Unity’s award-winning Demo team, the creators of Adam and Book of the Dead, created a new short film called The Heretic. It’s a real-time cinematic running at 30 fps at 1440p on a consumer-class desktop PC. The first part of the project was revealed at GDC 2019.Watch The Heretic GDC reveal
Visual quality out of the box
The Heretic uses a broad range of Unity’s graphics features, including every possible aspect of the High-Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP). In 2019, it’s possible to achieve close to cinematic visuals in real-time with the help of Unity’s built-in area lights, high-quality shadows, volumetrics, reflections, advanced materials and more.
The cinematic look of The Heretic demo was achieved with the latest version of Unity’s post-processing features integrated in HDRP: motion blur, bloom, depth of field, film grain, color grading, and Panini projection.
HDRP is coming out of preview and will be production-ready in Unity 2019.3, coming out later this year.
Real-time VFX workflows in The Heretic
The production team used Visual Effect Graph throughout the project for various effects, in order to achieve increased volumetric ambience and to augment existing code-driven VFX.
At Unite Copenhagen, Adrian Lazar and Andy Touch explained how the team created a character in the second part of The Heretic using the Visual Effect Graph. By creating the simulation with GPU particles, the team’s artists can change the shape, gender, appearance, and behavior of the character. They can then immediately see what the adjustments look like in the final frame, as the particles conform to the artist’s actions in real time.Learn more about the Visual Effect Graph
Taking on the challenge of creating a realistic digital human
One of the biggest artistic and technical challenges is creating photorealistic, animated humans. The Heretic is Unity’s first attempt to tackle this, and is scoped very conservatively with the primary purpose to establish a pipeline and a bar of quality.
The Demo team’s pipeline combines 3D and 4D scanning in order to obtain both a high-quality set of textures and poses, and believable, realistic movement. It is based on the services of commercially available vendors: Infinite Realities for the high-quality scanning, Russian 3D Scanner for highly accurate data pre-processing, and Snappers for facial rigging.
The 4D scanned data, which preserves the realism of the actor’s performance, is supplemented by bringing back the micro surface details, wrinkles, pores, etc., obtained through the 3D scanning. This approach gives better results than using the two techniques individually. We completed the pipeline for the reconstruction of the digital human by attaching the eyelashes, eyebrows, stubble, and hair with the help of dedicated attachment tools. The Demo team is preparing a package with the tech and shaders used for the digital human in the film so you will be able to use them in your own projects.
HDRP now ships with built-in Shader Graph master nodes for hair, eye, and fabric. The eyes master node allows us to have realistic human eyes, with caustics and refraction. The team used the hair master node for the stubble and eyelashes of the protagonist character.
Discover the technology behind “The Heretic”
At Unite Copenhagen 2019, Unity evangelist Mark Schoennagel showed how exactly features such as HDRP, post-processing, and the VFX Graph enabled the team to create realistic particle simulations, procedurally-generated characters, and other real-time effects. He also explains how the warp transition between the corridor environment and the cave environment works.Watch now
Our Demo team has produced many visually strong and narratively compelling demos in high fidelity that show our continuous advancements in real-time rendering. They have won two Webby Awards and receive much recognition at film festivals and online.
Book of the Dead (2018)
This is a first-person interactive demo created by the Unity Demo team and rendered in real-time. It showcases the capabilities of Unity 2018 for powering high-end visuals for game productions.
The Neon environment uses only Asset Store models. It was created with Unity 2017.1, the Post-Processing Stack v1, and Volumetric lighting packages.
About Unity’s Demo productions
The Demo team’s productions drive advanced use of Unity through autonomous creative projects. The team consists of experienced game professionals led by Creative Director Veselin Efremov, who writes and directs the demos and is responsible for their final look.
Focusing on graphics, the team explores and pushes the limits of what is possible with Unity. They are willing and able to take the risk – and absorb the pain – of basing entire productions at the bleeding edge of technological innovation.
Writer, Director, DP
Lasse Jon Fuglsang Pedersen
Animation Director, Tech Animation Lead
Character Art, Simulations
Plamen ‘Paco’ Tamnev
Environment Art Lead
Additional VFX Art
Scanned Environment Assets
Anders Brogaard Jepsen
Camera motion capture, Color Grading
3D and 4D scanning
4D data pre-processing
Advanced Facial Rig
Unity Technologies R&D
Sebastien Lagarde, Thomas Hourdel, Kuba Cupisz, Jesper Mortensen, Tim Cooper, Yibing Jiang, Marie Fétiveau, Jean Blouin, Julien Fryer, Paul Demeulenaere, Sean Thompson, Rune Stubbe, Julien Ignace, Francesco Cifariello Ciardi
Special thanks to Natasha Tatarchuk
© 2020 Unity Technologies ApS
“The Heretic” in the press
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Unity Engine showcases one of the most impressive real-time demos we’ve seen, called The Heretic
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