Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2018

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 1 8 | c g w 3 5 The Opening Race The Third Floor visualized the film's key opening race sequence over multiple months, bringing Le- fler's boards and the team's visual and story telling concepts into a moving version of the scene beat to beat. Throughout, Stockhausen provided notes on assets as they were being developed, while Spiel- berg reviewed the progressing previs cut. "The race section featured extreme action and a lot of characters," Lefler says. "It was important to establish the primary characters of the story, while at the same time defining the cinematic rules of the virtual-reality world. This required many ongoing discussions and ample amounts of testing ideas. It was helpful to be familiar with the source material, and I was glad to have read the book a few times before we started on the project!" Constantine calls the race "a great tone-setting sequence" as Watts and friends race through a vir- tual city and veritable obstacle course. "Part of the previs was visualizing what the obstacles would be and how they could be overcome," he explains. "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? 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 drawings sometimes included looks at 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 someone 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 con- sider 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 possible cinematically in virtual reality. The Third Floor supported this process by provided previs tests in 360 degrees. This included producing spherical staging renders based on production de- sign 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 glimps- es of what it would be like to live in a 360-degree environment in the world of the film," Wassung states. "Steven is such a cinematic innovator, and he really wanted to capture the immersiveness of this story at every level." It was great to be part of the process of helping contribute to a production like this, Lefler concludes. "Ideas bounce off one another like billiard balls," he adds. "It's a great, kinetic, creative process."

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