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Harnessing real-time technology to create an Underwater world for Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Unreal Engine 5 played an important role in bringing the world of The Little Mermaid to life, contributing to two distinct stages of the production process.

April 9, 2024

Author – Luca Bonatti, DFX Supervisor

During the initial production phase, MPC utilized Unreal Engine 5’s advanced features to visualize in real-time a preliminary version of the virtual sets. 

The on-set virtual production team paired UE5 with Ncam Reality technology, enabling real-time camera tracking and live previsualization of Environments, Set extensions and CGI elements during the shoot. 

The Director and the DoP were able to witness in real-time on the on-set screens the performances of the actors integrated within the computer-generated environments. As actors delivered their lines and executed their scenes on set, the director could observe their interactions with the virtual environments and explore the digital space. Witnessing actors composited within the digital landscapes provided a dynamic and immersive tool for the director, enhancing their ability to guide performances and shape the narrative. The real-time compositing and rendering features of Ncam and Unreal Engine 5 also enabled informed decisions regarding camera angles, lighting, and composition, optimizing the shooting process. 

As production transitioned into the post-production phase, Unreal Engine 5 continued to play a vital role. MPC employed the engine’s versatile tools to facilitate the initial blocking out and design of the film’s underwater Environment layouts.

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MPC’s team also leveraged the engine’s powerful real-time advanced lighting simulation capabilities to develop the look of the underwater world. Immersed within the interactive environment, they were able to fine tune the lighting, resulting in a reference for the look that was used in the final version of the shots. In summary, the integration of Unreal Engine 5 into The Little Mermaid’s production and post-production processes provided MPC with its capabilities to preview the digital sets in real-time long before the final stages of rendering and compositing. From visualizing intricate virtual sets during production to refining underwater environments and lighting in post-production, Unreal Engine 5 enhanced the visual experience and helped to speed up the process thanks to its real-time visual feedback.

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