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April 2018

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Page 17 of 43 16 POST APRIL 2018 PREVIS n Steven Spielberg's cinematic realization of best-selling sci-fi adventure novel Ready Player One, futuristic hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) dives into the OASIS, an imag- ined reality containing a virtual game of very high stakes. As players race to find an "Easter Egg" that will make them master of the created universe, they face surprising characters and circumstances in this simulated world. In approaching the movie, distribut- ed by Warner Bros., director Spielberg and his team immersed themselves in developing the visual look of the OASIS, also defining characteristics of what user experiences would be in the "world within a world." A storyboard and previs team at The Third Floor in Los Angeles, enlisted early in the process, provided a sandbox for the filmmakers in which to explore concepts, visual treatments and rules of the Ready Player One universe. "It's the year 2045 and people are escaping what's real for virtual reality," says Joshua Wassung, previs creative director at The Third Floor for Ready Player One. "Inside of that reality, there are multiple story layers as characters engage in a massively multiplayer game. Having worked on four of his prior proj- ects, we were thrilled to be able to work with Steven directly to provide a test bed for the creative visual ideas." Work at The Third Floor began with boards illustrated by the company's story department head Doug Lefler. Meanwhile, modelers at The Third Floor created a large library of digital assets, ranging from environments to char- acters, referencing original artwork or licensed pop-culture material that would appear in the film. "Since the movie is based on a vir- tual world adventure, many ideas were iterated and explored in production to help highlight the realm of high fan- tasy that the hero would live in," says Todd Constantine, previs supervisor, The Third Floor. "Doug started with the storyboards while the previs team built assets. We had many meetings with Steven, production designer Adam Stockhausen and others as they worked out the rules and story aspects that would affect each sequence." The Third Floor visualized the film's key opening race sequence over multiple months, bringing Lefler's boards and the team's visual and storytelling concepts into a beat-by-beat moving version of the scene. Throughout, Stockhausen provided notes on assets as they were being developed while Spielberg re- viewed the progressing previs cut. "It's a great tone-setting sequence, as Watts and his friends race through a virtual city where numerous obstacles try to prevent everyone from winning," commented Constantine. "Part of the previs was helping develop what the ob- stacles would be and how they could be overcome. The five-and-a-half minutes of previs for the scene also provided a way to thoroughly experiment with the look and function of the world." For example, what happens if a virtual pedestrian gets hit during the game? What are the rules for rewards and penalties? How do characters collect treasure in their cars? What parts of the OASIS do the vehicles visit and what can we learn about the logistics and physics of the OASIS from that? Lefler's storyboards for different parts of the movie sometimes included de- pictions of what everyday people might be doing while living their lives in VR. One such moment — featured in some of the film's trailers — shows a head- geared woman pole dancing in a tin-box of a room as Wade climbs through the crowded housing of The Stacks. "Those moments were meant to add comedic contrast between what some- one was doing in VR and what their real physical location or appearance was," Wassung notes. While it was important to define the workings of the virtual world, it was even more crucial to consider the function of a user within it. The interface between the actor as a "user" in the story and the audience as a "user" in the movie were all part of the production's larger innovation to explore what's pos- sible cinematically in virtual reality. The Third Floor supported this pro- cess by creating and testing previs in 360 degrees. This included producing spherical staging renders based on pro- duction design art that helped inform what the end battlefield would look like from key locations. "So much of the visualization was experimenting with the world of the OASIS and to produce glimpses of what it would be like to live in a 360-degree environment in the world of the film," Wassung concludes. "Steven is such an cinematic innovator and he really wanted to capture the immersiveness of this story at every level." ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR READY, PLAYER ONE I THE THIRD FLOOR VISUALIZES ACTION, CHARACTERS AND ROAD RULES The final sequence in the sci-fi action adventure from Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and Village Roadshow. The Third Floor completed previs for the film's opening sequence.

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