Computer Graphics World

Edition 1 2021

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12 cgw j a n • f e b • m a r c h 2 0 2 1 E ntering 2021, the film and TV industries are on the precipice of a significant change. There's been an explosion of interest in virtual production over the past year, with more and more departments outside of VFX exploring what they can do with real-time game engine technology, VFX and animation facilities starting to significantly overhaul their traditional pipelines to leverage game engines, and studios beginning to grasp that the creative benefits of shiing to real-time methods is a risk worth taking. Our industry has been approaching the perfect storm of advancements in both soware and hardware for many years, and we're finally arriving at the moment where we are able to create and render photoreal images in real time. The possibilities that come with that are incredibly exciting and can be liberating for filmmakers. Virtual production means different things for different projects, and it could include one or more different techniques touching differ- ent departments. Some examples of virtual production techniques include, but are not limited to: in-camera visual effects, whereby a CG background is displayed on an LED wall that provides proper lighting and reflections, and captured in real time by the camera, rather than being created in post; virtual location scouting, whereby filmmakers can go into virtual reality and interactively explore and manipulate their CG environments to make creative decisions prior to filming; and real-time character animation, whereby mo- tion-capture or facial-capture data is used to bring a CG character to life instantaneously. For me, the broadest definition of virtual production is anything that bridges the gap between what is physical and what is virtual within milliseconds. What we're doing is using technology to create a continuum where the physical and virtual live in harmony, and filmmakers don't need separate vocabularies or separate instructions to realize their vision. We're creating a working environment where a director and cinematographer (and more) can interface with their world in the same way, whether it's physical, virtual, or a combination of both. The way we're able to do this is with real-time game engine technology that lets everyone see and iterate on the creative vision together, instantly. Whereas in the past, render times of hours, days, or even weeks meant that filmmakers had to compartmentalize their decision-making process; now with game engines, a production can be much more iterative and collaborative. With an approach such as in-camera visual effects, the benefits are incredibly clear – everyone can see and react to the environment on the LED wall, with all the lighting and reflections captured accu- rately in-camera right from the get-go. The phenomenal quality of shows filmed with this approach, starting with The Mandalorian and more recently Westworld and others, has created a huge appetite for in-camera visual effects. At the transition from 2019 to 2020, I could count the number of professional LED stages on one hand. Now as we transition from 2020 to 2021, that number is well over 100, with more being built each month. Of particular importance with the pan- demic, LED stages provide the benefit of being able to create any location without having to travel, and with more modest on- set crews. VAST OPPORTUNITIES But there are so many other ways that storytellers are experimenting with virtual production. These techniques may not get as much attention, but they are still exciting to me because they show the true scale and impact of real-time technology on filmmak- ing. Game engines are now being used in de- partments where traditional digital content creation (DCC) tools were rarely present. For instance, in editorial, traditionally VIRTUAL PRODUCTION EPIC: THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL PRODUCTION IS HERE BY MILES PERKINS, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, EPIC GAMES Diamond View Studios' high-res LED wall is used for extended VR productions. [ CONTINUED ON PG 14 ] Image courtesy Diamond View Studios.

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