Prismax and Epic: partners in ambition

Today, Prismax is Belgium’s only certified Unreal Engine Services Partner for virtual Production and the only Belgian recipient of an Epic Mega Grant. Lofty titles and high honors, given only to a select few. But, how did we get here?

For years, we used Unreal to render concept visuals and arrange previews for clients – alongside more traditional motion graphics software such as After Effects and Cinema4D. Thanks to the real-time capabilities of Unreal Engine, it’s the perfect partner for conceptual work. Ruben Gorissen, our CTO and co-founder explains:

“Even if it isn’t identical to the final, fully rendered product, having the option to open up a laptop or whack on a set of VR goggles and get a taste of the atmosphere and mood helps the client visualize what we’re creating for them. Without having to wait for a render to finish.”

Rewind to early 2019. We’d just finished some early concept work for Tomorrowland in Unreal Engine and saw how far the engine had come. After evaluating the final product, we made a decision. The added flexibility of real-time rendering, constant updates and expansions to the engine, and undeniable quality of the finished product were enough to convince us to switch over to the program completely.

And so, we dove deeper into this unbelievably extensive program. We learned the ins and outs and continued to evolve alongside the engine – not just for Tomorrowland, but for all our projects.

A different kind of festival

And then, in 2020, the world was stopped in its tracks, due to a global pandemic. But Tomorrowland wasn’t about to let COVID-19 stop the power of music. That’s when the idea of Tomorrowland Virtual Edition was born. A full festival experience, complete with an audience, an interactive world, and that unique, otherworldly Tomorrowland atmosphere – right from your computer.

Enter Pāpiliōnem, a magical island fully rendered in Unreal Engine to host the virtual festival. Without a doubt the most ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken. But also a project that allowed us to stretch the capabilities of Unreal Engine to its maximum. That’s a potent mix – we felt less like we were using Unreal Engine to build something and more like we were exploring the vast capabilities hidden within the engine.

Very few had treaded as deep into the engine as we were doing. So, we decided to contact Epic. We felt they had a lot to offer us regarding support and advice. But maybe more importantly, we felt that our creation of Pāpiliōnem could also provide them a wealth of insight. Not only could we report bugs and performance issues nobody else had ever run into, but we could also share our unique ambitions with the Engine. Ambitions they hadn’t even considered themselves.

What the future holds

After undergoing the necessary tests and proving our capabilities – tests that are repeated yearly – we were welcomed into the Epic Games fold as the only official Belgian Unreal Engine Service Partner in Virtual Production – and received one of Epic’s coveted Mega Grants.

The benefits of that partnership? Our clients get direct support from Epic. In turn, they have a knowledgeable partner they can refer ambitious creators to for help and executive support.

Oh, and the Mega Grant? We plan to use it to continue the development of our Xlive program. A full software package to help us and our clients VJ virtual experiences, direct virtual sets, and control projected images directly from Unreal Engine – in real-time. Without having to be experts. So we can take any festival, virtual set, or dancefloor out of this world.

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