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EPIC Diaries: Muvizu movies with Unreal

Glasgow-based Digital Animations Group recently released the public alpha of Muvizu 3D, a new animation package powered by Unreal Engine 3 that lets users of all skill sets create 3D animations with no experience required.

The Muvizu application includes all the assets and tools needed to create 3D movies and is available for free download from www.muvizu.com. This portal enables users to collaborate on film, audio and drama projects with easy-to-use tools and viewable results.

“We chose Unreal Engine 3 because it is proven technology with an excellent support network,” says Vince Ryan, managing director of the consumer unit at DA Group. “Furthermore, the engine accepts assets created in Maya, and this will lower the barrier to entry for our users when everyone will eventually be able to submit their own creations for others to use within the Muvizu community.”

The philosophy of Muvizu 3D is for content creators to put less energy into animating characters and more into directing them onscreen. The goal is to foster collaborative filmmaking by uniting people with contrasting skills through Muvizu’s virtual workspace and storyboarding capabilities.
During Muvizu’s development, DA Group relied heavily on Unreal Engine 3 for rendering, physics and scripting.

“The power of the scripting system allows code to be developed much more rapidly than if the entire engine was in C++,” says DA Group’s lead developer, Robert McMillan.

McMillan explains how his team came to work with Epic and ramp up to hit tight production deadlines by leveraging the Unreal Developer Network. “In the early days, we had been in touch with Epic about using Unreal for another project that never went ahead. We’d had discussions with Mark Rein, who even came to visit our office. We didn’t know what to expect, but the help and assistance was really good. Epic was flexible with us while the licence was negotiated.

“In terms of the software, we got more than we expected,” he continues. “We found through UDN that people have been building add-ons for the engine for awhile. Technology integrations for features such as animation blending systems and UI tools are available, so UDN saved us from having to do this type of integration work ourselves. There is definitely a feeling of community, and it’s dedicated, patient and helpful beyond the call of duty. Without UDN, we would probably have had to delay our launch for many months.”

Ryan is also impressed by how helpful the community of fellow Unreal developers was. “We had expected a professional relationship with Epic, but not much more at first,” says Ryan. “The reality, however, was far better. We were encouraged and supported all the way by Epic. Nothing was too much trouble, and UDN seems to almost harbour a collegiate relationship. Truly remarkable and very helpful. It was nice to discover that, despite us being a minnow compared with other licensees, we were still accorded first-rate and friendly service.”

“The level of support and information that is available from UDN is incredible – with access to guys at Epic who know the engine inside out,” says McMillan. “I’m so glad we’re with Epic, and I really don’t think we would be in the position we are right now had we not made this choice.”

Now that Muvizu 3D is available to the public, DA Group is working with its growing user community to create the most ingenious projects for all to enjoy. The studio is launching a competition that will award a high-end hardware prize to the best video created with Muvizu 3D, and the excitement will only grow as more creative types try out the application.

To discuss anything raised in this column or general licensing opportunities
for Epic Games’ Unreal engine, contact: mrein@epicgames.com.

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