We are pleased to introduce another talented Brick artist within the Art of Brick series: Senior 3D Artist Torkuma Shija a.k.a. TK. Out of office hours, crafting animatics with Unreal Engine is the main outlet for his creative energies. We will review how he uses this powerful tool in various personal projects.
TK has an interesting background, which is rooted in technology and the digital. Originally from Nigeria, he moved to Malaysia to complete his Bachelor’s in Internet and Multimedia studies. He further developed himself in the UK by enrolling in the Digital Visual Effects Masters. This specialization gave him a solid understanding of how new technologies can be leveraged in building visual narratives.
He started his professional career by working as an intern at an archviz company in Malaysia. After his 6-month internship, he moved to the field of advertising, while doing freelance work in archviz on the side. With years of experience under his belt as a visualizer, he joined Brick in 2020 and has been applying his talents to many projects ever since.
Pursuit, concept art
The popularity of Unreal Engine has grown exceedingly in the past years, with many artists taking advantage of its features. TK too has been experimenting with this software, as it allows him to see what he is creating in real-time. This opens many possibilities to iterate when needed, resulting in more creative solutions. To explore the properties of this tool, he mainly creates space-themed or dystopian clips, the subject matters he is most fascinated with.
Left on Mars, concept art
What fuel his imagination are sci-fi movies and occasionally compositions in Director Denis Villeneuve films. Video games with space exploration themes play a big role in his inspiration as well. Before getting down to creating a cinematic, he develops basic concept art, such as Left on Mars and Pursuit (seen above). Through these drafts, he maps out what the structure and composition would look like, which helps him to stay focused during the creation process.
Mars 3291 – Key shot 1
In a traditional workflow, to complete a cinematic such as Mars 3291, one would create the animation and sequences in a DCC application (3ds Max, Maya). Then, the shots would be rendered and composited in a post-production suite like Adobe Premiere. This is where using Unreal made a difference, because in TK’s words:
‘With Unreal I could create my shots and sequences, trigger blueprints and precisely blend Mocap clips all in real-time. This showed to be a more efficient solution while working, speeding up my time and giving me more flexibility to make creative decisions.’
Mars 3291, a cinematic that was created over a weekend
The P1 Cinematic culminates all TK’s experiences in a single clip. This is the piece in which composition, light and camera settings are combined to form a spectacular dystopian scene. As Unreal is primarily a game engine, assets do not function as they would in a DCC application. Because of this, he had to look for workarounds, sometimes ignoring traditional 3d animation workflows entirely. When creating the desert buggy sequence, he cast aside his initial thought of animating the car using key-frames.
‘I figured it would be easier to “make a game”. Importing the 3d model from 3ds max, I built a blueprint rig that controlled the buggy like a game, including suspension and traction.’
P1 – Key shot 2
Using the take system in the engine, TK recorded his input motions while the game was running and composed cinematic shots using the sequencer.
The most important plugin he used in his cinematic is the meta-human digital human creator. Through this, the character system integrated seamlessly with the engine and he could create a custom 3d human fully rigged with proper IK kinematics in minutes. He admits that it had been a steep learning curve to integrate the custom Mocap data with meta-humans. But once he had understood the process, everything was seamless.
P1 Unreal Cinematic
Maserati Levante UE4 Configurator
TK goes beyond visualizing sci-fi scenarios when using Unreal Engine. He creates proof of concepts for the automotive industry too, like the Maserati Levante UE4 Configurator. He created this by using Blueprints visual scripting and level Variants Manager. Through this piece, it is possible to observe the car from every angle and change different aspects of it, like color and lights to transform the common online configurator into an immersive experience. It presents features that one would be eager to explore in a showroom before buying a car in an interactive way.
Maserati Levante UE4 Configurator
Ripe with opportunities, Unreal will continue to play an important role in TK’s leisure time. P1 Cinematic will have a continuation with editions 2 and 3, and other concept art, similar to Left on Mars and Pursuit, might provide a base for an upcoming cinematic. What he can forecast is that more space-themed subjects and extraterrestrial visions will manifest.
Are you interested in learning how to use Unreal Engine? Brick Academy will have a course on it shortly. Subscribe to its newsletter not to miss the course announcement!