Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022 Posted by Jim Thacker

Watch Enemies, Unity’s gorgeous new tech demo

Unity has released Enemies, a beautiful new two-minute CG cinematic showcasing the Unity game engine’s capabilities for creating photorealistic digital humans, including a new strand-based hair system.

The short was released at GDC 2022, where Unity will be hosting a session on the underlying technology.

A more technically taxing demonstration of digital humans than The Heretic demo
Enemies pushes deeper into the territory established by The Heretic, Unity’s 2019 tech demo.

At the time, the firm described The Heretic as a “first attempt” at rendering photorealistic human characters inside the game engine: at the time, widely regarded as Unreal Engine’s unique selling point.

Since then, Unity has considerably strengthened its digital human technology, in part through the acquisitions of VFX facility Weta Digital and its in-house tools, and more recently, of Ziva Dynamics.

Enemies reflects that increased confidence, stripping away the surrounding action and foregrounding the digital actor: the entire short is a single long camera zoom in on the character’s face, ending in close-up.

Makes use of recent improvements to lighting and rendering in Unity
As with The Heretic, Enemies showcases both new and existing capabilities in Unity.

The short is described as using “the entire feature set” of Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), including the GPU ray tracing system introduced in Unity 2019.3 but still currently listed as a tech preview.

Enemies also makes use of features in Unity 2021.2, the current stable release, including improvements to Screen Space Global Illumination (SSGI) and Adaptive Probe Volumes, its experimental light probe system.

Showcases experimental new skin and hair simulation features
The bulk of the new features come during character creation, including advances to skin and hair simulation.

Unity’s blog post doesn’t go into much detail about the former, simply noting that the firm developed “tension tech” to mimic the changes in blood flow to the skin in the character’s face as she talks.

There’s more detail on hair, with the skin attachment system for facial vellus hair now running on the GPU.

However, the biggest new feature is Unity Hair, a new strand-based hair system, described as an integrated solution for authoring, skinning, simulating and rendering hair compatible with all of Unity’s render pipelines.

As with Unreal Engine’s hair system, it’s designed to work with apps that export grooms in Alembic format: for Enemies, Unity used Maya’s XGen, but is now “validating” workflow with Weta Digital’s Barbershop.

The short also makes uses of a new hair shading model in the HDRP, described as “similar to” the Marschner shading model used in offline renderers like RenderMan.

It isn’t yet clear what kind of machine you will need to make use of all of those technologies, according to Unity, Enemies runs in real time at 4K resolution, although there’s no info on system specs.

Release dates and system requirements
Unity plans to make the new technology developed for Enemies publicly available: most of it in Unity 2022.1, currently available in beta, and Unity 2022.2, currently in alpha.

The software is compatible with Windows 7+, Ubuntu 18.04/20.04 and CentOS 7 Linux, and macOS 10.14+. It is available rental-only via free Personal subscriptions, or paid Pro and Plus plans.

Unity will also release a “Digital Human 2.0 package” similar to the one for The Heretic – currently available free on the Unity Asset Store – in the “next couple of months”.

The package for the Unity Hair system will be released on GitHub, although there’s no date for that yet.

Read more about the making of Enemies on Unity Technologies’ website