From Animation Magazine, issue #272 (August-September 2017) comes an interview with Michael Hefferon and Steven Elford. The article, “A Whole New Game” by Tom McLean, describes how Rainmaker is utilizing the Unreal Engine to create the new series. In the article are three never before seen promotional images. Unfortunately they are not of the highest quality. If I can obtain a physical copy of the magazine, I will update this post accordingly.

(Click for full-size. Appears very Power Ranger-esque.)

(Click for full-size. The cyber world appears to resemble circuitry, a marked difference than the deception of systems as cities in the original series.)

(Click for full-size. Vector/Austin leading the team.)

(Click for full-size. Or the the “Continue Reading” link for the article in plain-text.)

ReBoot was one of the most innovative and popular animated series of the 1990s, being one of the first to bring CG animation to TV. Now, Rainmaker is bringing back the popular series and once again pushing the envelope when it comes to technical innovation by using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to make the upcoming series ReBoot: The Guardian Code.

The Vancouver-based Rainmaker produced the original series, which aired from 1994 to 2001, and has several times attempted to bring it back. The current version — in production now for an expected 2018 launch — got started in 2013 shortly after the hiring of president and chief creative officer Michael Hefferon, whose idea was to take the inspirational and aspirational example of the original series to come up with a version that would work with today’s audiences.

“It was maybe the first-ever CG animated series for TV, in 1994, and it was based on a concept that worked back in those days,” says Hefferon. “Computing was limiting, you had mainframe computers and even the internet was kind of limiting back then.”

ReBoot: The Guardian Code evolved based on today’s world of apps, constant connection and cyber attacks into a tale of four heroic kids with the ability to enter cyberspace and defend it from various threats like the Sorcerer and, in a blast from the past, Megabyte.

The real-world elements are done in live action, with the cyberspace elements animated using a pipeline that incorporates animation from Maya with world building that uses the Unreal Engine to quickly create a vast and stylish setting for the series to play out against.

The Maya pipeline is used for modeling, human and environment; rigging; layout and animation. The result is then imported to the Unreal Engine for what Rainmaker calls world construction; surfacing; A.I. animation elements; effects; lighting; and rendering, including the ability to output to 4K resolution.

In Constant Motion

“The cool thing about Unreal is our ability to constantly have things moving,”: says Hefferon. “So our locations can constantly have elements to them that move, float and it gives us a great vastness for the size and scale of the worlds that we create.”

Rainmaker/Mainframe VP Creative Technology Steven Elford, a self-described avid gamer, says the idea of using a game engine for animation was something he’d wanted to investigate for a long time. The enthusiasm of the people at Epic Games helped him make the idea into reality, he says.

“People tried to shoehorn the game engine into their pipeline and make it behave the way traditional rendering would behave,”: says Elford. “We knew very early on we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to keep as many departments untouched as possible, so we could get up and running as soon as possible.”

Unreal’s primary advantage is its speed, Hefferon says.

“Some of these shots could have taken three to 13 hours to do in a traditional pipeline, per frame,” he says. “The game engine, because of the GPU versus CPU rendering, allows us to render frames in seconds, some in real time, and maybe there’s a few shots that take minutes per frame. But in most cases, we’re talking seconds per frame.”

It also offers global illumination for real-time lighting and allows the show to incorporate A.I. elements, which are used to create, for example, a large number of swarming digital locusts in one episode.
The redesigned pipeline made some changes to the typical layout. While there was no longer a need for a compositing team, it was offset by the addition of a world building team, Elford says.
And, in a twist that’s perfect for the content, the Unreal Engine allows Rainmaker to generate VR environments from its sets, allowing kids to immerse themselves completely in the show via a tablet or smart-phone-enabled system such as Google Card-board.

“It brings a different bar to some of the visualizations we can do on screen,”: says Hefferon.

November 4th, 2017 at 4:16 pm


You must be logged in to post a comment.