Linda Sellheim Talks Epic’s Unreal Fellowship
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With today's announcement of your new free self-clock Primer for virtual production Epic Games has made a collection of eight courses and ten videos available to the community that teach the basics of Unreal Engine and real-time production, and how these skills and techniques can be applied to the emerging field of virtual production. This new online learning resource is Epic's latest educational initiative. She is part of the company's ongoing efforts to help the rapidly growing game development, visualization, and virtual production community use Unreal Engine for real-time graphics rendering and integration.

Linda Sellheim, Education Lead at Epic, is one of the creators of the company Unreal community, a 30-day intensive program for VFX / animation professionals to learn about Unreal Engine and real-time and virtual production workflows. The scholarship, which comes with a stipend of $ 10,000 per participant, was first run last August. The response from the applicants has been so overwhelming that further programs are planned, with the hope of being carried out quarterly. The release of the new primer was a direct result of the great response to the first fellowship announcement. AWN spoke to Sellheim about the origins, goals and future plans of the fellowship program.

AWN: How did the Unreal Fellowship come about?

Linda Sellheim: Epic has spent years building free educational resources for the Unreal Engine community, such as: Unreal online learning Platform that offers guided learning paths and à la carte video courses, covering a wide range of industries, from VFX and animation to game development and architectural visualization.

Recently, as more and more film and television production companies are turning to Unreal Engine for virtual production, we've found an exponentially more industry professionals needing to be empowered to better understand the technology and workflows in order to open up new career opportunities in this emerging market Area can use. With virtual production still such a new area to most storytellers, we wanted to develop a bespoke program that went beyond the basic Unreal Engine capabilities and also included dedicated live training, hands-on tutoring, guest lectures from industry leaders, and networking opportunities .

Of course, we had never run an online school before, and we knew this was going to be a journey where the coaches and students together could feel the bumps in the road. So we started small by setting up a pilot program of 15 participants to test this new curriculum along with a few people who audited the coursework. Although it was overall intense and quite tiring at times, the pilot was a huge success as it provided valuable feedback and helped us refine the formula for opening the initiative to more professionals.

From there we finalized the curriculum and other details and are now excited to get the Unreal Fellowship off the ground.

AWN: What can Unreal Fellowship participants expect from the program?

LS: The latest Unreal Fellowship Sprint, which ran in August and September, is a curated, four-week, intensive learning experience designed to help film, animation, and VFX professionals learn Unreal Engine and the state of the art in virtual production to understand. and in a practical sense learn how to bring this knowledge back to the set.

It's a full-time job with around 95 hours of total content – including 50 hours of live training and 45 hours of a combination of mentoring sessions, labs, and weekly reviews focused on project-based work. During their training, the fellows focus on learning the basics of Unreal Engine, recording models, animation, mocap integration, lookdev, lighting setups and cinematic storytelling. All of the study tools are completely free, and Epic provides a $ 10,000 scholarship to each student to ensure they can use the time to successfully complete the rigorous curriculum.

There are also plenty of opportunities for Fellows to connect with each other through a dedicated Slack channel, Zoom Happy Hours, and more. These connections will serve participants well as they go back into the field and form teams around their projects.

AWN: What was the response to this first call for applications?

LS: We were blown away by the interest we announced the call for proposals – which just goes to show the importance of this type of training in the industry. In one week we received 6,000 submissions for just 50 fellowship spots. Based on our eligibility criteria – at least five years of experience in commercial film / television production, immersive entertainment, or game development – approximately 3,500 of these applicants qualified. It was a huge challenge to select the fellows for this first cohort, and in the end we gathered additional resources so that we could lead two groups at the same time – so we were able to host 100 fellows in total.

AWN: What kind of applicants are you looking for?

LS: The Unreal Fellowship is highly curated and goes beyond a typical online learning course. That's why we're looking for industry giants – people who are at the forefront of introducing and implementing virtual production techniques in film and television.

A comprehensive mix of skills, experience and general industry involvement is important to us. We examine roles, LinkedIn profiles, IMDB pages and affiliation to industry groups to not only get an idea of ​​their professional background, but also of how active applicants are in the community.

Inclusivity is important to us too, and we want to help a more diverse industry evolve. Diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, age, and geography are important factors.

AWN: What resources are available for those who were not accepted or who missed the opportunity to apply?

LS: Based on the overwhelming response, we have released a new self-directed learning path within Unreal Online Learning, the Virtual Production Primer. This collection of resources is now freely available to the public. The Virtual Production Primer combines a curated selection of courses and videos that teach the basics of Unreal Engine and introduce learners to the world of virtual production. In addition to the existing content, it includes two new courses on Basic Principles of Virtual Production hosted by Luis Cataldi of Epic and Matt Workman of Cinetracer.

The Virtual Production Primer teaches employees how to work with the Unreal Editor, projects, file structures, and more, as well as the basics for creating content in real time and important performance and design considerations. It also includes recorded conversations from industry experts sharing details on how world-class virtual production pipelines are created and how they are deployed.

We know people are asking for hands-on knowledge of virtual manufacturing, and we hope this new primer to virtual manufacturing will get people off to a good start. visit Unreal online learning to get started!

AWN: How does the Unreal Fellowship affect participants' career opportunities?

The deep knowledge base that Fellows take in from this program has the potential to transform their career paths. With the demand for virtual production in film and television increasing, Fellowship alumni are now at the forefront of implementing effective workflows and techniques for virtual production in their projects. They demonstrate the knowledge, confidence and connections to use real-time technology for more creativity, more experimentation and higher efficiency – and most importantly, they share their practical knowledge with colleagues in order to advance the entire industry forward.

AWN: What's next for Unreal Fellowship?

LS: Since we had so many qualified applicants in our first round, we have selected a further 100 participants from this talent pool to start a new five-week fellowship program this month.

Ultimately, we want to run the fellowship quarterly and expand globally to better accommodate those in other time zones. We are currently working with our teams in EMEA and APAC on scaling to make this happen. We know that there is an extremely qualified workforce that is ready and willing to get involved. That's why we want to do our best to help everyone succeed.

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