Two years ago, Cartoon Brew interviewed Praxinos, a French company with the ambitious project of making a 2d animation software with Unreal Engine.
In this update interview, co-founders Elodie Moog (manager) and Fabrice Debarge (CTO) explained the reasons that motivated the Praxinos team to develop Odyssey and two other plugins for Unreal Engine: ILIAD to draw and paint and EPOS to create storyboards. Both can be downloaded for free from Epic Marketplace.
In 2021, you were about to start the beta of a storyboard plugin, EPOS. What’s happened since?
EPOS was beta-tested by many freelance artists and studios. Some of them were kind enough to show their work at different occasions, like Passion Pictures at FMX 2022.
The closed beta ended, and EPOS was released in May 2022 on the Unreal Engine marketplace for free, where more than 43,000 accounts downloaded it. Praxinos has also recently teamed up with Incas Training, an Unreal Engine-authorized training center, for a three-day session on learning how to make storyboards in Unreal Engine using our plugins. If schools and studios are interested in EPOS / ILIAD training, they can also contact us, even if they are Unreal Engine beginners.
There is still room for improvements in EPOS and ILIAD, but at the moment, we’re focusing on the development of Odyssey.
Can you remind us about what exactly Odyssey is and what we can expect from it?
Odyssey is a 2d animation software with the power of 3d real-time software. It multiplies the possibilities of what you can do as an animator, which is why we signed a partnership with Epic Games to use Unreal Engine 5 as a foundation for Odyssey.
Unreal Engine is quite a piece of software, and when you’re not a 3d technician, there are so many features and options that can make it quite discouraging to use it. This is actually the problem with most 3d software, especially if you’re a 2d artist.
So, we needed to remove all the unnecessary modules from Unreal Engine to make it lighter. We went from a program of almost 50 GB, which also sometimes need additional programs like Visual Studio or Xcode, to a 12 GB program. Obviously, we’re keeping all the great and useful features from Unreal Engine that make sense, such as modeling tools or the recent improvements for 3d animation.
In the end, a user of Odyssey will have the choice between starting a project in a 2d environment or a 3d environment. If the user picks up the 2d environment, all the work will still be ready to be used with a 3d background and real-time renderings. That way, any 2d animator can learn, step-by-step, how to manipulate the environment or the cameras.
What stage of development are you in right now?
In April, Odyssey entered an alpha-test phase. It means the software is still unfinished and is only being tested internally at Praxinos. However, this is already very promising. The architecture to mix 2d animations with a 3d environment is already there and functional.
We’ve also improved a lot the mesh painting by using our blueprint brushes, which means it is easy to modify textures from 3d assets without using another external software. This opens the door to the design of 3d backgrounds in which you can move in any direction and from any angle, but which look as painted in 2d as you would on a sheet of paper with watercolors, inks, oil brushes, etc.
We’ve also been working on vector-based drawing tools to offer more possibilities to the user. Mixing the power of both tools is very interesting because you can benefit from vectorized images that can easily be rotated or rescaled without quality loss, and you can benefit from bitmap brushes to emulate traditional paintings.
When can we expect the software to be released?
We want to start the beta-test phase as soon as possible. To encourage potential beta-testers to join in, we will do demos of Odyssey during Annecy’s MIFA at the Epic Games and Praxinos booths. The beta will be free, but candidates will have to apply on our website to be selected. You can be a freelance artist, a student, a teacher, or a technical director from a studio. We’re looking for anyone that is really motivated to test Odyssey and give us feedback. We’ll have a dedicated Discord channel to chat with our future beta-testers.
Plus, beta-testers will enjoy an important discount when buying their future copy of a lifetime license of Odyssey if they are convinced by its potential. This will be undoubtedly the best way to support Praxinos’s final release of Odyssey, after almost five years of intensive development.