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Oryctes: How to Create a Flashy Cinematic With Maya & Unreal Engine

The Glow Production team has shared a detailed breakdown of the Oryctes cinematic, explained how the main character and the dragon were made, and discussed camera work.

Introduction to Glow Production

Established in 2011, Glow Production, one of the few cinematic development companies based in Malaysia, initially focused on Branding Films, Promotional Trailers, and TV commercials. Over time, we transitioned into the animation industry, where our passion for storytelling excellence became our primary focus. We have consistently strived to push the boundaries of creativity through our expertise in two pivotal realms: pre-rendered cinematics and in-game cinematics.

Companies and Cinematic Projects we have been a part of:

  • Hi-Rez Studios - Divine Knockout (DKO), Paladins, Realm Royale: Reforged, Rogue Company, SMITE
  • Larian - Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Greenheart Games - Tavern Keeper
  • Mimimi Games - Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew
  • Parallax Studios - Drift
  • Colopl - Project Babel, 黒猫のウィズ: 7TH ANNIVERSARY, 白猫GOLF
  • Asobimo - PROJECT ETERNAL (エターナル)
  • Square Enix - Ranbu, Ranbu 2
  • Mihoyo - Honkai Impact 3rd: Final Lesson
  • PG Soft - Gem Saviour 宝石侠, Medusa II: The Quest of Perseus, Summon & Conquer 

Branding Film/ TV Commercial:

  • Daihatsu, Honda, Panasonic
  • Playstation - Sony PlayStation 4
  • Sujahta Meiraku Group スジャータめいらくグループ - SUJAHTA - スジャータ坊や登場

And many more which can be found on our ArtStation, social media, and website.

History With Unreal Engine

We ventured into Unreal Engine in 2020 when we attempted to develop our first game. We were amazed by its incredible potential for real-time rendering and immersive experiences, which we saw as a game-changer not only for gaming but also for filmmaking and other industries. The ability to create lifelike virtual environments in real-time was truly captivating.

Unreal Engine’s involvement in virtual production has steadily grown over the years, with major advancements and collaborations with the film industry. These developments have helped us explore new creative possibilities, streamline workflows, and reduce costs, ultimately leading to more immersive and engaging storytelling.

Working on Oryctes

We began working on this exciting dragon-themed trailer approximately five months ago, around May 2023. The initial idea was to create a visually stunning and captivating short film that is both realistic and seamless.

The central concept was to introduce majestic and awe-inspiring dragons and dragon slayers as the pivotal characters, setting the tone for an epic battle. The dragon symbolizes power, mystery, and the fantastical elements at the core of the storyline, making it a focal point in our creative process. This led us to our core story: To kill a dragon, one must become a dragon. From there, we collaborated with our team of talented writers, designers, and visual effects experts to bring this awe-inspiring concept to life.

Background and Characters Concept Art:

Color Script & Keyart:

Creating the Main Character

Creating the main character was a multi-faceted process that required a blend of cutting-edge technology and artistic expertise.

Character Design

We began by conceptualizing the main hero’s appearance, taking into consideration the film’s narrative, tone, and audience. Once the character’s visual design was finalized, our team of character artists used software like ZBrush and Maya for 3D modeling and sculpting. To seamlessly integrate into live-action shots, we used metahuman to capture the performance and movement without losing the details. We enhanced the skin texture with dirt and blood to make it more believable.

Motion Capture

Mocap was a crucial element in achieving realism. We used Insight CVS, a virtual camera by Optitrack, mounted on a Steadicam, and live-streamed it to Unreal Engine to provide us with a clearer and better picture to bring our project’s vision to life while capturing the camera and actors’ movements. To faithfully capture the story’s medieval setting, we hired an expert in Hema sword-fighting as a stuntman to ensure the authenticity of our fight scenes. This data was then applied to the 3D model, providing natural and fluid movement. Certain action sequences were executed by our in-house animation team to maintain a high level of realism. The recorded sequences were then passed on to both the lighting and animation teams to run simultaneously.

Rigging and Animation

Rigging, or creating a skeleton for the character, was accomplished using software like Autodesk Maya. This allowed us to articulate and control the character’s movements. After recording the mocap into sequencer, we proceeded to animate in Maya to create the hero’s movements, gestures, and expressions. We combined keyframe animation with motion capture for a more lifelike performance. For facial animation, we used Unreal Metahuman Animator to capture live reference and convert it into data in Unreal. The data was then exported from Unreal to Maya to work on the details of facial expressions.


Believability was a key focus. We paid meticulous attention to details, including the hero’s interactions with the environment and other props. Realistic physics, lighting, and sound design contributed to creating a seamless, immersive experience for the audience. Additionally, facial animation was fine-tuned to convey emotions and expressions authentically.

Rendering and Composition

Achieving the hero’s visual authenticity in the Unreal Engine involved utilizing top-tier rendering capabilities within the engine itself. Additionally, the process encompassed post-production tasks, such as seamlessly integrating the hero into the CGI environment through compositing, color correction, and the inclusion of visual effects.

In summary, the creation of the main hero and animations involved a combination of traditional 3D modeling and animation, motion capture technology, and post-production magic. Our goal was to strike a balance between technical precision and artistic expression to make the hero and his actions as believable and emotionally resonant as possible.

Setting Up the Dragon

The creation and animation of the dragon in our project were complex and fascinating processes. Here’s an overview of how we brought this majestic creature to life.

Conceptualization and Design

The dragon’s creation began with an in-depth conceptualization phase. Originally created as a demo showcase back in 2019, we redefined its appearance, size, scale, and personality traits in line with the story’s requirements, while preserving the essence of the ‘Beetle x Dragon’ theme. The dragon incorporates elements inspired by real animals and dinosaurs.


Skilled 3D artists used software like ZBrush and Maya to create a highly detailed and realistic 3D model of the dragon. This involved resculpting its body, scales, wings, and facial features.

Texturing and Shading

Detailed texture maps were applied to the dragon’s 3D model, creating a realistic appearance with proper lighting, shadows, and material properties. Unreal Engine’s material editor was used for shading.

Rigging & Animation

A sophisticated rigging process was undertaken to establish the dragon’s skeletal structure, allowing for movement and animation. Animating the dragon involved various aspects, combining keyframe animation and motion capture techniques. Certain movements and expressions were manually keyframed for precise control, while motion capture technology was employed for large-scale, dynamic sequences, ensuring lifelike motion.

Lighting and Rendering

Realistic lighting techniques were implemented to ensure the dragon seamlessly blended into the digital environment. High-quality rendering settings were utilized within the Unreal Engine to produce visually stunning dragon scenes.

Visual Effects

Various visual effects, such as blood splatters, smoke, parts breaking and interactions with the environment, were added to enhance the dragon’s believability and the overall scene’s impact.

Rigorous revisions were carried out to guarantee the dragon’s movements, interactions, and overall presence met the highest quality standards. The dragon’s creation was a collaborative effort, blending artistic creativity and technical expertise to ensure it was not only a majestic and awe-inspiring creature but also an integral part of the story, enhancing the immersive experience for the audience.

The Camera Work

In virtual production, camera work is a critical aspect of creating a compelling sequence. The process begins with storyboarding and previsualization to plan the camera angles, movements, and overall framing of each shot. This provides a visual roadmap for the entire sequence. To compose visually striking shots, we adhere to cinematography guidelines such as the rule of thirds, depth of field, and framing techniques. To add excitement and dynamism to the sequence, we employ camera movements like pans, tilts, tracking shots, and shakes in the shots. We also adjust the focal length and depth of field to direct the viewer’s attention to specific elements within the scene.

Tips for virtual production enthusiasts

Always start with a clear plan and storyboard to save time and maintain a structured approach. Virtual productions often involve teamwork and communication among directors, artists, and technical experts. Studying and understanding framing, composition, and camera movement is crucial for creating compelling sequences. Virtual production provides ample space for creative exploration, so embrace the opportunity to test various camera angles and movements without hesitation to discover the most effective choices for your scene.


We spent a month generating ideas and finalizing a script that satisfied us. The production stage took approximately 3 months to complete, from the initial concept to the final product.

During this period, we encountered several main challenges, such as the complexity of dragon animation. Crafting intricate animations for the dragon, including its flight, muscle movements, and interactions with the characters, was a time-consuming and technically demanding task. To ensure the dragon appeared as realistic as possible, we had to find numerous references and experiment with various body movements. Unreal Engine’s real-time rendering and processing capabilities were essential, but they required optimization to ensure a smooth and interactive experience for end-users. The entire project involved a large team of concept artists, modelers, animators, and technical artists. Managing and coordinating the progress of each department and maintaining a cohesive creative vision was an ongoing challenge.

Unreal played a vital role in ensuring the project’s smooth delivery. Its real-time rendering capabilities allowed us to visualize the body movements of the characters (the dragon and the main hero) and their interactions with other elements in real-time. This greatly expedited the animation and fine-tuning process. Its advanced tools, such as lighting, shading, and material systems, contributed to achieving a high level of realism for the dragon and the entire digital environment. We were able to iterate on scenes and sequences quickly, making adjustments based on creative and technical feedback in a highly efficient manner. This significantly accelerated our production timeline, facilitated the creation of realistic and visually stunning elements, and allowed for effective collaboration among our teams. Unreal played an essential role in bringing the project to life and overcoming the key challenges we encountered along the way.

Last but not least, we wish to express our sincere appreciation to Kit from VINE Music Studio for their invaluable support in the realm of audio, and to Hao for the exceptional contributions to the modeling aspects of our project.

The Glow Production Team

Interview conducted by Arti Burton

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