Summer of Unreal: Educational program for European animators

Summer of Unreal is a free, four-week boot camp held in the summer of 2021. It was organized by Escape Studios in collaboration with Epic Games and leading European schools for computer graphics, including our own.

During the program, almost 1000 students acquired skills that will help them create quality interactive content in real-time. Starting with the fundamentals, students discovered various enthralling lessons, like stylizing photorealistic objects and digital humans.

Seven industry-leading European animations and VFX schools took part in the program. These include Escape Studios (UK), The Animation Workshop (Denmark), ARTFX (France), LaSalle Barcelona (Spain), Screen Skills Ireland (Ireland), HdM Stuttgart (Germany), as well as our training center. As a southeast European partner, Crater Training Center has provided support for well over 200 knowledge-hungry applicants from many countries.

Summer of Unreal welcomed industry professionals and future animators, VFX and motion graphics artists, film and TV creators too, as well as educators from the aforementioned fields. Rookies in Unreal were also invited to apply, but basic knowledge in 3D software, graphics, or animation was required.

  • The course was focused on the use of Unreal Engine across areas such as pre-visualization, layout, rigging, animation, modeling, lighting, importing characters into Unreal Engine, and rendering.
  • The class was held by experts every workday in all the key aspects of Unreal Engine.
  • During the boot camp, students were provided with online support from the assistants (a.k.a. representatives from each of the seven participating schools).
  • Internal project communication was held entirely on Discord as an excellent tool for networking.
  • Lectures were held by creative professionals with extensive experience in virtual production and UE.
  • Participants from across Europe worked together to come up with solutions for creative challenges during the course.
  • All current trends and new developments were coming directly from Epic Games.
  • Industry experts held several panel discussions to discuss how Unreal Engine is changing media production.
  • Participants learned to make Unreal Engine work for their workflow.
  • Participants were able to collect digital badges for each day. Upon completing 80% of classes, students would gain a certificate of attendance from Escape Studios, signed by Epic Games.

Summer of Unreal targeted industry professionals with at least two years of experience working in an animation studio or on animation projects in any role as an artist (Rigging, Layout, Pre-visualisation, Concept Art, Animation, Lighting, and Rendering). The course was also open for professionals in the film or TV industry, university professors, but not students.

The training delved into the wider animation production industry. The course was also useful for VFX and motion graphics artists, as well as producers and directors eager to understand how Unreal Engine could fit into their workflows.

Originally developed for the games industry, Unreal Engine has been increasingly used in VFX due to the level of detail it can capture and create, including projects like Game of Thrones or The Mandalorian. Next in line is animation, as the engine provides multiple opportunities for real-time production.

Unreal Engine is the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool. It has changed the way games have been made for years but recently has become a powerful tool for Animation and VFX creators with its ability to run photoreal and complex 3D scenes in real-time. It has opened up incredible new opportunities for the animation and 3D CGI industries.

It gives creators the freedom and control to deliver cutting-edge entertainment, compelling visualizations, and even immersive virtual worlds. Demand for real-time 3D skills is at an all-time high, and for many, learning Unreal Engine can broaden their career scope and open up their career potential for work on exciting new projects.

Summer of Unreal Timetable

Week 1

  • Introduction to Unreal Engine
  • Materials
  • Lighting
  • Partner showcase

Week 2

  • Functional lighting
  • Animation in Unreal Engine
  • Partner showcase

Week 3

  • Creating photoreal sequences with Megascan and other software
  • Rendering in Unreal Engine
  • Motion graphics in Sequencer
  • Partner showcase

Week 4

  • Technical information and diagnostics
  • Using Niagara
  • Partner showcase
  • Project delivery and showcase

The course was taught in English through Zoom and Discord for four weeks, split into days of experimentation and practice. It offered a breathable curriculum which meant there was room for participants to keep up to date with their work and leisure. The course featured daily workshops covering all the major aspects of using Unreal Engine interspersed with practice time, teamwork, as well as demonstrations and masterclasses from some of Europe’s premier companies and artists.

Students were divided into smaller groups, and each of them presented their original project at the end, during an honorary Zoom gala.

The demand for talent who wield Unreal Engine has been growing rapidly, which further enhances the need for industry professionals to keep their skillset strong by taking up courses like Summer of Unreal. This course helped participants begin their journey into the world of animation and virtual production with Unreal Engine by their side, as it also enabled them to implement their newly acquired knowledge into their work pipeline. In addition to this, Summer of Unreal introduced its participants to a vast network of like-minded creatives from all around Europe, whose paths would have never crossed otherwise.

We are incredibly proud of the community that gathered up around this initiative, and we hope to see the fruits of their collaborative labor in the future.

Lectures during the Summer of Unreal boot camp were held by Escape Studio’s college lecturers, as well as their colleagues from Framestore and Blue Zoo Animations. Among them were Simon Fenton, Kevin Nally, Christian Avigni, Michael Davies, Clement Gharini, and others. Aside from them, guest speakers were lecturers and coworkers from partnering schools.

Crater Training Center joined Summer of Unreal by hosting three guest lectures. Darko Subotin, professor at the Faculty of Contemporary Arts in Belgrade, has used this opportunity to hold a one-day training in rendering. The team representing 3Lateral/ EpicGames provided the participants with a “private” premiere of an Epic tutorial on MetaHuman Creator. Belgrade-based director Sava Živković held a captivating lecture which shifted the focus on the possibilities and benefits that Unreal Engine provides to animators.