We're the creators/writers/directors of ZAFARI, the first kids animated TV show created exclusively in Unreal Engine. We're quite proud of how we pushed the envelope with ZAFARI's use of real-time rendering in Unreal Engine and PS-51 is going to take the next step in several ways.
To us, one of the holy grails of film and tv production was real-time rendering. Another one is using shared assets for multiple platforms and consumer touchpoints. PS-51 intends to make strides in this by simultaneously creating a TV show and a sophisticated 3-D video game, using the exact same Unreal Engine assets. We also intend for the content of the show and game to be educationally appropriate for kids.
Some character modeling and texture creation may happen in traditional software pipelines, but everything else, from storyboarding, to animation, to editing and sound design, will happen in Unreal. And since our storytelling is interactive, UE will render it in real time on the viewers device/PC.
We’ve proven that kid’s content can be created in the UE engine with ZAFARI. And while that was linear TV that was rendered to frames and edited traditionally, we even created a test ‘real-time’ version of an episode, that was a PC executable, allowing the view to choose their camera angle. But we didn’t animate to that - we animated to the specific camera angle that we chose to tell the story. So, the characters ‘popped’ around between ‘shots.’ That will change with PS-51. Each scene will all be animated fully and smoothly, so that there will be no disruptive jumps in the storytelling.
However, because we will be creating a hybrid between a game and a TV show, we allow for user input and interactivity. At various points, the show will stop, and a character will ask the user for input (all done via Blueprints). We must keep our young audience in mind - in a normal video game, there might be 80% interactivity and 20% cinematics (pure storytelling). We’ll likely flip ratio that for our audience.
Because we’re doing kids content, we have the ability to keep the resolution and complexity manageable while still looking great (Mandalorian virtual sets won’t render on a mobile device, but PS-51 will).
All this means that we will explore a new world of TV interactivity. We’re not talking about the dabbling that Netflix has done with interactive TV, which is essentially just A/B choices on screen that eventually lead the viewer back to the same storyline. We’re talking about making the viewer experience truly unique, eventually even allowing the user to choose which character they inhabit (if any) at the beginning of each episode.
We’ve long wanted to open up this new type of storytelling but there has been no platform capable and with enough distribution to make it worthwhile. We believe that’s changing with Fortnite Creative Mode/Unreal Editor for Fortnite, and we want to go all in.