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PITCH & PRODUCE | Hi From the Future – remotely making an animated music video


New York creative team completed the challenge in 5 weeks during lockdown.

A challenging project

The creative team at Brooklyn, NY-based Hi From the Future (HFTF) found the challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown to come just as their music video for “Find a way” by Duckwrth was taking shape. The HFTF Team met with the client over lots of group video calls and enlisted realtime technology from Reallusion and Epic to remotely collaborate over a 5 week production, completing the job and launching the official music video under unusual conditions.

Mark Rubbo, creative director and co-founder of HFTF discusses the project for Duckwrth and details the complete behind the scenes process in a video (above) with partner Elliot Higgins and the rest of the HFTF Team. All the communication and production were all finished in remote team collaboration.

The full members of Hi From the Future team (Image credit: Hi From the Future)
Neal from Hi From the Future is using iClone for character animation editing (Image credit: Hi From the Future)

Character CreatoriClone and the iClone Unreal Live Link are essential to HFTF’s productions. This pipeline enabled the team to quickly build the characters combining HFTF’s current Zbrush pipeline, and the team successfully built the 4 main characters with ease.

Building the characters

The pipeline does not require the artist to rig the character from scratch, and the Character Creator made avatars can be sent to iClone for immediate animation. Character likeness was created with a CC3 and ZBrush workflow, along with Xgen for hair. Through a series of early virtual workshop sessions with Duckwrth, the team collaborated entirely remotely in order to visualize each aspect of the animated concept, from the overall guiding story arc and structure, down to the details of each artist’s wardrobe.

“We have been using the Reallusion suite for over a year now, and have integrated them seamlessly into our CG real-time pipeline in conjunction with Unreal Engine.”

– Mark Rubbo, creative director and co-founder
The visual development of the characters are well documented, making it easy for producers to reference anytime (Image credit: Hi From the Future)

Collaborating with the artist online

In addition to the broader creative sessions, the HFTF Team also held live performance capture sessions with each of the four artists, which proved valuable on many levels. 

A virtual meeting is held with Duckwrth, with the team capturing his unique stylized body movements for animation reference (Image credit: Hi From the Future)

The final result

The HFTF Team were able to capture animation reference and blendshape data specifically related to the story arc and actions of the video. The sessions also served as a way for the HFTF Team to experience the personalities and mannerisms of each artist directly.

Character Creators, Zbrush and Xgen Hair give life to these stylized avatars. (Image credit: Hi From the Future)

Lastly, by having a remote yet direct human connection between the artists and creative team, these sessions provided a common ground to bridge the technical and design language of the team with the perspectives and motivations of the artists and record label. 

With the animated characters built with iClone, and the 3D environment built in Unreal Engine, the HFTF Team even made a TV game prototype based on this project. The team was glad that remote collaboration was actually executable, and it was all made possible with iClone Unreal Pipeline. Realtime collaboration with Reallusion tools and pipeline for Unreal Engine can be incorporated into a variety of productions. 

A prototype video game was made in Unreal Engine base on the characters from “Find a way” music video  (Image credit: Hi From the Future)

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