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Animation Experts Take On Factual Television: Bringing Gaming CGI To TV Documentary

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Leading animation studio RealtimeUK have embarked on major documentary series project for Sky Channel Yesterday.

The Manchester-based company have joined forces with production company 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 BAFTA winning 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 incredible animation depicts everything from the Wild West, Iron Age Ireland to Incan Empire within the six-part documentary.

Following Realtime UK's impressive work on the marketing film for the WW2 video game, 'Warthunder', which received over five million views on YouTube, the team were approached to bring their honed techniques to factual television.

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.

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.

Taking the animation for this broadcast project to the next level, RealtimeUK's use of cutting edge technology allowed it to create a truly emotional connection with the audience. They also performed a motion capture session for each episode at Europe's largest motion capture studio, Audiomotion in Oxford.

Excitingly the team boasts the use of special affects software Houdini – commonly associated with Hollywood VFX for feature film.

Working with RealtimeUK also allowed Impossible pictures to benefit from UK Tax breaks, making high quality animation more affordable.

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.

"The Mummies Alive project has also benefitted from the real fusion of broadcast VFX artists and supervisors that all joined the RealtimeUK team last year – adding to the teams existing talent pool by bringing many years of VFX broadcast expertise.

"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.

"We believe with this project in particular, the real achievement is how we have produced such high quality VFX and life-like character animation within tight budget constraints.

"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."

Impossible Factual's Creative Director Steve Maher, commented: "When looking for an animation company to realise our ambitions for the ground breaking graphics for Mummies Alive, RealtimeUK was always going to be our first choice and their team have delivered a spectacular end product."


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