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The Heretic

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

Previous demos

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.

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.


Demo Team

Writer, Director, DP

Veselin Efremov


Silvia Rasheva

Technical Director

Robert Cupisz

Senior Programmer

Torbjorn Laedre
Lasse Jon Fuglsang Pedersen

Art Director

Georgi Simeonov

Animation Director, Tech Animation Lead

Krasimir Nechevski

Character Art, Simulations

Plamen ‘Paco’ Tamnev

Environment Art Lead

Julien Heijmans


Robert Cupisz
Cyril Jover
Vladimir Neykov

Additional VFX Art

Adrian Lazar


Zdravko Pavlov

Systems Programmer

Malte Hildingsson

Junior Programmer

Dominykas Kiauleikis



Jake Fairbrother

Additional Art

Sound Designer

Aleksander Karshikoff

Music Composer

Fredrik Emilson

Environment Art

Treehouse Ninjas

Scanned Environment Assets


Audio Production

Pole Position

Motion Capture

Aneta Spasova

Additional Animation

Aneta Spasova
Hugo Garcia
Anders Brogaard Jepsen
Christian Kardach


Nikolay Toshev

Camera motion capture, Color Grading

Mihail Moskov

Casting agency

Side UK


Frederik Bjerre-Hyldgaard


Nicholas Brancaccio

3D and 4D scanning

Infinite Realities

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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