NantStudios and Impossible Objects have launched a new demo film for Polestar, a fully electric car company, which was built entirely in Unreal Engine to showcase the limitless potential and capabilities of virtual production.
Impossible Objects is a new world-building lab that utilizes virtual production to tell branded and original stories and enables filmmakers to manifest original stories unrestricted by creative limitations. NantStudios is a full-service virtual production company specializing in LED stage build outs, virtual art creation and onset operations.
As it opens, the film’s heroine approaches a Polestar 2 vehicle set against a subdued urban landscape in the pre-dawn hours. Driving through the unencumbered city streets amidst towering skyscrapers and across expansive bridges, we travel from metropolis to hinterland as we witness sunlight craft shadow and reflection across the Polestar’s sleek design.
As she drives, the camera captures intimate closeups of the heroine’s serene experience until she reaches her destination – a sprawling, majestic northern mountainscape. The heroine steps out and watches with bliss as the sun rises over the mountains.
Here’s the catch: none of the buildings, mountains, or landscapes “traveled to” in the demo were real or shot using green screen. Watch below:
By building real-time virtual environments in Unreal Engine and then shooting talent and vehicles on NantStudios’ LED stages as ICVFX (in-camera visual effects), Impossible Objects and NantStudios provide the best virtual production has to offer, producing live-action content that can travel to virtually any environment or world imaginable without booking a plane ticket.
“With virtual production, you control the whole big picture,” says Joe Sill, Founder and Director at Impossible Objects. “Light, environment, movement – your creative paintbrush is more infinite than ever before. And by using Unreal Engine, one can add, shape, or lose a mountain within the blink of an eye and travel from New York to LA to Iceland all within a single production day.”
Virtual production and real-time rendering are powerful new tools for creating cinematic visual effects. In a traditional CGI animated film, one would typically have to spend days, if not weeks, rendering material to achieve acceptable quality.
By contrast, Unreal Engine offers creators full flexibility to adjust environments in real-time to match the exact vision of the director. Its real-time and ray-traced rendering of final imagery is an extremely fast and efficient workflow, allowing Impossible Objects’ artists to achieve near photo-accurate lighting as one would on a live-action set, but with more time and flexibility to explore new creative possibilities and directions.
By enhancing on-the-day efficiencies, virtual production enables the production to cycle through environments in a matter of minutes at any time of the day. And, with the ability to capture an actor’s performance from anywhere in the world and bring it into an infinite number of virtual environments, the possibilities are endless.
“A notable benefit with ICVFX is the onset efficiency. We’ve seen projects shoot as many as four different celebrities, environments, and practical sets in one 12-hour day,” says NantStudios Senior Director of Operations Keaton Heinrichs. “Since it’s possible to create bespoke worlds that are project-specific through Unreal Engine, 3D real-time environments can be custom-made for a client and recycled for multiple different vehicle models, over the life of seasonal campaigns or during reshoots. What might have been accomplished over two to three days can be achieved in a single shoot day.”
The teams of Impossible Objects and NantStudios mutually envision the future of automotive production as a hybrid between LED in-camera visuals and CG exterior shots. “Unreal Engine gives you the power to create environments exactly the way you envision them,” says NantStudios Head of Production, Chris Williams. “The ability to add lighting and color to any landscape where there might not traditionally be any creates a more compelling aesthetic for vehicles and brands. Traditional production concerns like permits, airline travel, hotels, generators, and weather are no longer a concern or roadblocks to be managed when trying to find that perfect setting.”
“This demo film for Polestar represents a very fresh and novel new workflow that we believe is the future of how films can be made,” says Sill. “There’s no need to wait for golden hour to capture that perfect half-hour of sunlight. You’re really able to expand your creative ambition and reach for bigger ideas, and see the results in real-time.”