Blue Zoo receives Epic Megagrant in support of MoPo

Member News  |  24 April 2023

The studio’s new tool, MoPo, is a revolutionary way of rapidly creating animated content using VR in Unreal Engine.

Silly Duck

London-based animation studio, Blue Zoo Animation Studio, has received an Epic MegaGrant from Epic Games, that will be used to support the development of their new real-time tool, MoPo. MoPo allows animation artists to use immersive VR technology to rapidly create characterful 3D animated content for platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube. 

Blue Zoo is a multi-BAFTA and Emmy-winning, B Corp certified, production company that has grown to become one of the UK’s leading and largest animation studios. The studio’s vision is to build an animation studio with heart, through creating positively impactful content that the team is proud of creating.

The model of creating content solely through painstaking key-framed animation is beginning to struggle to match what audiences desire in our content-hungry world. The solution? Blue Zoo’s MoPo. This revolutionary new tool, developed in-house in Unreal Engine 5 by the studio’s real-time team, allows any user to puppeteer a character in real-time, using a VR headset for a layered, additive, non-linear approach. This means a single artist can puppeteer a whole complex character alone, rather than requiring multiple puppeteers working together, or being constrained by the physical limits of human motion capture. Using VR in this way gives the artist the full six degrees of freedom of movement while being immersed within the scene to animate the puppets, allowing nuanced, expressive animation at near real-time speed.

With this accelerated performance, MoPo can be used for prototyping new shows, creating animatics, or producing finished animation for quick turnover platforms, such as YouTube or Tik Tok. Animating a 30 second scene, which used to take up to several days, can now be accomplished in minutes.

Using Unreal Engine 5 for this enables not just the animation to be extremely fast, but the post-production process too. Taking advantage of the sequencer in Unreal Engine, in-camera post-processing effects, and fast rendering means that finished frames can be output directly from Unreal, with no compositing step needed. Artists are also able to take advantage of Unreal’s real-time physics and dynamics, meaning characters and props react to and affect the world around them as the performance is created, rather than having to rely on expensive simulations after the fact.

Keeping everything in one software package and reducing the number of production steps means a much smaller team can create the same quality content faster and more cost effectively.

We’re very proud and excited to have been selected as Epic MegaGrants recipients by Epic Games. The team has been working very hard to create MoPo, which will allow us to produce animated content faster than we ever have before, and also lets us harness the power of Unreal Engine to speed our workflow up even further.

We have completed several pilots using MoPo already – including Silly Duck launched on the studio’s Little Zoo YouTube channel in December 2022 – and our animators are loving the hand-made, spontaneous feel of the animation they are producing. Also, being able to take advantage of Unreal’s dynamics and real-time simulation we can get a real charm and physicality to the content produced.

Phil Stewart, Head of Real-Time at Blue Zoo

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