ADG Perspective

July-August 2021

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 73 of 99

7 2 P E R S P E C T I V E | J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 2 1 Virtual production setups grew exponentially in 2020, and have become an integral part of the film design toolset. The current Epic Games Industry Manager for Media and Entertainment, David Morin, has chaired a rigorous and productive VFX virtual production committee beginning in 2009 and continuing through most of the 2010s. He was instrumental in charting and framing the production paradigm that started with Avatar, evolved through The Jungle Book, The Lion King and recently, The Mandalorian. Epic Games is also the company responsible for most of the technology behind recent virtual productions. Kim Libreri, its CTO, has a deep filmmaking background and two Academy Awards for technical achievement. He helped channel the resources of this large game company toward a new film design workflow. Noah Kadner's 2019 Virtual Production Field Guide, presented by Epic Games, lists several definitions for virtual production. I picked the one offered by the Moving Picture Company: "Virtual production combines virtual and augmented reality with CGI and game-engine technologies to enable production crews to see their scenes unfold as they are composed and captured on set." Twenty years ago, there was a discussion taunting the convergence of computer games and film. The conclusions were vague, primarily pointing toward the game narrative structures and camera techniques. While this happened to some extent, what surprised many was the recent use of game engines in production and principal photography. New workflows developed, embracing virtual camera systems, which combines a physical camera or monitor with a virtual environment by aligning the physical space to the virtual one either at 1 to 1 scale or at a custom scale. This gives filmmakers the power to view computer- generated environments, character performances and scenes as if they are doing a live-action shoot. LED stages use image output from real-time engines to a live LED wall in combination with camera tracking to produce final pixel imagery completely in camera. A modern game engine is the software that allows a game, particularly a 3D game, to run. In addition, it optimizes the 3D geometry display for real- time navigation and interaction. Since most film sets are designed in 3D, having access to this kind of optimization allows for better presentation protocols for directors and producers, and faster and more accurate design reviews within the Art Department. Taking this one step further, these game engines (primarily Unreal Engine [UE] and Unity) allow complex "in camera" virtual sets. The director and DP can see real-time set extensions on the control monitors and, more recently, load these sets on large surround LED screen stages. These screens make possible in-camera shots that would have required laborious post-production and VFX for relighting and 3D extensions. They also allow a more fluid actor interaction and a flexible camera direction. Art Department Virtual Production Workflow I will address the technology in more detail later. First, I want to discuss how an Art Director can efficiently manage the new departments involved in virtual production. N e w I n t e r d e p a r t m e n t a l F l o w s a n d I n t e r a c t i o n s A R T D I R E C T I O N F O R V I R T U A L P R O D U C T I O N S B Y V L A D B I N A , S U P E R V I S I N G A R T D I R E C T O R THE MANDALORIAN, SEASON 2. PRODUCTION DESIGNERS DOUG CHIANG AND ANDREW L. JONES. EPISODE 1. THE SET ASSEMBLY RELIED ON MULTIPLE SOURCES. MAYA WAS THE INITIAL ASSEMBLER AND WAS A GATEWAY TO THE FINAL UNREAL ENGINE SCENE. WITHIN THE VIRTUAL ART DEPARTMENT, THE ASSET MODELING CREW COULD ADDITIONALLY PROCESS LIDAR AND PHOTOGRAMMETRY DATA FOR BOTH LOCATIONS AND PROPS. THEY RELIED ON A DIVERSE ARRAY OF MODELING AND TEXTURE SOFTWARE PACKAGES SUCH AS MAYA, MODO, ZBRUSH, SUBSTANCE PAINTER, REALITY CAPTURE, AGISOFT, ETC. VIRTUAL ART DEPARTMENT ARTISTS: BRIAN PACE, ROGER MATTHEWS. LIGHTING AND LOOK DEVELOPMENT: SAFARI SOSEBEE, STEVEN HENSLEY, PHOTOGRAMMETRY: MOLD 3D. A. FINAL SHOT WITH TEXTURED AND LIT UNREAL ENGINE 3D SCENE LOADED ON THE LED SCREENS, PHYSICAL SET IN THE FOREGROUND. B. MAYA ASSEMBLY SCENE. C. DIGITAL ACQUISITION PHOTOGRAMMETRY AND LIDAR: POINT CLOUDS AND 3D MESHES.

Articles in this issue

view archives of ADG Perspective - July-August 2021