Pitch & Produce | INVASION 2040: Director harnesses Character Creator iClone and Unreal Engine for Web Series

César Turturro – Director / FX Producer

Creavision is a small studio located in the city of Bahia Blanca, Argentina. We mainly focus on the realization of 2D and 3D animation projects, although we also do filmic works, such as advertisements, corporate videos and documentaries.

Invasion 2040 is a project that started in 2017. Post-production started immediately, as I wrote the script. At the beginning, almost 70% of the project was carried out on my own, without involving other artists or studios. This was due to the fact that it was a search and learning process, and we did not have financial support.

During that time I used different types of programs and render engines until August 2020, while working remotely in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic that we won the support of Reallusion’s Pitch & Produce program. It was then when we also began work with Unreal Engine, and when I involved two more artists from the studio.

“With the help of all these real-time tools — in just a few months we accomplished more than half of all the animation and rendering work, which had personally taken me almost 3 years before.”

César Turturro – Director / FX Producer

In summary, I can say that there is a before and after both in my career and in the way we work. Today Invasion 2040 is being released on several networks and has won various awards at festivals around the world. With all the shots and animations that I imagined 4 years ago, I can say that we have realized not only a movie… but a dream.

Q: Bienvenido Cesar! You are an accomplished filmmaker, director and VFX artist. Please tell us about your background and your previous projects.

Thank you! I started when I was 18 or 20 with a very basic computer. In 2005 I released my first independent feature film called my war film – “1982 We Were There”, which was based on true events.  It was my first work with live action and photorealistic renders.

Then for a long time I made animations for different aviation documentaries, from WWII  to the 1982 Argentinian-British conflict, which involved my country in the ‘Malvinas war’ (Falkland War). Coincidentally, during that conflict there were some the toughest combats in the history of modern warfare, and I got so involved in those stories that I ended up doing the biggest job of my career. The documentary was called “Malvinas: The War from the Air” for the History Channel, which had more than 40 minutes of animation for the aerial combats.

Then for the same contacts I continued working on the VFX of different documentaries such as the Latin American version of “Life After People” where I had to render several minutes of destroyed cities and Latin American monuments wrapped in vegetation.

I also participated making the VFX for an extraterrestrial contact series for Del Volga productions, which was also for The History Channel. At the same time, I made a fan film called “Project Valkyrie”, that was about the Robotech animated series broadcast in the 80s. (my favorite show when I was a child). Now I am working on my recent film project – Invasion 2040, where I have created my own post-apocalyptic world.

Q: When you started with INVASION 2040, it was originally a short film and later a web series. Tell us about this journey, along with all the awards and festivals you have won.

Invasion 2040 started in 2017, when I wanted to do a short film with a post-apocalyptic world that included classic aircraft such as the A-4 Skyhawk and French-made Mirage, along with soldiers, weaponry, exo-armors, giants and of course robots. The film was to be dated somewhat in the future, but with current technology and a name that could be easily said both in Spanish and English. So INVASION 2040 was perfect.

After almost 4 years of hard work between writing the script, casting actors, finding locations, costume design and shooting with an awesome team of friends and professionals from my city, I started the hard postproduction (at the beginning I did it alone) which took took me almost 4 years to finish.

Then the best part began when I started sending the short film to some festivals where we won 8  awards: Best Scifi Short (4) , Best VFX, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects (2) , 1 Finalist and 12 Official Selections. Once the Covid-19 situation allows us, we hope can do an in-person premiere

Q: As a filmmaker, what are the usual challenges when making characters? Could you describe the process of working with Character Creator, its plugins, and the benefits?

To be honest, I avoided making human characters from the beginning of my career as it was my Achilles heel. I always put a helmet or mask on them to cover their skin and face. That is until I found Character Creator (CC), which made possible what was impossible for me.

The other challenge was to create their body movements, and facial movements. Before I found CC I really did a lot of tests but nothing was convincing for me. Character Creator not only made the process faster and easier, but it also invited me to create different physiognomies as it is very practical to do so. For example; in CC I was able create costumes, weapons, and postures in the same application, as inside you already have a high-quality render to visualize the final result.

Everything linked with ZBrush to modify details, add and remove props, as it is all very practical and fast with the use of a single button (GoZ). Another incredible combination is with Substance Painter, to help give that perfect finish to the textures. Regarding the plugins, the one I used the most was the Headshot plugin for Character Creator, where together with two other artists we created all the Invasion characters in just a few days, achieving an incredible resemblance to real actors. In the end, we were able to generate many needs which were previously impossible due to technical difficulties as well as the requirements for time, change of hair, beard, etc.

Q: You mentioned that in a few months more than half of all the animation and rendering work, that previously took 3 years, were achieved. How did iClone and Unreal Engine play a part in this? What are your thoughts on iClone’s facial and body animation tools?

“Yes, in a few months I accomplished what I couldn’t do in years, and I owe this all thanks to Character Creator 3, iClone 7, and Unreal Engine. “

César Turturro – Director / FX Producer

What happened to me at first was that a few months after starting the project I already had a good trailer, with good finished scenes that got me excited. But as the months went by I saw that it would eventually take me a long time to finish what I had earlier imagined. There were some issues I could not solve in order to get the look that I really wanted. After 3 years I had made about 150 VFX planes, which several did not fully convince me. Many VFX required CGI characters and large stages full of wrecked cars with ruins, plants and trees; all in one scene. And none of the software, nor hardware I was currently using could support it.

Eventually a colleague recommended that I use “real-time rendering software”. At the time, for me real-time was something made for video games, and I did not think that it would work. This was in May 2020. I did the first tests in Unity and then in Unreal Engine. By August we had migrated some characters and began really start learning the process. Then I also acquired Character Creator 3, which helped me a lot during this phase. In September I had all the characters in Unreal Engine, with their textures and riggings.

With the help of the Reallusion Pitch and Produce program, in just 4 months and two more artists, we were able to generate 150 VFX shots, 50 which were replacements of the previous plans that I did not like, while adding added 100 more – for a total of 200 final.

Even nowadays we are still in a constant learning process, replacing 10 or 15 shots in days, improving shaders, facial movements, and perfecting the rendering in Unreal Engine, all while we learn. The short has planes made in 2015 and some made until weeks ago with different rendering engines and different techniques. Now I understand that this shows and that it is not ideal, but it was a learning process and my idea was to fulfill my main objective: to tell a story, where two teenagers and an abandoned robot tried to save the world. 👦🤖🌎

Q: INVASION 2040, is now a web series that can be enjoyed online. Kindly tell us what are the future plans and what can the community expect to see from your team?

Invasion 2040, it’s a huge universe. First I imagined it as a short film that later became part of feature films and / or miniseries. I decided to turn it into a web series as the content is very extensive and the idea is to release short episodes.

We are looking to bring invasion to an OTT in a series of longer episodes. That is our dream and goal. We believe that today there are tools that allow this to be possible in our region. We love science fiction and our dream is to reach the “big leagues”.

We already published a few free episodes for INVASION 2040, you can watch them already in our YouTube channel.

EPISODE 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg6C6-CiHeM

EPISODE 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_ofD-x6ijU

EPISODE 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEKLRSnSiU4

EPISODE 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWPn_wrC-Og

Follow Invasion 2040:

Website: https://www.invasion2040.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/INVASION2040/videos

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11079388/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/invasion2040

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/invasion2040/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/invasion2040

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