A collaboration between Humber College students in the Game Programming and Film & Multi-Platform Storytelling programs has been recognized with an award for innovation.
Made In-Engine was a project pipeline that had students create films virtually using the software program Unreal Engine (UE). It’s a video game engine that’s also used in an evolved mode of filmmaking called Virtual Production.
The film students wrote the scripts, created storyboards, and shot lists while the game students imported and prepared environments from UE Marketplace, a repository of digital assets that users can choose from to create their own video games, or in this case short film. The films had to be about a minute in length with no dialogue and would address a specific theme or topic including the environment, world health and Indigenous stories by Indigenous creators, among others.
The League for Innovation in the Community College, an international non-profit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the college environment, celebrated Made In-Engine with its 2021-2022 Innovation of the Year Award.
“Winning this is a huge honour because we know there are so many amazing innovations going on,” said Eva Ziemsen, a professor with Humber’s Faculty of Media & Creative Arts. “It’s a collective win for Humber.”
The idea for the project arose, in part, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Ziemsen was exploring ideas of how to teach film production online. Ziemsen reached out to her fellow Humber faculty – Game Programming professor Matthew Mazza and Game Programming program coordinator Umer Noor – and they got the idea for the project off the ground.
Film & Multi-Platform Storytelling student Oreoluwa Ibitayo was the director of the film The Lives Left Behind, which explored the emotional trauma and pain a young woman was facing.
Ibitayo hadn’t used Unreal Engine to make a film previously but embraced the project and found it was a good experience. Ibitayo said she learned a lot through the project and would be interested in making another film using UE.
She also encouraged other filmmakers to give it a try, calling it a wonderful “learning opportunity.”
While Unreal Engine might be best known for being the program behind video games such as Gears of War and Fortnite, among others, Ziemsen said it’s revolutionizing film and television production by way of both in-camera visual effects and in-engine pipelines.
It’s been used in shows such as Disney’s The Mandalorian and HBO’s Westworld.
She felt the project was a boon for the students for a variety of reasons. It allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of their peer’s respective fields considering they may be working collaboratively in some fashion when they’re in the industry.
It also allowed the students to create and experiment with their films without having to spend the time and energy of going out to locations to shoot – not to mention the cost of film itself.
“I would have loved something like this as an emerging filmmaker,” said Ziemsen.
She said the rise in virtual production is helping democratize filmmaking.
“It does open a door for a lot of underrepresented voices,” added Ziemsen.
For more on the project, or to watch the films, visit the Made In-Engine website.