Unreal Engine 5 has 'democratised filmmaking' - says the director of AppleTV's new animated movie

 Max Beyond; a red armoured person in a film made using Unreal Engine 5.
Max Beyond; a red armoured person in a film made using Unreal Engine 5.

Filmmaking with Unreal Engine 5 is becoming a new and innovative way for small creative teams to bring new stories to life, and in the case of indie studio HaZimation even get major streaming platforms.

New animated film Max Beyond can be pre-ordered on Apple TV right now, with a release date set for April 22nd. The film is directed by former VFX artist Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull, who was also behind breakout Netflix sci-fi hit The Beyond.

Uniquely, Max Beyond has been entirely made in Unreal Engine 5. Hasraf tells me this 3D 'game engine' is enabling smaller teams to achieve more. "Because of the way the technology has democratised content creation, filmmakers like myself are able to take risks, and take risks to tell bold stories," reflects.

Max Beyond follows the trials of a young boy held captive in a secretive research facility who discovers he can open gateways to parallel universes in a bid to find his brother, and escape his captors. The film's cast features BAFTA-winning voice-over artists, including Jane Perry (Cyberpunk 2077), Dave Fennoy (The Walking Dead) and Ace Ruele (Eternals).

The film has been colour graded by colourist Vanessa Taylor, who previously worked on The Northman, and gives Max Beyond a dramatic saturated stylisation. Created entirely in Unreal Engine 5, Max Beyond has a look reminiscent of 90s cel-shaded anime. The use of UE5 has meant the team can make use of performance capture technology along with key-framed animation, as well as virtual cinematography, to craft the fluid 3D animation.

Max Beyond made in Unreal Engine 5; characters hide in a science lab
Max Beyond made in Unreal Engine 5; characters hide in a science lab

It's not simply the act of making a film in Unreal Engine 5 that impresses with Max Beyond, but as Hasraf tells me, "The movie was rendered on one single GPU, one single Nvidia 6000 card", which opens the door to how many other small teams can achieve high-end results on a budget. "That is kind of inspiring for any filmmaker," he adds.

Part of this agility came from designing a visual style that suits the technology, as the director tells me, the team avoided being drawn into a race towards photorealism, instead opting for a manageable hybrid cel-shaded look with 3D cameras. "That was a very conscious decision so that we can render things quicker, we can make iterations quickly, and as a filmmaker I'm not constricted with the bottlenecks of rendering technology."

The use of Unreal Engine 5 has also meant that HaZimation can think bigger and view Max Beyond as a broader brand. The team is already working on a video game based on the film for release in 2025, again using Unreal Engine 5.

Max Beyond can be pre-ordered now on AppleTV. If this has inspired you to try Unreal Engine 5, read our guide to the best laptops for 3D modelling and discover how other filmmakers are using Unreal Engine 5