While being escorted to a mysteriously irradiated site, a scientist experiences strange visions.

Already with an incredibly rich portfolio that includes some of our favourite sci-fi shorts like ‘Playgrounds Berlin‘, ‘Freight‘ and ‘IFCC Main Titles 2017‘, Sava Zivkovic‘s Irradiation certainly squeezes itself into that premium list. Irradiation tells a story of one man’s struggle of staying afloat between the real and the surreal. Upon being escorted to a mysteriously irradiated site, and after experiencing strange visions, Evgeniy finds himself questioning the very reason he was sent to investigate the site in the first place. This incredible piece of work is all made with Unreal Realtime Engine, which seems to be redefining the way films are made. Sava was gracious enough to answer a few questions on his process.

Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the world in Irradiation?

Irradiation started out as just a short trailer for an asset pack from Big Medium Small, but the larger story revealed itself to me very early on in the writing process. In truth I wouldn’t want to reveal the origin as it came from a personal place, but the story was also influenced by recent worldwide events and the psychological toll said events might have on an individual.

The production quality is fascinating, can you tell us about the process and the teams involved?

I’m very glad to hear that:) Irradiation was created with the use of real-time rendering in Unreal Engine, and the increase in production speed and creativity is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. The whole film is made with off the shelf assets from Big Medium Small, MAWI and Quixel Megascans which are largely responsible for the final production quality, but having good looking assets doesn’t account for much without good motion, therefore animation was absolutely key to get right. I’ve again partnered up with my friends from TakeOne, a local motion capture and animation studio from Belgrade, and they’ve helmed all things animation. The true power of Unreal lies in scene assembly and iteration speed, so once I had all assets and animations it was very easy for me to assemble all scenes and animate all cameras on my own. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt like I was on a set filming instead of pressing buttons in a piece of software, it was a truly wonderful experience:)

Is this your first time working with Unreal Engine? How has it changed your filmmaking experience?

I’ve dabbled in Unreal for about a year, learning various aspects of the software in my free time, but yes this is my first short film fully utilizing this amazing software. I talk about it in my process video which is heavily recommended viewing if you’re interested in this incredible tool, but in a nutshell I feel that Unreal has set me free creatively. The thing that I’m most excited about is abandoning the rigid guidance of the traditional previz process and not being able to change things after the fact in a traditional animation pipeline, but rather being more reactive to the performances and retaining the ability to change and be flexible about the edit at any given time. The impact it has on cinematography is completely unmatched and is far too great to pass on in my opinion.

With the incredible realtime photography of Unreal, how much have you deviated from your original plan and script?

Interestingly not at all that much, the vision of the film was very well established in the writing and planning stages, and even though the real time experience has had a big impact on the cinematography process, I still think I would have shot the film very similarly if I went the traditional animation previz route. The cinematography was very much guided by the blocking, so in a lot of ways this is the only way I could have shot the film. A couple of shots were added in the process of discovery but I’d say 90% of the shots were thought of ahead of time in the shot-listing process.

What’s coming up next for Sava Zivkovic? Any new planned works we should be eagerly waiting for?

I’m glad you asked:) With the whole new world of possibilities Unreal has unlocked, I’m looking more and more into longer format films and I am currently in the early development stage on a limited animated series I am writing and producing with my team here in Belgrade. We’re not ready to share any more information at this stage, but if you’re interested in helping out on the project you can always reach out to me directly.