How Media.Monks aims to dominate APAC with the ‘Unreal Engine’

Robert Godinho, Managing Director, Media.Monks, says the future of content creation is 3D and virtual studios

e4m by Shantanu David
Published: Aug 1, 2022 8:28 AM  | 4 min read
Media.Monks

A desolate Martian landscape, a sun-dappled mountain valley, a city skyline with crackling lightning and the boom of thunder overhead… these settings and scenes chase each other on a 17x5 m curved LED wall. It is flanked on both sides by reflection walls that are moveable on wheels and crowned by a ceiling LED panel.

Known in the MediaMonks office as ‘The Volume’, this 8,000-square feet studio is what the digital marketing and advertising services company promises to be a game changer in filmmaking for not only ad films, but also all other visual media. 

Located in Noida’s Film City, the 3D virtual studio is powered by Unreal Engine, a 3D computer graphics game engine created and powered by Epic Games. The US-based game and software company is behind popular titles such as Fortnite, Gears of War, and the Unreal video game series.

“It’s no longer just a geek’s toy, but the future of content creation in the visual medium,” says Robert Godinho, Managing Director, Media.Monks, noting that major players in both the streaming and news segments are keen to use the technology and space for upcoming projects, with the announcements expected sooner rather than later.

“Our creative team spent several months just locked in with all the equipment, learning how every element of it works, the kind of work that can be done on it, and the different ways it can be used as per the clients’ needs,” says John Paite, CCO, Media.Monks, adding that whoever has come to check out the facilities, from both the advertising and entertainment media worlds has become a convert, and eager to create on the seemingly limitless canvas.

That being said, Paite also notes that while the Unreal Engine’s applications are only limited by one’s imagination, it’s also important for clients to have their own creative vision in place, as the tools at the studio, while ensuring superlative technical work, can’t improve the content or the messaging that clients themselves have come up with.

Because The Volume isn’t so much a static backdrop that needs to be changed as per setting, but instead a dynamic depth of field which has all its iterations already fed into the Unreal Engine so as to change at the click of a button, Paite points out this technology has significant savings in time, resources, materials, manpower, logistics and overall budgets.

“It’s about working together with the directors and the DoP (Director of Photography) and knowing what they want. There’s a lot of on-set problem solving involved, and they can see the flexibility of changing and adjusting things in real time, so they have different options in iterations of what the scene can look like,” he says.

Because it is largely virtual, the 3D stage allows Media.Monks’ artists to digitally swap out assets, change backgrounds, colour schemes instantaneously creating multiple versions of the same product in a revolutionary turnaround time, without needing to wrestle with the physical assets.

Made up of 8x4 feet modular platform blocks covering an area of 2,000 square feet, the modular floor creates a seamless level with the LED wall and is set up in different configurations based on the shot or scene. The LED volume is powered by four high-end workstations powered by the latest NVIDIA Quadro Cards pushing a total of 4 x 4k pixels every frame from Unreal Engine.

Once the brand and their creative teams have decided what they want in the ad film, the MediaMonks team can feed in the requirements into the Unreal Engine and make it, well, real. This means ads (and any other content) can be shot in a quick turnaround time as there is minimal need to physically change the set, meaning the studio is significantly less populated as well.

“Basically, the talent, the director and DoP, and the different creative and technical leads are all that are needed, with maybe a couple of helpers, as there’s not really that much to move around or manually adjust. It takes us a minute to change the background or get the coordinates just right to match the camera angles,” says Paite, adding that for a long, complicated shoot, the clients should readily be able to do two different location scenes in one day, and up to four if they’re really pushing it.

Godinho says due to all these advantages, the future of filmmaking and advertising is going to be the virtual 3d stage. Asserting that Media.Monks is currently operating the largest such facilities, bolstered by a creative and technical team now well versed in this immersive style of filmmaking, Godinho is confident that the agency will remain at the forefront of the APAC region for high-end shoots as well as shoots using Unreal Engine.

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