Overview

Fast-track your virtual production career

Are you a studio owner, filmmaker, animator, or VFX artist wanting to learn virtual production? Power up your career or team with the Unreal Connectors program!

CG Spectrum's 12-week real-time intensive is for media professionals and studios looking to up-skill their teams and foster the next generation of real-time artists. Learn Unreal Engine from the ground up and create high-quality short films from scratch. Prior experience in Unreal Engine is not required.

Who is this for:

  • Media professionals with production experience who want to expand their role, upgrade their skills, or start a new career
  • Established filmmakers, animators, archviz and VFX artists
  • Studios looking to train their teams and expand real-time services
 
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Qualification

Certificate

Study duration

3 months

Commitment

40 (minimum) hrs weekly

Skill level

Intermediate

Prerequisites

Prior production experience recommended

Delivery

5 live sessions per week, feedback and support

Software

Unreal Engine, Quixel

Start date

Sep 5, 2022

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A new era of storytelling

What is the Unreal Connectors Program?

Unreal Connectors is the first micro-credentialing program dedicated to teaching artists virtual production. Created in partnership with Epic Games, this 12-week intensive course helps studios and media professionals learn virtual production using Unreal Engine. Artists learn through hands-on projects under the mentorship of CG Spectrum's real-time artists and industry guests. See the kind of work you could be creating in this program:

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Futureproof your skills

Become an in-demand virtual production artist

Studio benefits

Boost your workplace's real-time production expertise

Balance work & study

Program designed for busy media professionals

Industry mentors

Learn from leaders in this emerging field

Curriculum

Unreal Connectors: Virtual Production

Dive into the world of real-time; become confident using Unreal Engine, take on larger and more creative projects, and build teams proficient in the latest storytelling tools and techniques. Use this program to expand your own skill set as well as your studio or workplace's real-time production expertise and offerings.

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN IN 12 WEEKS

Get access to a cutting-edge curriculum, 5 x weekly live sessions with industry mentors, small classes (2 real-time experts for every 4 participants), personalized feedback on your work, plus a supportive community to network and share ideas with others. Here's what you'll be learning:

Learn the basics of game editor workflows, including how to install, open, create and publish a game project. Become familiar with file management practices used in the industry, then start bringing models and animations from Maya into Unreal Engine. Get an in-depth look into the material editor within the game engine to match results seen in Substance Painter, and see how to create material effects that need to be prepared and tweaked within the editor.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Work confidently within Unreal Engine's interface
  • Create and build interactive levels
  • Understand source control and how to work with textures, shaders, skeletal meshes, and materials
  • Develop strategies for migrating assets and zipping up projects efficiently

Assignment: Install Unreal Engine and use basic level building tools, including migrating 3D assets between projects and importing static and skeletal meshes from Maya, plus explore the material editor and build material effects.

Learning the basics of Unreal and how the animation systems work includes understanding the underlining workflows used in game production which also apply to assembling character animations within cinematics. This week, you'll learn to work with characters controlled by user input within your project. Begin from scratch with a new character, and learn to use existing blueprints to save time. Animate your interactive character and be introduced to animation blueprints, including a jumping control. Next, you'll whitebox a level and see how to quickly convert design ideas into actual gameplay. Use modular environment pieces and trigger volumes to build a level with an obstacle challenge for the player to overcome.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Develop a good understanding of character, animation, and level blueprints
  • Understand blend spaces, character controls, player death, and respawning
  • Translate an idea to a level within the editor
  • Ability to expand level challenges, and increase efficiencies to speed up workflow

Assignment: Add player movement using animation blueprints followed by grey boxing an Unreal Engine level for gameplay. 

Learn rigging in Maya. Start with a high-level introduction to Maya's interface and build a basic rigged prop. See how these steps are applied in game development, then delve further into rigging toolsets to create your first character skeleton. Move on to motion capture and see how it’s used in real-time development. You'll learn some of the systems used in the industry to create high-level character animation, and how to use the output in motion builder.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Confidence using Maya’s interface, and how to rig props and characters
  • Understand game character skeletons, joint placements, and painting skin weights
  • Create a fully skinned character in Maya
  • Understand inertial and optical motion capture systems, and how and when to use motion capture

Assignment: Create a rigged prop and character, then animate them using motion capture.

Practice a typical industry-level workflow using a character and a prop within an environment using Unreal Engine’s cinematic tool ‘Sequencer’.  This will illustrate successful Unreal-based retargeting and animation blending which crafts new storytelling content within your scene. Using a pre-setup robot skeleton, you'll build your own control rig from scratch and explore solutions for achieving fully animation-ready rigs within Unreal. As facial performance capture is a crucial part of virtual production, you'll learn to capture and process facial animation and bring characters to life using Faceware Studio. 

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Understand Sequencer and Unreal-based retargeting workflows
  • Incorporate props, cameras, events, and fades into a cinematic
  • Ability to use Faceware Studio to apply performance capture data to MetaHumans
  • Record streamed animation inside Unreal and import original media/video to view as reference as a Media Track inside of Sequencer

Assignments: Implement sequence blending into your project and complete the control rig. Apply facial performance capture from a live or pre-recorded source to a MetaHuman inside of Unreal Engine, and create a recorded track using Take Recorder of that animation.

Explore the necessary plugins, tools, and settings to develop a solid foundation in world building. Dive into landscapes, starting off with a powerful tool known as Gaea. Explore additional methods of creating landscapes in Unreal, with the Landmass tool, and texture these landscapes. Move into more advanced texturing methods, such as creating your own blending materials, bringing in your textures from Gaea, and delving into the water system in Unreal Engine.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Work with Quixel Bridge, Unreal Marketplace, Gaea, and the Unreal Landmass tool
  • Build and texture impressive landscapes, and work with texture maps and masks
  • Understand common scene setups and scene management
  • Create dynamic water systems

Assignment: Create a landscape in Unreal Engine with advanced textures and a water system.

Good lighting is critical to building a compelling scene. Learn the basics of light, from enabling ray tracing in your project, to exploring light types and how they work. You'll be guided through a film breakdown where you dissect a shot and see how to replicate it. Next, you'll concept, plan, and layout your environment. With a blockout of an environment in place, you'll start replacing grey boxes with proper models and bring your environment to life. You'll also learn photogrammetry: the process of scanning real-life objects into 3D models to use in your 3D worlds.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Explore lighting basics and lighting tools in Unreal
  • Break down lighting in a film sequence
  • Replace the blockout with models, using available modeling tools
  • Learn photogrammetry to scan objects and bring them into your scene

Assignment: Use reference to grey box and set up lighting for a landscape, before fleshing out the scene with assets and a reality capture scan.

Continue building your environment, replacing the blockout. Finalize core sections, and start detailing. Add decals, advanced materials, and foliage to make your world feel more compelling and more real. Discover how to work with cameras in Sequencer, adding camera shake. Learn set dressing: the process of adding props to your scene to make it feel more lived in. This lesson covers Raytracing features, such as shadows, reflections, and advanced global illumination methods, plus lighting and atmospheric effects such as fog, and volumetric cloud effects.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Ability to work with decals, advanced materials, and foliage
  • Detailing to make your world feel more believable
  • Implementing good practices for setting up Sequences
  • Understanding camera shake, set dressing, and storytelling

This lesson covers optimization workflows for your world environments. Discover how to breathe life in your scene, and gather tricks to help you grow as an artist. Then, in what is arguably the most satisfying part of the process, learn how to render shots with the Movie Render Queue. You'll see how to choose the right file formats and best settings for maximum quality. With shots rendered out, you'll learn color grading (and see why it is a critical part of the process) and become confident using Davinci Resolve, the industry standard for colorists.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Knowledge of LODs, plus GPU Lightmass/Light Baking
  • Understanding file types and framerates for high-quality rendering
  • Knowledge of color grading using DaVinci Resolve
  • Basics of editing, sound design, and delivery

Learn virtual production techniques within Unreal Engine using the Cine-Camera actor, Movie Render Queue Tool, and third-party editing and finishing applications. Automate mundane tasks and increase control and creative interactivity by exploring blueprinting methods to set up a user-controlled virtual camera. To achieve cinematographic realism achieved by human-operated cameras, you'll look at VCams, the Virtual Camera app, and a tracked Virtual Camera using a motion controller allowing you to have human-operated virtual cameras. Practice organizing sequences into subsequences, using proper naming conventions, and learn World Outliner organization for linear cinematic media projects. Finally, use Take Recorder to record animation in your viewport at runtime, and use it for playback and as separate animation sequences.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Explore the Cine-Camera actor and best practices for exporting out of Unreal Engine
  • Examine how blueprints can automate complex or time-consuming tasks 
  • Learn about tracked vs. virtual camera workflows, and how to use cameras in Unreal
  • Execute a Vcam recording that provides coverage for the scene

Assignment: Using an Unreal project, frame up and export six still frame camera positions. Complete a rendered sequence using the virtual camera created from blueprints and integrate tracked virtual camera shots within your sequence.

Discover how to create customized digital human characters for your linear cinematic projects without an extensive background in character design. Setting up your characters within Unreal to be ready for virtual production and real-time workflows is crucial, yet the process is often overlooked. Since we’re working in an environment normally used for non-linear content, you'll learn how those systems and tools can help create a more defined character setup inside the editor. This allows for automation, procedural animation, blueprint-based events, and more.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Learn to work with digital humans and add animations to characters
  • Set up a dynamic character blueprint inside UE for linear media
  • Learn why using a blueprint over a skeletal mesh inside Sequencer allows for more dynamic use
  • See how the Character BP can be duplicated and swapped amongst your virtual cast

Assignment: Create multiple digital humans to integrate into your project.

Advance your virtual production skills by blocking out a sequence involving traveling subjects. Using a pre-existing base sequence of actions and props you'll learn how to shoot them in a way that feels intense and action-packed. This sequence will be worked on over multiple sessions to solve timing and shot selection, eventually creating a video file of the finalized shots.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Work with sets and objects under specific conditions
  • Block out a moving action sequence
  • Polish lighting and pacing
  • Finalize into a video sequence

Assignment: Construct a vehicle sequence using the sets provided and block out a high-action sequence.

This week will cover In-Camera VFX workflows, and you'll watch an interview with a lighting artist within an LED virtual production environment. Explore behind the scene setups and discuss some of the challenges facing technical artists within this field.  As you continue to work on your project, you'll also reflect on thoughts from industry professionals within the virtual production space. Consider what direction you would like to focus your work towards and what steps you can take going forward to achieve that goal.

Lesson Outcomes:

  • Understand set up and limitations regarding In-Camera VFX
  • Create a list of questions and thoughts about working within a virtual production set
  • Discuss your career goals going forward and your own learning path forward

Assignment: Listen to interviews and gather questions and thoughts for discussion with your mentor that will help focus your career direction.

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Meet Your Mentors

Learn from real-time experts on the leading edge

Be mentored by highly skilled real-time artists with years of real-world experience at major studios. 

Why study with us?

The CG Spectrum Difference

CG Spectrum prides itself on offering highly personalized training and mentorship catering to you and your studio's needs.

Other benefits of CG Spectrum's Unreal Connector training:

  • Small classes: 2 real-time mentors for every 4 participants
  • Mentorship from industry professionals
  • 2 x live mentor sessions each week
  • 3 x live Teaching Assistant sessions each week
  • High quality video content
  • No additional software costs
  • Daily support from Technical Assistants
  • Supportive network of artists and creators
  • Bonus interviews with leading real-time experts
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Apply for the next intake!

Limited places available, register your interest

12 week intensive

$4999 USD