Unreal Engine ‘Shorts India Program’ celebrates the creativity of Indian storytellers


Unreal Engine by Epic Games, the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool, today announced the winners of its ‘Shorts India Program’, successfully concluding its inaugural edition in India. To celebrate and inspire creativity using real-time engine concepts, the three-month program was designed to train Indian VFX creators and animators using cutting-edge tools such as the Metahuman creator, Quixel, and more.

This allowed studios to set up production pipelines using Unreal Engine which enabled the artists and the production crew to work remotely. Technicolor studio for their film ‘Devmasa’ emerged as the winner with Holocraft for ‘Karu’ and Manhole Collective- IIT Bombay for ‘Manhole’ as the two runner ups of the Short Film Program.

The industry-first initiative showcased Unreal Engine’s animation and virtual production capabilities as well as the ease and sophistication of the platform for the     established studio to enhance their creativity using the power of technology.

During the program, over 100  aspiring and seasoned professionals, comprising of creators from studios, namely AI Solve, Gametronics, Greengold Animation, Hexarfactory, Toonz Animation, Tilt labs, Viga Studios, VirtualOne and Zebu Animation, and production houses such as Openair, Qyuki and Vishesh Films participated. These creators and storytellers came from diverse creative and technical backgrounds such as DCC animators and modelers, environment artists, audio designers/engineers, lighting artists, technical artists familiar with VFX, hardware, and production houses. The live training program was uniquely structured where each team was mentored by Bharat Bala. Toonz Animation India Pvt Ltd for ‘THE END’ and VIGA & QYUKi for ‘Nirvana’ received special mentions for their entries. The winners and runner ups will be gratified with cash prizes.

The final films portrayed thought provoking narratives with stunning visual effects and whimsical animated tales. The entries were evaluated by a star-studded jury comprising of renowned names from the Indian entertainment industry, including:

1: Ayan Mukherjee, Indian filmmaker, known for his Bollywood hits, ‘Wake Up Sid’, ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ and the upcoming release, ‘Brahmastra’

2: Bharat Bala, award-winning Chennai-based filmmaker, who has envisioned several feature films, ad films, and special projects over the past decades

3: Dibakar Banerjee, renowned Indian filmmaker with directorial hits ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’ and ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’

4: Karen Dufilho-Rosen, renowned producer of various animated films and TV Series including ‘Monsters Inc.’

Commenting on the ‘Shorts India Program’, Sameer Pitalwalla, Business Director- India/SEA, Epic Games, “The Indian animation and VFX industry, while at a nascent stage, is dynamically evolving with vast possibilities.  We are delighted to conduct this unique program which aims to inspire creators by providing them access to globally acclaimed creative concepts further strengthening their skills and knowledge to make India a vibrant animation destination across the globe. It was exciting to see the quality of short films produced by the participants encompassing a portfolio of sophisticated live-action and animated films. We hope this enriching experience will pave the way towards long-term collaboration opportunities with Unreal Engine.”

 On emerging as final winners, Neha Sharma, Writer and Director, and Ruchir Joshi, Producer and Editor, Technicolor commented– “With ‘Devmasa’, we got the opportunity to tell a story that we are deeply passionate about by creating its magical-real universe from scratch and to explore the unique world of the Koli fishing community and the impact of illegal fishing practices and climate change on them. Despite technical challenges, UE allowed us to be like kids in a candy store! With live, real-time sets, detailed environment building, character design, our first experience of mo-cap and more with great ease and control. Working with UE allowed us to free our imagination to explore the fantastical world Devmasa is set in, which can be quite liberating as filmmakers. But the most important thing was to bring in the right minds and collaborators to pull this off in such a short timeline. We really benefitted from the team that came together in each department; from our cinematographers Vishal and Adelaida, our music composer Tajdar Junaid, sound designer Israel Banuelos in Estonia and our collaborators-in-chief, the entire team at Technicolor India, who put in endless hours of sleepless nights to make this happen.”

 From the first-runner up team, Praveen Raj Jayachandran, Managing Director, Holocraft, said- From concept to final pixel, all in one engine, in a span of few weeks’ time would have been impossible without Unreal Engine. Breaking away from the process of traditional linear filmmaking was crucial for us to achieve the output within the time. This meant all the production departments and processes had to work parallely and seamlessly without any cross dependencies and we also had to cut down any and all waiting time in between. Unreal engine short film challenge gave us a huge opportunity to work with the best from all over India and gave us new insights and perspectives of how each team would approach a task. Overall it was a great learning experience and huge shout out to Epic team for the opportunity.”

 On behalf of the second-runner up team, Jayesh Pillai, Associate Professor, IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay commented “We are beyond excited for this opportunity to be part of Epic’s Unreal Shorts India Program. Unreal Engine was a perfect platform to explore this narrative, as it provided various new tools for filmmakers and storytellers. The program provided the confidence and required support for exploring and learning Unreal, as most of the team members were new to the engine and its pipeline. With the film, we wanted to highlight the issues, especially the dangers manual scavengers face and numerous deaths that occurred over the years due to lack of any safety equipment or protective gear.The shorts program had regular meet-ups,  mentoring and follow-ups that helped in monitoring the production process, troubleshooting technical issues as well as learning from other team members. The Manhole collective decided to create the first phase of the project as a cinematic outcome, cutting down the 12 min VR screenplay into a 9 min short film one, preserving the essence of the proposed VR narrative.

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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