HITS Spring: Epic’s Unreal Engine is the ‘Road to the Open Metaverse’

Epic Games is now incorporating its Unreal Engine more directly into not just post-production for visual effects but also the active filmmaking process, live broadcast and animation, according to David Morin, the company’s head of industry relations.

The Unreal Engine also serves as the “road to the open metaverse,” he said May 19 at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS), during the Virtual Production (VP) keynote “Introduction to Unreal Engine 5.”

Unreal 5 is a fully production-ready tool that Epic says has the best in-volume lighting engine to render in real-time the billions of polygons needed for photo-realistic imaging.

“Everything is centered on the Unreal Engine at Epic,” according to Morin, who noted that the engine been used to create games for third-party game companies as well as Epic itself, whose titles include Fortnite, an online game it released in 2017. Since its release, the title has attracted about 16 million concurrent users, close to 600 million accounts, and 2.5 billion friend connections, he said, adding the company releases frequent updates. The latest version has been running on Unreal 5 for about a month, he noted.

Epic views Fortnite as a “prototype of the metaverse,” he went on to tell attendees, noting the metaverse itself is not going to just be a game. “In Fortnite, we did a lot of things and we’re trying a lot of things that point to what the metaverse could be,” he said.

Key elements of what Epic views as what the metaverse should be, he said, include: it being a real-time, 3D social medium for engaging and sharing experiences; “openness” being “essential;” it having a strong social platform that Epic is trying to build parts of inside Fortnite; its structure will evolve from existing apps and technology, not a new design; it’s open for creators to participate in; and monetization will be through compelling content not ads.”

There will additionally be options to buy extra elements for the metaverse, such as the ability to play as a specific character, much like what exists now with video games, he said.

Unreal Engine can be used to create the metaverse, he noted, adding the engine has now been used in more than 300 film and TV projects. A lot of pre-visualization has been used.

“We call it virtual production but it applies to animation, visual effects, broadcast, live entertainment and specifically in-camera visual effects,” he told attendees. Epic has been using Unreal Engine for the latter application since SIGGRAPH 2019, where he noted the company presented a motorbike demo.

To view the entire presentation, click here.

The Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit event was produced by MESA in association with the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Media & Entertainment Data Center Alliance (MEDCA), presented by ICVR and sponsored by Genpact, MicroStrategy, Whip Media, Convergent Risks, Perforce, Richey May Technology Solutions, Signiant, Softtek, Bluescape, Databricks, KeyCode Media, Metal Toad, Shift, Zendesk, EIDR, Fortinet, Arch Platform Technologies and Amazon Studios.