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HomeAnimationsMaking a High Gun and Star Wars-inspired fan movie in Unreal Engine

Making a High Gun and Star Wars-inspired fan movie in Unreal Engine

Anthony Koithra cherished his job at a giant consulting agency however could not shake his fascination with filmmaking. As the reasons he devised to not observe his ardour pale, Anthony stop his full-time job to dedicate his efforts to exploring filmmaking inside a sport engine. Nonetheless, he quickly realized there was solely a lot that YouTube tutorials might educate him. Anthony wished a extra customized and interactive strategy to studying digital manufacturing, so he enrolled in CG Spectrum’s Unreal Connectors program.

Throughout his research at CG Spectrum, Anthony created the excellent High Gun and Star Wars-inspired fan movie Rogue Squadron — discover out his course of and watch the brief movie under!


Nonetheless from Anthony’s brief movie, Rogue Squadron.

From enterprise consulting to filmmaking — Anthony’s “Unreal” journey

Earlier than learning digital manufacturing, I used to be a Managing Director and Companion at The Boston Consulting Group. I labored on tasks for essential shoppers, discovered a ton from superior colleagues, and constructed an thrilling new a part of the enterprise from the bottom up. It was an infinite privilege to be in my place, and I’ll all the time be pleased about the expertise.

Filmmaking has all the time fascinated me, and whereas I’ve dabbled right here and there over time, I by no means noticed a approach of creating it a full-time job primarily as a consequence of quite a few self-created excuses: I’m an immigrant and should be employed to take care of my standing; I can’t earn cash making movies; I’ve a superb job that I get pleasure from and am good at — I’d be loopy to stop. Over time these excuses pale, and it grew to become more durable to clarify to myself why I wasn’t doing what I knew I actually cherished doing.

So in April 2022, I stop my job to work on making animated brief movies full-time. I experimented with each Unity and Unreal Engine since real-time workflows appeared most sensible for me as a solo artist.

After deciding on Unreal Engine and trying to be taught by way of YouTube tutorials, and so forth., I noticed I wanted a extra structured strategy and, extra importantly, some specialists from whom I might get direct responses to questions, problem-solving, and candid suggestions. 

I’d been following William Faucher and Deepak Chetty as Unreal filmmakers for some time, so once I noticed they each mentored at CG Spectrum and that there was a self-driven 3-month intensive course on digital manufacturing, the Unreal Connectors program, it felt like an ideal match for my wants.

Rogue Squadron — Anthony’s brief movie, created in Unreal Engine as a part of the Unreal Connectors: Digital Manufacturing program.

Recreating the opening sequence of High Gun with a Star Wars twist!

After spending the primary few weeks on a much-too-ambitious mission, I made a decision to reduce and work on one thing less complicated that I might “ship” in a shorter timeframe. I settled on the concept of re-making the opening scene of the unique High Gun, besides utilizing an area setting and X-Wings. Simply attempting to make up for that Rogue Squadron film that by no means occurred.

Watching the unique High Gun sequence for reference, it was fascinating to see the layers of narrative embedded inside what may simply seem like flashy motion cuts on the floor. The tight, close-up pictures have been most likely a results of sensible taking pictures restrictions on the deck of an plane service, however these crops have been used to create stunning and impressionistic compositions of people dwarfed by machines. 

The opening scene is a symphony of kit and competence: big, highly effective machines operated by extremely educated and coordinated groups working in excellent concord. The lower from one iconic ’80s observe (Harold Faltemeyer’s High Gun Anthem) to a different (Kenny Loggins’ Hazard Zone) by no means fails to get the blood pumping. 

One of many largest questions I had was how one can successfully translate the temper of the opening sequence of High Gun (one of the iconic title sequences ever) to a Star Wars context.

The opening scene of High Gun that impressed Anthony’s brief movie, Rogue Squadron.

ReachingHigh Gun’s iconic ‘everlasting sundown’ look

I piled a bunch of frames from the unique movie into PureRef. Then on the recommendation of my mentors at CG Spectrum, I collected a number of reference photos for spacecraft and house scenes to try to join the 2 visually.

Given the stylized orange, ‘everlasting sundown’ look of High Gun, I additionally collected photos from movies that had putting orange-blue palettes to see how they labored.


A number of the orange-blue palette reference photos, collected by Anthony.

The primary look-development hurdle was that, inconveniently, mild in house is normally white or bluish-white and positively not the dusty orange of High Gun. The silhouetted shapes of individuals and plane towards an orange sky is the defining visible attribute of the unique. How was I going to attain the look of a sundown in house with out sacrificing an excessive amount of realism?

The plain reply was to incorporate a traditional Star Wars orange planet and use that because the backdrop — it could replicate some orange mild, and I might crank that as much as mild the X-Wings and house station.


Work in progress: glow emanating from a Star Wars-esque orange planet.

An fascinating lesson for me was coaching my eyes and mind to modulate the extent of coloration and stylization of my scenes to higher replicate the unique.

After I made the above lighting setup, I believed it seemed nice. Nonetheless, with beneficial suggestions from my mentors, and a extra sincere have a look at the reference photos, I might clearly see it was oversaturated and excessive. The lighting seemed extra like sunshine (as if the spacecraft was actually subsequent to the solar) than within the authentic sequence.

Creating lifelike characters

One other consequence of the extra grounded strategy was that the pilot fashions I had initially supposed to make use of (from the Disney Infinity sport) have been a lot too stylized and cartoony to suit with the lifelike lighting and X-Wings I used to be utilizing. So I ended up adapting the human fashions from BigMediumSmall’s Mech Squad pack and outfitting them with the helmet from the Disney Infinity Luke Skywalker mannequin.


X-wing pilot with helmet.

Helmets grew to become a broader query too. I solely had two human fashions from the Mech Squad pack, which I supposed to reuse in all of the pictures. I wanted a technique to disguise their faces in order that the reuse could be much less apparent. I additionally had a bunch of individuals working round in an open vacuum (given the house station bay doorways are open), so helmets made sense. I re-colored their uniforms, alongside the strains of the varied uniforms in High Gun, and developed masculine and feminine-looking variations.

Fixing a “obvious” drawback

I ultimately bought a few early check pictures accomplished, which seemed fairly good and felt sufficient like High Gun, so I began cranking out just a few extra to develop a standardized workflow.


A Rogue Squadron work-in-progress check shot, rendered in real-time in Unreal Engine.


One other work-in-progress check shot.

To my mentors’ extra skilled eyes, there have been just a few obvious (pun not supposed) points that I wasn’t actually conscious of. I’ll use the shot above for instance. First, I had approach an excessive amount of lens flare — even JJ Abrams would assume this was a bit a lot!

Second, a number of components of the shot have been overexposed — the hotspot on the prime of the bay door opening, the overhead lights, and so forth.

Third, the planet has no ambiance, which, whereas not strictly crucial, is a straightforward approach so as to add visible curiosity and emphasize the sundown look. And lastly, my steam, a key a part of the High Gun look, wasn’t actually working.

With my mentors’ assist, I ultimately resolved all of those points and bought going with constructing out the set correctly.

Constructing out the house station in Unreal Engine


Constructing out the house station set.

The shell of the station and the asteroids got here from a mining station asset that I discovered whereas trawling by way of Unreal Engine Market. The large crimson planet is a customizable Blueprint asset (extra on these later), additionally from Unreal Market. And the background starfield is definitely a really massive spherical object known as a SkySphere with a customizable layer of stars and coloured nebulae. 

Deciding on the property, placing them collectively, customizing their seems, scaling them to roughly lifelike distances and sizes (100k+ kilometers aside), after which lighting them, in order that they make sense collectively is the magic of kitbashing!

The inside of the hangar is a mix of a number of completely different kits and property from the Unreal Engine Market, BigMediumSmall, and Kitbash3D. Some property have been as straightforward as drag and drop — others required somewhat work and fiddling earlier than they have been prepared to be used. But it surely’s all the time higher than attempting to construct all of it from scratch, clearly.

Inside and exterior of the house station in Anthony’s High Gun and Star Wars-inspired fan movie.

I constructed out the principle format with flooring plates after which constructed a single X-Wing touchdown bay with lights and a upkeep body behind it. After ensuring it labored with my X-Wing mannequin, I duplicated it a number of occasions for the opposite bays. 

After I positioned certainly one of my human fashions within the set for the primary time, I noticed that the holes within the flooring plates have been so massive that the human mannequin’s ft would fall by way of them, so I needed to scale down the ground plates considerably and add much more of them. Reference actually is all the pieces on this stage of constructing a digital set.

Whereas there isn’t a management tower shot within the authentic, I’ve all the time thought there ought to be, and I couldn’t resist having a shot or two with glowing digital screens mirrored in glass house helmets. So I additionally constructed out a “management room” space within the rear heart of the hangar — screens on screens on screens, with plenty of cables and large honking laptop tools.


The management room in Rogue Squadron with plenty of screens.

Actuality is messy and asymmetrical, so wherever doable, I launched irregularity and variation — randomly positioned crimson containers (I imply, photon torpedo storage), rotated the cranes barely otherwise to at least one one other, included irregular cables and piping — something that made the scene really feel much less copy-and-pasted.

The ultimate touches included VFX-like steam and decals just like the Rogue Squadron brand. Typically you solely notice the necessity for issues like this partway by way of manufacturing. The good factor about real-time environments like Unreal Engine is having the ability to rapidly drop in a brand new asset and immediately re-render your shot, versus pushing a shot again by way of an extended and painful pipeline.

Management rigs for the crew and X-Wing fashions


Constructing Management Rigs for a crew member.

I constructed out Blueprints for every sort of crew member and X-Wing, assembling parts into reusable models. I discovered one stunning high-poly mannequin by Charles Woods on Sketchfab, however the textures have been made to look somewhat too broken for what I used to be on the lookout for. The cockpit, nevertheless, was fantastically detailed, so I ended up pulling that out and inserting it in a unique X-Wing mannequin by Steve Dowdy on CGTrader. This different mannequin additionally had a moveable undercarriage meeting, which I undoubtedly wished for pictures contained in the hangar.

I made separate Blueprints for X-Wings sitting within the bay (no undercarriage motion, no pilot), X-Wings taxiing in for a touchdown (moveable undercarriage, pilot), and X-Wings in flight exterior the hangar (no undercarriage in any respect and no pilot).


X-Wing variations.

This form of preparation in pre-production hastens manufacturing considerably, however it’s doable to over-prepare — and shock, shock, I undoubtedly did this on Rogue Squadron. For particular sorts of standardized motion, you’ll be able to create a Management Rig in Unreal Engine, which is a rigged set of controls which you can seize and transfer to drive the motion of a part of the mannequin — a bit just like the strings of a puppet. You’ll be able to construct logical capabilities in a node graph to outline how issues transfer in relation to one another.

X-Wing animation utilizing Management Rigs.

I used to be in a position to simply arrange Management Rigs for easy actions like opening the cover or flaring the wings, however the advanced set of piston actions required for the undercarriage is a foul use of the approach. I spent per week attempting to determine how one can use a Management Rig to drive the undercarriage animation of my X-Wing fashions earlier than giving up and simply baking the animation into its personal asset, which I can reuse simply.

Staying organized

With plenty of assist from my mentors (even after the unique course had formally ended) all through the period of the Unreal Connectors course, I used to be in a position to crank out all 60+ pictures of the brief.

I stayed organized with spreadsheets and checklists and stored going, regardless of undoubtedly contemplating quitting just a few occasions.


Anthony’s well-organized spreadsheet, used to trace his many pictures.

Whereas I began out with Publish-it Notes and a paper pocket book, these organizational spreadsheets grew to become invaluable in maintaining observe of suggestions and progress over time and customarily stopping me from losing time. 


Nonetheless from Rogue Squadron, made by Anthony in Unreal Engine as a part of the Unreal Connectors program.

It took some time and plenty of work, however I am happy with what I achieved. For those who’re , you’ll be able to learn extra concerning the mission and the way I made it on my weblog

How Unreal Connectors gave Anthony the arrogance to get began

The largest problem on this course of was additionally the fuzziest — there have been so many unknowns for me initially of the course: what’s the proper technique to get began? How a lot work to do in Unreal Engine? Ought to I take advantage of a Management Rig, or ought to I keyframe the animation? Ought to I take advantage of lifelike lighting or pretend all the pieces? It was fairly overwhelming and paralyzing. 

And there wasn’t essentially a single “A-ha!” second that fastened that — it was extra a gradual strategy of confidence development, largely pushed by focused, clear solutions from the mentors I labored with and watching them problem-solve my points dwell and in real-time. I’m nonetheless early in my real-time filmmaking studying journey, however I’m much more assured that I can determine issues out in no matter mission I sort out subsequent. 

4 occasions Anthony benefited from knowledgeable mentorship

I discovered so much from my mentors and am so grateful for his or her assist. Beneath are 4 occasions (of many) my industry-expert mentors helped steer me towards my objectives, educating me beneficial filmmaking, digital manufacturing, and Unreal Engine expertise.


  1. It took some time for me to comprehend that there isn’t a “proper” technique to do issues with regards to file and mission construction, workflow, utility stack, and so forth. till I chatted with Digital Manufacturing Skilled (and award-winning Filmmaker) Deepak Chetty. His analogy of considering of Unreal Engine as virtually like a digicam that generates uncooked footage was very helpful in getting my head round the place the software program sits within the pipeline and the place it actually shines.
  2. My eyes are untrained and naive when pictures and stills — it’s nonetheless exhausting for me to establish advanced lighting points, and whereas typically I can inform one thing is off, it’s exhausting for me to inform what precisely. CG Spectrum Technical Assistant Marc Carratala and Unreal Engine Artist and Developer Logan Pinney have been vastly useful in speaking by way of how one can stability realism and stylization and how one can use reference photos to create boundaries for your self.
  3. Studying to make use of Blueprints successfully is like studying to code, albeit a really simplified language, however nonetheless a troublesome curve. Watching Unreal Approved Teacher and Sport Programmer Ryan Laley determine issues out in real-time throughout our problem-solving classes actually confirmed me how to consider it and gave me the arrogance to only dive in. 
  4. Lastly, it’s one factor to make two to a few pictures of a check piece and fairly one other to make 62 pictures for a full brief! I can confidently say that with out Deepak’s steerage, encouragement, and suggestions all through, I’d not have accomplished the brief.

Anthony’s subsequent mission

I’ve written three authentic brief movie screenplays, the primary of which I intend to start out manufacturing subsequent 12 months. However earlier than that, I’ve one other studying train deliberate (additionally restricted in scope) to be taught extra detailed character animation and facial animation specifically. It’s a sort of sci-fi tackle the crop duster scene from North by Northwest, and I’m enthusiastic about it. 

I’m additionally persevering with to check below Deepak’s mentorship, so I’ve common check-ins with him, which proceed to be invaluable. We now have had a number of discussions on approaches to stylization, and below his steerage, I’ve been exploring using Secure Diffusion to stylize components or all of a body in post-production. Studying to do that in a managed and predictable method can even be a part of this subsequent studying train.

To see extra of Anthony’s work, observe him on Instagram, YouTube, Medium, ArtStation, and LinkedIn.

Grasp Unreal Engine in solely 12 weeks and create your personal epic fan movie!

Sharpen your real-time expertise with CG Spectrum’s Unreal Connectors: Digital Manufacturing Course, the primary micro-credentialing program devoted to educating artists digital manufacturing, created in partnership with Epic Video games.

Led by specialists in real-time and digital manufacturing at an Unreal Engine Approved Coaching Heart, this intensive course (5 x weekly classes for 12 weeks) will assist artists, filmmakers, and content material creators grasp Unreal Engine workflows and methods.

Energy up your real-time expertise in actual time!




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