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The Heretic

Unity’s award-winning Demo team, the creators of Adam and Book of the Dead, is working on 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 is 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. HDRP is now a fully featured, production-ready working environment.

The cinematic look of The Heretic demo was achieved with the latest version of Unity’s post-processing features: motion blur, bloom, depth of field, film grain, color grading, and Panini projection. In Unity 2019.1, they have been upgraded to be more physically correct and are now deeply integrated with HDRP.

The Visual Effect Graph is used throughout the project for various effects, in order to achieve increased volumetric ambience and to augment existing code-driven VFX.

Extending Unity’s Lighting solutions

The Heretic is lit entirely by real-time lights. This meant super fast iteration for the artists, while maintaining a high quality bar and performance.

The Demo team is working on a probe-based lighting solution to solve use cases currently not covered. A first iteration of the new system solution was applied in the Megacity demo and is being extended for the full version of The Heretic.

Get early access to some of the latest Unity features in our 2019.1 beta.

2019.1 beta

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 any of the two techniques individually. The pipeline for the reconstruction of the digital human was completed by attaching the eyelashes, eyebrows, stubble and hair with the help of dedicated attachment tools. The shaders for skin, eyes, teeth, and hair are based on HDRP.

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.

Discover the technology behind “The Heretic”

In this session, recorded at GDC 2019, Unity Evangelist Andy Touch shares insights into how the team used the latest features in the High-Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), with powerful customizations enabled by the Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP), to showcase how Unity can power the high-end visuals in The Heretic.

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

© 2019 Unity Technologies ApS

“The Heretic” in the press

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