Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 is an award-winning game engine that powers some of the biggest franchises in the games business, including its own Gears of War and Unreal Tournament titles. Now it’s being used by Hollywood.

HDFilms is using the 3D technology of UE3 to create a new short form 3D animated series for the Internet. Studio 2.0, the digital productions division of Warner Bros. Television Group, is distributing it.

“Chadam” is based on the artwork of Alex Pardee and will follow the adventures of its protagonist, who can physically manipulate the world using his imagination. Pardee has created work for music artists, comic books and other projects.

Jace Hall, founder of HDFilms and former head of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, is producing the new series. The plan is to launch this franchise as an online series and then expand it to other forms of entertainment, including videogames.

“Jace Hall’s access to leading-edge technology like the 3D animation engine of Epic is one of the reasons we are excited to be in business with his company HDFilms,” said Craig Hunegs, executive vice president for business management at Warner Bros. Television Group. “We look forward to working with Epic in what we hope is a long-term relationship. The Chadam project is a great example of Studio 2.0’s commitment to provide the most compelling and exciting user experience in online and wireless video.”

Epic Vice President Mark Rein said the HDFilms will provide good exposure for the UE3 engine.

“We’re very pleased that talented people like Alex Pardee and Jace Hall have chosen to use Unreal Engine 3 to help bring Chadam to life and tell that deep story,” Rein said. “We’re especially excited because Chadam is going to be a highly provocative art form expression that breaks new ground and stretches peoples’ imagination of what our Unreal Engine 3 technology can be used for.”

Epic Expands Hollywood Efforts

Epic has quietly been sampling the Hollywood waters over the past year through its licensees. Eighteen episodes of the international hit TV series, “Lazytown,” which blends real actors with computer-generated environments and characters, were created using UE3. The show airs on Nickelodeon and Noggin in the U.S. as well as in 102 other countries.

Dutch filmmaker Raymond P. Le Gué, used its own proprietary XRGen4 technology in conjunction with Unreal Engine 3 Le Gué said the set-up in his studio allows the team to generate the "LazyTown" virtual environment, a 3D townscape, as a live background in real-time and in high definition. Chromakey (greenscreen) techniques are used to key these backgrounds behind the live actors.

"UE3 is an important part of our system, but not that important that I would like to call it Unreal virtual sets," said Le Gué. "We haven´t been using it for traditional CGI animation but to generate virtual sets. Until now, we have been using our own dedicated render engines, but we saw that the performance of Epic’s game engines came closer and closer to our needs. The dynamic and speed with which Epic’s game engines evolve make them very interesting to use."

More recently, independent game developer Chair Entertainment pitched the movie, “Empire,” to Warner Bros. using a game demo running on UE3. Joel Silver green-lit the project and best-selling author Orson Scott Card, who lives in Greensboro, is writing the screenplay. (He’s also released the first of three novels based on the new intellectual property.)

“We used a fully playable prototype to provide examples of how some pivotal moments of the book could be brought to life,” said Donald Mustard, creative director of Chair Entertainment. “Part of the prototype put the player right in the middle of a massive battle on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that really showed off some great stuff that got both Card and Warner Bros. very excited.”

It’s likely that Epic’s technology will be used for other Hollywood projects moving forward, especially as the film industry focuses more on computer-generated movies and 3D films.