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RealtimeUK brings gaming CGI to factual TV series

Manchester-based animation studio RealtimeUK has embarked on a major documentary series project for TV channel Yesterday.

Manchester-based animation studio RealtimeUK has embarked on a major documentary series project for TV channel Yesterday. The company joined forces with production indie Impossible Factual and Canadian outfit Saloon Media to create the ambitious series Mummies Alive.

Working with Impossible’s creative animation director Christian Johnson, RealtimeUK’s in-house artists created all the detailed historical reconstruction sequences for the series, which will also air on the Smithsonian Channel in the US, History Canada, SBS in Australia and ZDF in Germany.

The company’s crew were tasked with developing a series of different characters within tight time constraints, using a number of software solutions including Max, V-Ray, Hair farm, Krakatowa, Ray fire, Particle flow and FumeFX. They also used special effects software Houdini, commonly associated with Hollywood VFX for feature film. The animation depicts everything from the Wild West, Iron Age Ireland to the Incan Empire within the six-part documentary.

Working with 3D scan experts Ten-24, who used a custom built rig incorporating 100 DSLR cameras to scan real faces, the process captured character meshes and texture information to be edited in house. RealtimeUK were then able to apply sub-surface shaders to create an accurate representation of skin, and the textures for each character.

RealtimeUK’s character pipeline allowed the team to modify body shapes – applying the digital rig to change the heights and body mass of the characters for each bespoke episode. They also performed a motion capture session for each episode at Europe’s largest motion capture studio, Audiomotion in Oxford.

Managing director of RealtimeUK, Tony Prosser, described the project as an “exciting use of new production processes and film-making techniques for the animation studio that will benefit from our 19 years of development in related animation industries.

“It is more important than ever to keep pushing what is possible in terms of cinematic experiences, and both creative and technical production knowledge to help deliver the wow factor within broadcast work like this.

“It is great to see a project like this come out of our relatively new Manchester studio and hope it will really put the North West on the map in terms of life-like animation production. We hope opportunities grow as projects become more technically challenging and demanding.”

Mummies Alive Reel from RealtimeUK on Vimeo.