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Epic Games sets sights on Hollywood as it expands beyond games

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TV and movies powered by Epic's cinematic engine

Epic Games is broadening its reach beyond just games, and the company has the release of its non-linear editing tool Sequencer to thank. We spoke to the studio about how the unveiling of Sequencer at March's Game Developers Conference event was just the beginning of yet another of Epic's major shifts.

Sequencer is an engine that works similarly to popular film editing tools. While it can be used for games, its cinematic possibilities are what Epic is most interested in exploring — as are filmmakers, TV producers and others in the movie business.

"We're talking with a lot of visual effects companies, previs companies who do feature film stuff," Epic Games' director of cinematic production Michael Gay told Polygon. "Episodic TV as well, so we definitely wanted to create a tool that caters to content creators, whether that's games or feature film previews or episodic TV."

According to Epic, at least three cartoons are in the works that use the Sequencer engine, as well as an animated feature film. Independent filmmakers have also begun embracing the tool, and as it becomes more advanced, the hope is to see more diverse projects and creators using Sequencer.

"I think we're going to start seeing our engine used in live television broadcasts," Kim Liberi, Epic's chief technology officer, said. "Wherever you see green screens or in sports matches where they want to overlay crazy creatures, like ... have a dinosaur from Jurassic Park run across a football stadium. You're going to be seeing our engine used for that sort of stuff."

With Sequencer, Epic Games aims to create photorealistic imagery in animated and live-action films alike. (The company said its popular Unreal Engine, which last year became free to download, is also used by several visual effects studios.) But Epic is looking to do more than just that: Epic is also talking about innovating beyond traditional filmmaking techniques.

"There's no reason why, in the next couple of years, an animated movie can't be something that is rendered on demand and generated on your cellphone with your specific preferences," Liberi told Polygon, "like the princess dress that you bought for your kid is the one she gets to see in the movie."

As computer-generated imagery becomes increasingly prevalent in the film and TV industries, Epic Games is hoping that Sequencer can blur the lines between making movies and the studio's primary work, game development.

"Right now, what you output is a video file or it's a game, but everything in between is yet to be explored," CEO Tim Sweeney said.

Epic Games' interest in exploring other fields is something we spoke to the company at length about in this month's cover story. For more thoughts on Epic's future in game developmentvirtual reality and more, check out our piece on "the evolution of a gaming giant."