Brave Creatures is a short film created by Academy Award-winner Adam Valdez with VFX support from MPC. The piece was produced by Valdez, funded by the Epic MegaGrant, and crafted by teams at MPC and Epic. As an award-winning VFX Supervisor, Adam has overseen the visual effects and animation for projects such as The Lion King, Maleficent and The Jungle Book and directed episodes of Apple TV+ acclaimed dinosaur series, Prehistoric Planet. For Brave Creatures, Valdez and a team at MPC used some of the latest technologies at the forefront of VFX production, including Unreal Engine 5, Megascans, MetaHumans and Path Tracer.
You can watch the full short film here.
Adam approached the project with a creative’s mindset: “for a long time I wanted to make work that is visually rich but has an animated feel. The story of these characters depends on danger and so a somewhat realistic look helps that. At the same time, it should be fun and a little pushed in performance, camera and cutting style. What I love about animation is seeing how all the shots and moments are coming together in editorial, and then reacting and plussing them.” In Brave Creatures, we follow a young fairy, Aja, on her journey to stop impending war by following a mysterious source that calls to her. Along the way, we discover huge birds, towering trees and flowers, thorny branches, soft mosses, and find some unexpected help.
Creating a tiny, enchanting world required the team at MPC to turn to the Unreal Engine ecosystem, using Megascans, MetaHuman rigs, and UE5 as a collective force to bring Aja’s story to life. MPC Animation Supervisor, Eduardo Castells, notes, “Epic has put together a fantastic ecosystem, with Unreal Engine 5 at its heart and then, Megascans, MetaHumans and the amazing Path Tracer technologies, all working together towards the common goal of creating unbelievably stunning images to serve Adam Valdez’s story.”
To create the beautiful full CG environments of Brave Creatures, Valdez and MPC’s artists harnessed Megascans, an ever-evolving library of 3D scanned assets that the team had become well acquainted with during the production of several other projects. Megascans allows a way to quickly craft realistic 3D environments using thousands of 3D assets, tileable surfaces, vegetation, imperfections, atlases, decals and much more, from urban to natural that only need minor tweaks to fit the look and feel of a project.
Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) allowed the team to use a virtual production workflow and receive real-time feedback. UE5’s Sequencer allows producers to continuously create and then preview their 3D work and cinematic sequence look in real-time, while the Path Tracer, a progressive, hardware-accelerated rendering mode, allowed for the perfect depth-of-field, motion blurs, wing shimmers, and even facial expressions. Castells comments that “the project was a great opportunity for the Team to delve deep into Unreal Engine workflows. Path Tracer, as a render engine, is definitely a great leap forward compared to its predecessor, and it allowed us to push the software even further, going from the more usual game cinematic looks to something aesthetically different.”
The character’s themselves were developed using MetaHuman rigs, a complete framework that gives any creator the power to create realistic characters in any way imaginable. Since the team’s models were already locked, they started by porting the topography over to the MetaHuman shapes, making the process of creating the characters incredibly efficient. Castells adds that “MetaHumans provided the vesatility we needed to animate the expressions of these little characters and bring out their different personalities accross the shots.”
The end result of the talent and technology coming together is the magical piece that is Brave Creatures. Valdez said, “It’s been great to crack into these coalescing technologies with the team at MPC. The real-time feedback, sophisticated rigs and creative workflow make a computer graphics unit closer to a live action unit in terms of collaboration. You can see where you’re going, and it’s really additive. You discover things, and then you refine things, all within the same platform and with a fun team dynamic.”
To learn more about MPC and their award-winning VFX work, visit mpcvfx.com.
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Moving Picture Company (MPC) is a global creative studio with a single goal, to make any vision a reality. With decades of storytelling experience, MPC pushes the limits of what is technologically and artistically possible to tell visually stunning stories. MPC continues to lead in an ever-evolving industry, building authentic and long-lasting connections with audiences across all channels.
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