When artificially intelligent humanoids pass beyond the uncanny valley, most theorists assume they will one day become indistinguishable from humans. Or, perhaps they will pass into another realm of perception altogether, forcing a reinterpretation of how a humanoid should look. In Unity’s latest short film, the cyberpunk Adam, the team behind the game engine seems to pass beyond the uncanny valley with 3D graphics that should get viewers imagining what lies just over the horizon of the artificial.
Created with the game engine and rendered in real time, Adam both tests and showcases the graphics that are possible in the 2016 version of Unity. Written and directed by Unity’s Veselin Efremov, along with various in-house animation, VFX, and character and production design talent, Adam tells the story of an enslaved robot who walks out into the open air and into freedom—or maybe a new type of enslavement.
Plot-wise, it’s nothing too heady, but the Unity Demo Team’s computer generations, lighting, and virtual camera work are absolutely stunning. Hollywood studios could do this kind of work, but at astronomical cost. The tools the Unity team uses, however, could be had on the cheap and, like the accessible cameras used by the French New Wave, usher in a new era of cinematic virtual storytelling where anything imaginable could become, for lack of a better term, reality.
“The Unity Demo Team built Adam with beta versions of Unity 5.4 and our upcoming cinematic sequencer tool,” Unity explains. “Adam also utilizes an experimental implementation of real-time area lights and makes extensive use of high fidelity physics simulation tool CaronteFX, which you can get from the Unity Asset Store right now.”
“To make Adam, the Demo Team developed custom tools and features on top of Unity including volumetric fog, a transparency shader, and motion blur to cover specific production needs,” they add. “We’ll make these freely available soon!”
Unity says that Adam runs at 1440p, shorthand for 2560 x 1440 resolution at a 16:9 aspect ratio. While this is not quite 4K resolution, the 1440p and 16:9 aspect ration is truly cinematic. The light hitting the lead robot character’s various surfaces and the shadows cast look real. The way the camera moves in and out of focus mostly looks great, though it can get a bit distracting, and the same could be said for the motion.
But overall, the Demo Team proves that not only is Unity a very powerful engine of creation for game designers and artists, but one for filmmakers as well. So with the right kind of stories, whether science fiction or not, these tools could very well send us hurtling beyond the uncanny valley. Check out Adam below:
Click here to see more of the Unity Demo Team’s short films.