What is common among the world’s most epic video games like Tomb Raider, Hitman, Dawn of War and Biochoc? This is the midas touch of Plastic Wax. Long elusive, Plastic Wax has been the gaming industry’s best-kept secret for over a decade now. With over 20 years of solid experience in the game and motion picture animation industry, the Sydney-based animation powerhouse is on a roll as it just finished working on the upcoming animated show. Netflix’s episodic interactive. Battle Kitty.
With no intention of resting on the laurels of the past, Plastic Wax is emerging as a go-to supplier for all things animation, be it game trailers, series animated and premium originals like Fighting cat. What’s extraordinary about the upcoming show is that it’s created entirely in Unreal Engine, which is supposed to be a game-changer for the entertainment industry (no pun intended)
With a team of over 130 talented artists and a state-of-the-art motion capture facility using the latest technology, Plastic Wax is the name behind a vast majority of the world’s greatest game titles. The secret sauce behind their success is their long-standing appointment with Unreal Engine, the wonders of which the world is only now beginning to grasp.
In an effort to extricate their conundrum from obscurity, we spoke to Plastic Wax Founder and Director Nathan Maddams and VP Business Development Cindy Airey to learn about their journey, expectations, and upcoming plans.
Having been a leading creator of video game trailers, doing cutting edge work for partners such as Warner Brothers, Disney, Avalanche Studios and Netflix, they are now expanding their footprint across the world by adding more studios. .
Speaking about the diverse range of services they continue to offer and their projects, Cindy said, “We have been involved in providing our services for video games in engines, cinematics, trailers and we recently completed a series for Netflix, Fighting cat. We are also adding another studio. Most of our customers are located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Almost 75% of them come from the west coast of the United States.
Reflecting on their trip, Nathan explains that the reason they were in the limelight was because the amount of work they were doing didn’t allow them to spend the time advertising their offers. He notes: “At the beginning I think we were fortunate to some extent to be in the right place at the right time and to have the right skills. We have worked on games like Tomb Raider, Hitman, Dawn of War, etc.. We would do a project and word of mouth would allow us to get other projects. We barely had a web presence. We were almost too busy to market ourselves so a lot of people didn’t know our reach until they worked with us. They were like ‘You worked on BioShock? Wow! ‘ We were so busy at first that we didn’t have time to go out and tell people what we were working on.
When asked if they had worked on any projects early on outside of popular game trailers, Nathan replied, “Yes, we had various projects ranging from in-game animation to working on some IPs. for Australian children, including the very popular ‘Squirms. ‘ I came from a very cinematic approach to these projects seeing computer graphics as an art form that had not been fully explored “
While they’ve worked on a diverse range of projects spanning game trailers, cutscenes, and in-game cutscenes for big titles, long-running projects in the engine, what stands out is the vast repository. of game trailers. Explaining why we mostly see game trailers associated with them on the net, they shared, “What we show on our site is what we’re allowed to show. The work we do right now is spread more evenly: from long-running projects in the engine equally to game trailers. More and more we find that we are somewhere in the middle; a good sample of both types of projects. Cutscenes for headlines, in-game cutscenes, and trailers.
Plastic Wax’s success can be attributed to their premonitory preoccupation with Unreal Engine in its early days, when it was not the fireball it has now become.
Elaborating on the association with Plastic Wax, Cindy shared that what brought her to Plastic Wax was her fascination with Unreal Engine. She shared, “I went to Plastic Wax because of the Unreal Engine eight years ago and what they were already doing in that space. I knew in which direction he was going to go. It was the innovation they were already at. For example, we were working on an Underworld Ride Totally in Unreal movie in Dubai about five or six years ago. And now we see everyone doing it now. At Plastic Wax, we have been working on this engine for a very long time.
When they first started, Nathan says, they had access to motion capture platforms. Using the built-in Motion Builder and capturing the live scenes was the old-fashioned way.
He shared, “My team has translated physical film making into a virtual space since the start of the business, which was my goal. As we developed and adopted a Vicon system, when we moved on to that, we worked on our own tools to move from Vicon to Unreal. At first we used it for rudimentary lighting and mocap stage staging – we could load in game characters and be directly into fights.
Quoting Disney Mandalorian series, he felt that the virtual production experience was a resounding success and that the industry is gradually getting acquainted with this technology. He added: “My approach was that there was a conscious direction to go down this path. The more we realized what we could get out of this process, the more we pushed it. The end of the game was to reach the last pixel on stage. With shows like Mandalorian showing a final project, he ticked the covid box, that’s when I think everyone perked up and realized it was a viable thing. We have been among the ranks working on this subject and the industry has caught up.
Cindy said she hopes this emerging technology will continue to innovate and move forward. Speaking about her vision for the future, she noted, “The way people consume media is changing rapidly. Not only will we be using real-time game engines, but you will see more media being consumed in this type of world. You saw it with Unreal creating the metaverse. It’s exciting. Pipelines will continue to innovate in Unreal because it makes sense and there are no barriers to quality. The way people consume the media is about to change.
Without revealing too much Fighting cat, Cindy informed that the series is approximately over 430 minutes of animation. Nathan said, “It’s one of the few pieces of content that’s been created in Unreal Engine, especially in this quality bar. When we tested that, they pitted it against traditional animation, and we won because we hit the bar. Doing it in the engine also really wowed the creator.
Spilling more beans on the behind-the-scenes story of how they were assigned to this project, Nathan revealed, “We were against studios not using Unreal. It was quite an accomplishment. And for Netflix to take a leap of faith in that based on our proof of concept work… I would say they had a vision that this was viable as a movie making tool.
We hope that the advances made in the AVGC space will continue to enrich more and more creative projects. We can’t wait for Battle Kitty to come out!