Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

The Heretic demo showcases realistic digital humans in Unity

Unity Technologies has released a teaser for The Heretic, a new short film designed to showcase the game engine’s real-time rendering capabilities, as part of its keynote at GDC 2019.

The demo, which runs at 30fps in 1440p resolution on a “high-end gaming PC”, is lit entirely using real-time lights, and showcases Unity’s recent work on photorealistic digital humans.

A ‘first attempt’ at photorealistic human characters in Unity
The Heretic teaser is pretty enigmatic, with its human protagonist navigating an underground tunnel to open what may be a portal into a parallel universe.

“This makes no sense to me,” he comments to his sidekick: a shapeshifting mechanical creature that is part bird, part alien symbiote and part robotic spider.

However, like Unity’s previous tech demos Adam and Book of the Dead, the point of The Heretic isn’t really the storyline, but to showcase Unity’s developing photorealistic rendering capabilities.

In this case, that means the engine’s capability to render photorealistic digital humans – previously very much Unreal Engine’s unique selling point.

Unity describes the work as a “first attempt” at photorealistic human characters “scoped very conservatively with the primary purpose to establish a pipeline and a bar of quality”.

Created using a combination of off-the-shelf tools and in-development tech
The lead character is based on real-world scan data captured by UK service bureau Infinite-Realities, processed using Russian3DScanner‘s facial topologisation technology.

Rigging was done by facial animation specialist Snappers Systems.

The shaders used for the character’s skin, eyes, teeth, and hair are new, and are based on the new High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), introduced in last year’s Unity 2018.2 update.

The demo, which is lit entirely using real-time lights, also makes use of a new “probe-based lighting solution” being developed for future updates to the HDRP.

According to Unity, the technology and shaders used in the cinematic will be released publicly once the entire short is completed later this year.

Read more about the making of The Heretic teaser on Unity Technologies’ website