'Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian': What is the Unreal Engine, the technology used to create show's backdrop?

The game engine, first designed in 1995, was a huge step forward in visual graphics technology and continues to be a pioneer to this day


                            'Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian': What is the Unreal Engine, the technology used to create show's backdrop?
(Epic Games)

Throughout 'Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian', you will hear directors mention the "game engine" and how vital a role it plays in how 'The Mandalorian' is shot. Every single shot is done against a backdrop virtually created by the engine, not to mention how much the show's creators rely on it to render every episode in pre-visualization to aid their planning. It's strange, then, that the engine isn't mentioned by name, but it's still worth taking a look at the Unreal Engine and its history. 

The engine was first created by Tim Sweeney, who founded Epic Games, the company behind 'Fortnite'. Sweeney created the engine in 1995, for a first-person shooter called "Unreal", which was released in 1998. The engine was a huge step forward in terms of visual graphics in video games, allowing game designers to filter textures, change light coloring, and have ready information on collision detection at hand. It made levels easier to alter, a huge boon to video game designers. Unreal Engine quickly beat out its main competitor, the id Engine, which was responsible for other first-person shooters like 'Doom' and 'Quake'. 

The Unreal Engine quickly grew in popularity, and it has become an important part of gaming history. Both 'Bioshock' games, the entire Batman 'Arkham' series, 'Gears of War,' the 'Borderlands' series and the 'Mass Effect' series are just some of the games to have used the engine. Epic Games licenses the engine out to other games for a cut of 5% of the revenue. Epic Games itself has started to make a bigger name for itself in the gaming world with the release of the Epic Games Store in 2018, aggressively making its way into the market with free giveaways and exclusivity deals — but that's another story.

'The Mandalorian' marks the first time that the Unreal Engine has been used so extensively, and on a project as big as 'The Mandalorian', outside of the gaming industry — but it will be far from the last. As we've seen on 'Disney Gallery', the Unreal Engine technology has allowed for entirely new approaches to live-action television. The use of the Unreal Engine to virtual create, redesign and change the position of sets allows the show to draw viewers into the world of 'Star Wars' like never before. 

The Unreal Engine is on its 5th iteration — and the innovation that its brought is about to change the world of live-action storytelling as we know it. The next episode of 'Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian' airs on June 12 on Disney+.

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