3D World

What does the rise of vir­tual pro­duc­tion mean for the CG com­mu­nity? 3D World finds out from the ex­perts

- Entertainment · Tech · Virtual Reality · Filmmaking · Movies · Animation · The Mandalorian · The Walt Disney Company · Harry Houdini · Tech Trends · Animation Software · The Lion King · The Lion King · Unreal Engine

Whether you’re a 3D artist, VFX pro­fes­sional, film­maker or stu­dent, you can’t go far these days with­out hear­ing the words ‘vir­tual pro­duc­tion’. Stu­dios and creators are con­stantly telling us that vir­tual pro­duc­tion is rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing film­mak­ing, but what does it mean? What tools and tech­niques does it utilise? And, per­haps most im­por­tantly, why is it im­por­tant to the 3D com­mu­nity at large? Will these high-end tech­niques be­come democra­tised? To an­swer these ques­tions 3D World spoke to three very dif­fer­ent creators, each us­ing vir­tual pro­duc­tion in unique ways.

Sa­tore Stu­dio, masters of vis­ual de­sign and im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, cre­ated a unique work­flow us­ing vir­tual pro­duc­tion. Film direc­tor and founder of Un­lim­ited Mo­tion Ltd. Ryan Garry is util­is­ing vir­tual pro­duc­tion tech­niques to cre­ate the world’s first mi­cro-bud­get mo­tion cap­ture fea­ture film. Fi­nally, in­no­va­tive pro­duc­tion stu­dio Flip­book is per­fectly placed to tell 3D World about the use of real-time engines and vir­tual pro­duc­tion in the fu­ture of film and TV pro­duc­tion.

WHAT IS VIR­TUAL PRO­DUC­TION?

Put sim­ply, vir­tual pro­duc­tion is the process of mix­ing tra­di­tional live­ac­tion film­mak­ing with com­puter graph­ics in real time. It means that film­mak­ers can see or in­ter­act with dig­i­tal el­e­ments in-cam­era and on set and it en­com­passes a wide range of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, from the huge LED screen used to trans­port au­di­ences to a gal­axy

far, far away in The Man­dalo­rian to the VR hard­ware that brought Dis­ney’s The Lion King to life.

“The term is used very loosely at the mo­ment,” ex­plains Tu­pac Mar­tir, founder and cre­ative direc­tor of Sa­tore Stu­dio. “In the sim­plest terms, vir­tual pro­duc­tion is the abil­ity to use tech­nol­ogy to bring en­vi­ron­ments to life, which can then be caught with tra­di­tional cam­era set­ups.”

Ryan Garry is quick to point out that vir­tual pro­duc­tion is much more than the head­line-grab­bing ad­vance­ments we’re used to see­ing. “It’s the blend­ing of phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal worlds,” he tells us. “This could be in the form of mega-sized LED walls, but also in­cludes more af­ford­able op­tions like cam­era track­ing – wher­ever you move the cam­era in the real world it moves in the vir­tual. By do­ing this, you can see VFX el­e­ments live on the cam­era mon­i­tor as if they ex­ist in the real world.”

These ca­pa­bil­i­ties are hav­ing a mon­u­men­tal ef­fect on film pro­duc­tion. “It en­ables VFX to be seen and changed in real time on set,” adds Garry. “If the direc­tor doesn’t like the size of an ex­plo­sion, you can just mod­ify it in-en­gine. It might not be the fi­nal ren­der that’s used, but it mas­sively speeds up the post-pro­duc­tion work­flow be­cause a lot of the cre­ative de­ci­sions have al­ready been made. As these tech­nolo­gies ad­vance and be­come more af­ford­able, less imag­i­na­tion has to be spent won­der­ing what the film is go­ing to look like af­ter post­pro­duc­tion. You can fo­cus more on the world, both real and vir­tual, in front of you.”

As vir­tual pro­duc­tion con­tin­ues to be­come the norm across VFX it prom­ises to have sev­eral pos­i­tive ef­fects for artists and the in­dus­try as a whole. “In ad­di­tion to al­low­ing for more cre­ativ­ity,” says Mar­tir, “vir­tual pro­duc­tion of­fers flex­i­bil­ity. Game engines have be­come an es­sen­tial piece of the puz­zle. We can com­bine many of the tech­niques used in gam­ing, VR, AR and MR to cre­ate won­der­ful en­vi­ron­ments, trig­ger ef­fects and move­ments that can re­act to the ac­tors or the cam­era – lead­ing to more in­tri­cate scenes and projects.”

For in­die creators like Garry, vir­tual pro­duc­tion is al­ready prov­ing a game-changer. “In my film, for in­stance, I can 3D scan en­vi­ron­ments and recre­ate scenes from the film in VR,” he adds, “or, I could scan and an­i­mate ac­tors and bring them to your liv­ing room with AR. As the tech­nol­ogy be­comes more ac­ces­si­ble and the skills more wide­spread, this will be able to be done on more pro­duc­tions and at a lower cost.”

Ben Ha­worth, co-founder and cre­ative direc­tor of Flip­book, pre­dicts that artists will be­come more in­te­grated into the en­tire pro­duc­tion, rather than just in post. “Ul­ti­mately, this will help the fi­nal project, es­pe­cially dur­ing com­posit­ing, and will open up new job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the artists too,” he adds. “It’s ac­tu­ally a lot of fun be­ing on set when you can be, and this will al­low for more cre­ative di­rec­tion from peo­ple who pre­vi­ously didn’t have a chance.”

“IN MY FILM, I CAN 3D SCAN EN­VI­RON­MENTS AND RECRE­ATE SCENES FROM IT IN VR” Ryan Garry, founder of Un­lim­ited Mo­tion Ltd.

LEV­EL­LING THE PLAY­ING FIELD

Whilst vir­tual pro­duc­tion is still an emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy, that doesn’t mean it is re­served for large

stu­dios with in­fi­nite re­sources. Sa­tore Stu­dio is a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary cre­ative stu­dio that sees vir­tual pro­duc­tion as an op­por­tu­nity to level the play­ing field. Sa­tore was ex­per­i­ment­ing with vir­tual pro­duc­tion work­flows long be­fore The Man­dalo­rian high­lighted what LED screen tech­nol­ogy could do. “For us, it’s about tak­ing ev­ery­thing we’ve learned over the past six years and us­ing it to cre­ate a com­pelling story, whether that be in film, TV, broad­cast or live events,” says Tu­pac Mar­tir.

Sa­tore re­cently part­nered with MBS Equip­ment to demon­strate the power of vir­tual pro­duc­tion in a life­like demo. The short film was built on the idea that vir­tual pro­duc­tion makes any num­ber of re­al­is­tic lo­ca­tions achiev­able. Despite that, the team kept most of the lo­ca­tions be­hind the ac­tor fairly or­di­nary, from a street cor­ner and night­club to a for­est and a car. Only at the end when the cam­era pulls back, re­veal­ing a film crew and the large LED wall, does the au­di­ence re­alise they’ve been fooled.

The short was shot over two days, with just a hand­ful of props and fur­ni­ture pieces to flesh out cer­tain scenes. CG back­grounds did much of the heavy lift­ing, even fool­ing the ex­perts. “Ev­ery­thing you see in the back­ground of the demo was fi­nal pixel VFX, which is sim­ply in­cred­i­ble,” says Mar­tir. “Af­ter the demo was done,

I was watch­ing it and I couldn’t re­mem­ber see­ing a mar­ket stall on set. It turns out even I was fooled!”

To vi­su­alise their convincing en­vi­ron­ments, Sa­tore cre­ated two CG back­grounds us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of tools that in­cluded Maya, Dis­guise, Hou­dini, Zbrush and Sub­stance. Six more scenes pre­vi­ously cre­ated by an archviz com­pany were then op­ti­mised for use in the demo and ren­dered us­ing Ren­der­man, Oc­tane and Arnold. The en­vi­ron­ments were housed on Univer­sal Pix­els servers run­ning Unreal En­gine. Each vir­tual back­ground was cre­ated to run in 25fps, us­ing a pro­pri­etary work­flow de­vel­oped by Sa­tore. It was all tied to­gether by an Ncam track­ing

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 ??  ?? Above: Ryan Garry shoot­ing Anghen­fil on lo­ca­tion in the north-west of Eng­land
Above: Ryan Garry shoot­ing Anghen­fil on lo­ca­tion in the north-west of Eng­land
 ??  ?? Garry be­lieves that Anghen­fil will do for in­de­pen­dent films what Avatar did for block­buster pro­duc­tions
Garry be­lieves that Anghen­fil will do for in­de­pen­dent films what Avatar did for block­buster pro­duc­tions
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 ??  ?? Top: Ryan Garry us­ing a HTC Vive to track mo­tion on lo­ca­tion and livestream it to the mesh
Top: Ryan Garry us­ing a HTC Vive to track mo­tion on lo­ca­tion and livestream it to the mesh
 ??  ?? Find out more about the mak­ing of Anghen­fil and Garry’s in­no­va­tive mo­tion cap­ture process at mo­tion cap­ture­mon­ster. com
Find out more about the mak­ing of Anghen­fil and Garry’s in­no­va­tive mo­tion cap­ture process at mo­tion cap­ture­mon­ster. com
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