Oats Studios have partnered with the Unity game making engine to showcase its cinematic creation tools in a series of exciting science fiction short films. A year ago, the developers at Unity released a film, simply entitled Adam. This jaw dropping feature caught the attention of director Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp is known best for District 9 and more recently Chappie, films which featured several strong themes – oppression, alienation, fascism, acceptance, transformation and love.
The Original Adam Film
The first film short was seen by Blomkamp and it immediately impressed him with it’s enigmatic scenes and ambiguous ending that could give him a jumping off point to express and explore his trademark thematic narrative in a fresh context and on a new platform.
Adam’s goal according to Sylvio Drouin - Unity Engines Head of Labs, was to “Make the Unity engine and editor compatible with film technology”. This was an incredibly intelligent move by the company, anticipating that it was inevitable for the technologies governing film and gaming to eventually merge.
The original film builds a compelling atmosphere, a robot prisoner wakes up and detaches itself from the various data cables and tethering’s which bind it to a vertical metal mooring. There’s a sense of oppression which lingers heavily in the atmosphere during these opening moments, the animation and graphical quality is astounding, my attention was particularly drawn to the lighting effects and the character design of the robot model.
Adam's character design as a whole not only shows off the imagination of the developers but how detailed visuals can be presented in the current build of Unity. The character below appears at the end of the film and evokes a sensation of mysterious power, the shading and the weathered detail which is distinct on his face proves that Unity can create some of the best moments of cinematography using it's engine
When the film was released by the Unity Demo team at GDC 2016, it blew the audiences away and became an instant hit across the internet. More was demanded and so the team turned of Oak Studios for the next installment.
Adam : The Mirror
With the success of Adam, the Unity Demo team began to look at upgrade the cinematic engine, eventually unveiling a new version of their Cinemachine software, the core engine that allows creators to craft their own CGI movies. Cinemachine’s power is in the ability to make small changes in colors, filters, lighting, shadow effects and camera adjustments, all in real time.
The second film was a direct follow on from the first, with The Mirror taking the scant but atmospheric original film and envisaging a dark dystopian future. The uncertainty of the main character while following his rescuer seems justified as the group of robots march onwards. One of their number begins to falter and eventually falls, crumpling in a lifeless heap, the emotive moment heightened by the electrical sparks cascading along her body, our protagonist reaches out to her in a useless but compassionate gesture until he is forced to move forward.
There's a beautiful contrast between the burning downcast environment which shows of Unity's dynamic game engine effects and the cool grey hues of the safe house that Adam is eventually led to. Again we see the unique character design and lighting effects that Unity brings to this series when we encounter the character of the Mirror. It's impressive what the game engine can bring to the experience of the film due to the emotive range of the model's facial characteristics.
An advantage that Oats Studios immediately noticed while crafting this narrative was the advantage of being able to move the camera in real time. With Unity, Blomkamp was able to take shots that he wasn’t satisfied with the results of and manipulate them in real time. This saved an incredible amount of time in the film making process and demonstrates how revolutionary the techniques employed by Unity are in the cinematic industry.
Adam: The Prophet
On November 30th, Blomkamp released the third installment of the Adam film series, this time concentrating on new techniques. The film was created, along with the previous installment, in a back to back process with a team of 25 people. This film features lifelike humans with a hellbent attitude to eliminating the robotic bodies that were focused on during the first two films. This film gives us a first look at the villains of the series who is not who he appears to be. The humans and the scene at the end are incredibly detailed.
With every new release, fans are calling for more, showing that this method of slow teasing release of enigmatic narrative is incredibly effective.
I wholeheartedly recommend watching these short films as they invite you as a viewer to speculate and think through them. In that respect, it’s as interactive as any game experience. It’s a beautiful and intricate unfolding of a sci-fi world with incredible depth perspective and lingers on those themes which are keynotes of Blomkamp’s career.
Here are a few other groundbreaking films with strong visuals and powerful narrative from Oats Studios:
Rakka tells a story featuring Reptilian aliens conquering Earth, enslaving humanity with seductive telepathy and brute force. An actress who is no stranger to battling alien menaces – Sigourney Weaver leads the resistance movement, which is scant and desperate. Coming to their aid is a race of angelic beings who assume an almost messianic role and a mute mutant who can sense the future
Zygote is another film dealing with alien invasion, this time the threat travels through space on mineral rich asteroids which crash into Canada and Russia, the two great land masses of the planet. A mining plant is attacked by these beings and two survivors, a human security guard and a synthetic android escape and must find their way to a secure section of the building in order to hold off their attackers.
The Unity developers have also released various packages for their product, featuring the CG Models, textures and environments from these Adam films. This is a great move forward in opening this narrative up for the viewers and amateur Unity enthusiasts. Hopefully, we will see some fan created episodes or perhaps even an expansion to a playable game based on the universe in the near future.
Link to Adam Assets for Unity : https://unity3d.com/pages/adam
Adam Blog by Krasimir Nechevski, lead animator: https://blogs.unity3d.com/2016/08/31/adam-animation-for-the-real-time-short-film/
This series has been intriguing and thought provoking, with questions regarding the possible origins to the series left to the fans imaginations.
What do you think the origins of Adam are? Let me know what you think in the comments!