Rendering Warhammer in real-time with Cryengine
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I’m if you’ve seen the The Lord Inquisitor – “Grey Knights” teaser you were impressed with the production quality of the fan made film and was a tiny bit curious of how it was put together. I’ve manage to get an interview with Erasmus Brosdau, the German based creator and director of the teaser.

1) How long have you been creating 3D art for and what got you started in it?

I have been doing 3D art now for over 10 years, but started really late as I had no access to a computer. Starting at 18 I spent a ton of time in front of the screen only to get better and to be able to realise my ideas I had. Now I’m 28 and have worked for over 6 years professionally in the business. As I was a 2D artist all the time before that, realising what I could do in 3D really got me into that scene. What’s especially cool about that is that I’m both a concept artist and 3D artist, so that often helps a lot to improve your image from knowledge of both worlds.

2) There are many other game franchises out there – why did you choose Warhammer?

When I was a kid I played Space Crusade a lot and was in love with the designs of space marines. As I got to the point where I decided what I’ll do as my next project I came up with the idea of choosing something with Space Marines. During many years I actually had no idea that Space Crusade was connected to Warhammer 40k, so the circle closed and I dived again into that awesome universe.

3) The teaser for The Lord Inquisitor is absolutely brilliant, how much work did you did on it and what did others do?

Thanks for the nice words, it was quite some work yes, but I have some fast workflows developed which allow me to quickly create content. The teaser is basically divided in two parts: The chamber scene with the naked marine waiting for his suit , and the hallway scene where the space marine is walking in his heavy armour. I did the chamber scene completely alone including all the characters, lighting, etc. Luckily for the hallway scene I could give lots of tasks away to my artists, like modelling the hallway, textures and also animation. I later just did the lighting and camera work and also added a bit of particles like ambience fog, candles and things like that.

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4) How did you go about choosing others to work on the film? Are they ex work colleagues or people you met online?

It’s a mix you could say. Most people in my small team are people I know personally and some are guys that contacted me wanting to help out. During some time I could see who is reliable and chose people accordingly. Reliability is super important for me, otherwise everything takes way too long. The team on the hallway scene did an amazing job, they were all fast and reliable so everything was ready when I needed it.

5) What was your process for creating the film?

For this teaser I had a very simple idea in mind that developed into the video you’ve seen on the website. Basically I wanted to just show a few seconds of a Space Marine walking through a corridor as we’ve finished this space marine suit recently. Then I had some more ideas, like showing him without the armour, servitors that help him getting in the suit, etc. So I did some small pre viz for myself and the team so they’d know where I was going with the teaser. To save time I skipped storyboard and just painted a small concept for the hallway so the team knew what to model. The chamber scene and naked space marine I designed on the fly while modelling as I had a pretty good idea what I wanted and could save some more time that way.

6) What pieces of software did you use to create the teaser (Including audio editing software if you know it)?

I use Max for creating all assets and Cinebox to assemble the scene and for lighting and rendering. For Audio software I’m not quite sure as my composer did that over in UK but I think it was Cubase using multiple VST plugins.

7) What was if like using Cryengine Cinebox to render this instead of using traditional methods?

It was absolutely fantastic. I’ve worked for many years with offline rendering systems and now seeing everything in real time in final quality was a dream come true. Look development, particles, lighting – everything was fun again. I had a great time assembling the scenes in Cinebox, creating cameras and to see it coming alive. The software is amazing and I never want to work with offline render engines again – once you got used to all is realtime, you can hardly go back.

8) Do you believe real-time rendering will be the future of animated films? Can you see a company like Pixar doing it?

Definitely, Pixar is already using a lot of realtime technologies to light and animate their scenes. They still render the final frame with their own render software, but I see no problems in creating the same quality in realtime soon. Of course offline rendering is still way superior when it comes to accuracy and things like heavy hair and fur problems. But for me I’m not looking that much for absolute photo realistic images anymore, I prefer to focus on the project as a whole. Appealing images, nice camera, story, music, etc. Having photorealistic videos doesn’t mean you have a good animation, it takes much more. Blizzard’s cinematics for example are also not photorealistic, their artwork looks a bit stylised. Still they are so awesome and it’s pure fun to watch these. And this can all be achieved in real time.

9) You must have a pretty powerful computer to be able to render this do you mind telling me it’s specs?

My machine is indeed very good, but not out of this world. When I was rendering with offline render engines like V-ray – rendering speed gets faster with the power of your processor. Now with real time engines, render speed improves with your graphics card, so I had to invest in that area lately. So my specs look like this: Intel I7 980 extreme, 24 GB Ram, Geforce GTX 780 ti.

10) Do you think the teaser could run in realtime on a PS4 or Xbox One?

The way I rendered it in 4K: definitely not .However, when I turn down the resolution to full HD and scale down a bit of shadow resolutions and optimise a few models it would definitely run on it.

11) And finally, how long will the final film be and when will it be released?

Ah the question everyone likes to ask and that I fear a lot J The final movie will be around 15 minutes, so it’ll be a short movie. I would love to do more but it’s simply not possible to hold up that quality for 90 minutes having your free time only. The release is super hard to tell because of working in free time only. There is always so much stuff going on with my job, future job requests and such. So I hope to be done in 2015 with the movie that it can be released beginning of 2016. Cinebox will help speeding up a lot of things, but it’s just so hard to plan as many things can block your plans and change the way you are spending your free time.

Erasmus Brosdau