September 25, 2013

Lucasfilm Thinks Real-Time CGI Can Revolutionize the Filmmaking Process

While J.J. Abrams has claimed a number of times that he wants to use more practical effects to make the new generation of Star Wars films feel more "real," the usage of computer generated imagery is only growing. More and more live-action movies are creating entire scenes in post-production. Those kinds of effects will continue to get more realistic, but at what cost to productions (since things aren't exactly getting cheaper)? Post-production schedules are shrinking while effects budgets are exploding, so what are filmmakers to do? Lucasfilm, the company responsible for Star Wars, wants to take real-time CGI to the next level and revolutionize the filmmaking process. Check out some of what they are working on below.

This was a sample of how they were doing motion capture for the game 1313 that was cancelled when Lucasarts closed its doors (and this is the sort of real-time CGI they'd want to do with actors on a set):

Here are some quotes from The Inquirer from Lucasfilm's Chief Technology Strategy Officer Kim Libreri:

I think that the current way that we make movies is very pipeline stage process, takes away a little bit of the organic nature of a movie set or real environment. I'm hoping real time graphics technology brings back the creative possibilities that we have in the real world.

Let's not dismiss the artistry you put into a final shot, we do spend a lot of time steadily tweaking blooms and lens flares or the lighting in a shot, but we'll be able to get a lot closer so that more run of the mill windows replacements will be created interactively on stage.

He also added:

There's so many things that you can do with the fact that video graphics is going to be real-time and not this post-process that we've had traditionally.

If you combine video games with film-making techniques, you can start to have these real deep, multi-user experiences. Being able to animate, edit and compose live is going to change the way we work and it's really going to bring back the creative experience in digital effects.

Some of this technology if very similar to how James Cameron's Avatar was created, but they just had rudimentary CGI for the environments while doing motion capture. This sort of tech will be great for pre-visualization, but it could also be extremely helpful for production. With the advancement of 3D graphics, we'll be able to do photorealistic things completely in real-time, which could very well be good enough for the final film. While as he said you're always going to be tweaking, if you can track elements and move them around freely with your actors, it could save a ton of time in post. There will be a limit to what's possible in the near future, but if it works flawlessly, and it looks good (and you're on a soundstage where it's easy to have a number of crew members set up with computers maneuvering things as you're shooting), I don't see why productions wouldn't want to utilize something like this.

The other half of the equation is that the easier you make something, the less people might be involved, and the more jobs you'll eliminate in an industry that's already at a sort of crossroads. That's bound to happen in any industry, but I think the advantages to being able to do more on set are tremendous. None of these effects are necessarily permanent, so you'd still have room to do what you want in post.

What do you think? How could this technique be used to the advantage of filmmakers?

Link: Lucasfilm will combine video games and movies to axe post-production process -- The Inquirer

Your Comment

67 Comments

Libreri is correct. Once you attain photorealism - even if it's not rendered in real time - you can create the entire "live action" film on a stage as shown above. An older generation CGI in a film like "Oblivion" still looked weightless/artificial in too many parts. Once the transition is seamless, all sorts of new possibilities open up. But there's no reason to be Luddite about it. Technology has always been good for Hollywood. Even if the new Hollywood is located in Qingdao and not LA.

September 26, 2013 at 12:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

Well, eventually you'll have a toolbox of virtual props and models, automated performance capture process, real time or near real time rendering and it will look photoreal. Future is awesome.

September 26, 2013 at 1:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

10
Reply
Natt

I'm not sure how this is groundbreaking news. They have mocap hooked up to a rendering system. Congrats?

September 26, 2013 at 1:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Tyler

You clearly don't work with visual effects to understand.

September 26, 2013 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Marcus

I think what people might have missed is that the video shown is for a cancelled video game, but that it's more similar to how they might be able to do real-time CGI for live action movies. Obviously you wouldn't have people dressed in suits with no sets unless the whole thing was animated.

September 26, 2013 at 4:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Marine
Camera Department

But then you also have the LA Noire, which is this close to photo realism. Add the processing power that has been developed since then and you can make it go across the Uncanny Valley, should you so desire.

September 26, 2013 at 11:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

The real revolution would be when a screen can be embedded into transparent lenses inserted into the eyes of the actors, tracked and rendered to by the pre-viz computers... so even the actors get to see where they are and what they are performing with/against... ;)

September 26, 2013 at 2:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

So pretty much what they are doing but hooked up with an Oculus Rift? Not a bad idea. I'd like to see that.

September 26, 2013 at 2:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

3
Reply
Hubert

Why not just have the actors wear high res oculus rift style glasses with face mocap camera scanners enabled? There is no need to see through if everything is virtually represented. The actors wouldn't even have to be in the same location as one another.

I am looking forward to 4D (video) scanning that puts the actors full appearance into a virtual environment. The sets could be scanned too like they did for the matrix. So while it would be CG, it would not be conventional animation or mocap but a new form of cinematography that captures the characters from all angles simultaneously.

Scanning video test by Lee Perry-Smith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw-pvhUnSVw

When I saw the Hobbit pt1 I actually thought that the virtual characters were outperforming the live action characters. And why not? They have dozens of people crafting every moment they are on screen. If a director could do the same to their real actors why wouldn't they?

September 26, 2013 at 2:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

Yes!! I have thought for a long time that this will happen and be the go to technique for making movies. Why not? We will look back on how we do VFX now as a bizarre time. "So let's get this straight, you guys had to wear skin tight suits with dots on them and act against a plain green screen??". Cannot wait. The idea of building a photorealistic set, loading your actors into it, allowing them to actually act out the scenes INSIDE the virtual set and then having complete flexibility over the camera/lighting/lenses in post is awesome. It is the single biggest problem with current VFX movies IMO. Tough for actors to act against a green screen. Put them into an amazingly built set that looks/sounds/feels real and it will be a huge difference.

Real time photo realism is a big step to be made, after that an Oculus Rift type of device. Combine that with this tech and you almost have it.

September 26, 2013 at 3:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

3
Reply

The funny thing is that this most of this will be available to just about everyone with the new kinect upgrades and the release of the oculus rift. GPU enabled simulations can run at real time even for incredibly complicated fluids or destruction (look up the company Exocortex if you are curious). Rendering and simulations are the hard part, so why not just send it to the cloud? Then you could run the whole thing from your smart phone :D.

Octane Cloud rendering of real time pathtracing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYUOUMy-VDo

September 26, 2013 at 3:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

Great time to be alive. I hope, in my lifetime, to see real world rendering where the actors/performers are inserted into the set, like someone mentioned above. I think it will happen and if it's photorealistic and somewhat readily available and user friendly...endless possibilities!

September 26, 2013 at 3:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

Hi Luke, am I right in thinking this would suit big studios better, but for the VFX Georges Méliès among us, traditional methods would be better ? This might result in a good trickle-down of powerful tech for the one man band.

September 26, 2013 at 8:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Saied

That's why I think it will take a loooooong time to be readily available to anyone outside of Hollywood. It would revolutionize everything if it came down to the Indie world. All barriers...gone.

September 26, 2013 at 12:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

Agreed! This tech demo is pretty simple because most the characters are hard surfaced which are very easy to make photo realistic compared to humans or other organic characters. The face mocap definitely has room for improvement. There are some mods of GTA-IV that look almost this good for solid objects ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohDhvRKSQ-A).

What I am more excited for is the new xbox kinect one. It has a 1080p camera attached to it so you get zdepth plus a color image, much like the rgbd toolkit but in full HD and way better (http://www.rgbdtoolkit.com/). Put a few of them together around your actor and you have a full video scan of that person in real time with motion capture tracking data. THAT is much more exciting to me because you could actually put that actor anywhere. It will not be a one stop solution at first, but it will lead towards that.

September 26, 2013 at 3:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

yes ans another part in long film-manufacturing line.

But please...every second time somebody want it oN THE SMARTPHONE

IS THE VIRUS OF NONSENS SOOOOO DEEEP and was MR. PITT not good enough
in dedecting the real zombie-virus.

Foot from smartphone
water from smartphone
toilet-paper from smartphone.

you could not sit 4 hours in FILM-ART-SELDOME-EVENT without looking.......
12000000000000000000 times on the smartphone and tell your 1230000000000
not existing friends ( other side the poor nsa-men must read and hear and check
evry bullshit-in meantime the bad guys work...silent....homeland...)(joke) that you
look a film
and ohhhh it is soooooooo.... do you racer your legs? hm.... oh my good this is the
wrong 21 th.century i am out....enterprise..PLEASE!!!!!!!! beam me up

September 26, 2013 at 4:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

4
Reply
hardbonemac

Jesus. Let me know who your dealer is. You've got some good shit.

September 26, 2013 at 12:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Steve

Right, endless possibilities and less jobs for people who work in the industry. Can't wait...

September 26, 2013 at 4:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Speaknow

Hollywood is getting automated like every other industry, haven't you heard? Here is one of the new robotic overlords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VMriLw5X94

The reason I’ve invested so much time and money (creating Industrial Light & Magic) is because art is technology. – George Lucas

September 26, 2013 at 4:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

I don't think you'd be cutting too many jobs with real time rendering, you still need people to build the set, shade it, texture, light it, you are mostly saving in lighting time and render time.

September 26, 2013 at 12:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Marcus

You're kidding right? The future of movies has the director doing everything but acting. Even as a DP, I am excited but fearful of losing my job.

September 26, 2013 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

7
Reply
Harry Pray IV

It's about time we got rid of the talented craftspeople involved with film production - so we can get on to the important things - like spending all day every day in a blank studio with a bunch of guys tapping away at their laptops. Outdoors is overrated.

September 26, 2013 at 6:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

1
Reply

Listen, you can whine and gripe all you want but technology keeps moving on with or without you. Take music for instance. 20 years ago, to make a decent sounding orchestral song you needed to write the piece, hire the musicians rent out a studio space, hire a producer, hire an editor, mix it, and then master it. This is something that MOST people never got a chance to do in their lifetimes. It was a very high end art form. Fast forward 20 years and you can make a similar sounding song by yourself on your computer with a library of sounds and a keyboard.

To me, this is awesome. Do people lose jobs along the way? Maybe. That's life though, people lose and gain jobs all the time. A ton of more accessible jobs pop up in the process.

Now, in the music world, anyone can realize their artistic vision and THAT is the true nature of the art. Not the other BS that used to go into recording a song. Those were limitations of the times. Art comes down to an idea and how that artist realizes it.

September 26, 2013 at 12:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

I agree with everything you've said. I think the core idea that society needs to address is whether people actually need jobs. Exponential population increases coupled with exponential decreases in manpower needed with new technologies can only lead to one thing: rethinking our society and this whole scarcity based economy.

September 26, 2013 at 3:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Harry Pray IV

And that's something that will have to be addressed at some point. Do we hinder the growth of technology for the sake of keeping people at work or do we embrace it and adapt to it? Crazy thing to think about but it's probably something that will eventually be addressed...

September 26, 2013 at 3:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply

Thankyou for pointing out my whining and griping - I've see the error of my ways and can't wait to work with as few people as possible. Never liked collaboration much anyway!

You're obviously very excited about this development, so good luck to you and the films you make with it - I hope you get a chance to make films that have no limitations (or crew and craftspeople) and to see if they keep an audience engaged.

September 27, 2013 at 2:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

8
Reply

You assume talent goes away. Historically talent adapts to new tools and workflows. Talent adapted to motion pictures, talent adapted to television and talent will adapt to this.

We're in the 21st Century. Just because you are used to one way of doing things doesn't mean it should stay that way. You either are afraid of the iron horse or you decide to ride it.

September 30, 2013 at 4:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply
Vizar

I`m with those who don`t see the amazing awesomeness of this gadget. It only means even more superficial and detached crap like Avatar, Rin Tin Tin and whatever else. It`s no wonder we`ve turned into morons whose eyes are primarily either glued to virtual social networks, virtual friends or smartphone screens while we`re spending precious time with our real friends. And some "individuos" here proclaim this kind of crap is the next big thing...wow...

September 26, 2013 at 10:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

1
Reply
Mariano

No. It will mean fewer "Avatars" because the new technology will no longer be the major reason for people to see a flick. In other words, once everything can be simulated, there'll be little distinction between a guy in his mother's basement with a laptop/workstation or a Hollywood studio (that will have moved to China by that point anyway). So, it will return back to storytelling and screenwriting again.
.
Completely automated camera rigs like that Napoleon Complex should help shoot a film as if it were a live play, making it far more spontaneous and life like. No more long waits in a trailer between takes. Lighting and camera is all controlled from the director's booth through the robotic arms via presets. Daytime soaps can already do over hundred pages a day, albeit with a static direction. Technology will enable these hundred pages to look like a major film. The outdoor scenes can be done in post via CGI. Shoot a two hour movie in a day and be done with it. For an infinite channel TV universe, you need an infinite selection of titles. Fait accompli.

September 26, 2013 at 10:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

I might be with you on one or two points but I disagree that this technology is going to speed up shoots. On the one hand very very few 3D assets get re-used because even in one or two years of time, possible level of detail, texture sizes, render technologies, simulation technologies etc. progresses. That`s why Jurassic Park 1`s assets weren`t used on 2 or 3, just like Aslan, the Lion, had to be made from scratch for the last movie as well.
Another, even more important point is something which gets very clear when I watched a docu about Ed Wood - like you, he also thought that movies are only about getting stuff shot as fast as possible and doing the cleanup in post by cutting out crappy stuff. And I, too made the same mistake earlier in my career. Movies are basically coordinated and orchestrated epic efforts of dozens and dozens of people, be it in prep, production or post. There`s no way that anyone will ever make a truly remarkable piece of art in the area of 2 hour long feature films in just one or even a few days. If someone does it nonetheless, he either must be god or it`s only a one timer. Film was and will always be an endevour or a marathon of editing and constant directing - and that simply takes time. Period.

September 26, 2013 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Mariano

I see your point. Just because something can be done faster does not mean it will be. James Cameron spent 6 weeks with toy helicopters on the motion capture floor flying them around by hand. Every flying vehicle you see in Avatar was controlled by him directly by holding a physical object in the real world.

Digital can be much faster than analog, but it brings a whole new set of artistic options and you can noodle forever if you want. Imagine if you could relight your scene, change your actors expressions, move the camera anywhere you wanted at any time, change lenses, redress the set, change your actors completely, add slow motion, etc. Of course you COULD work faster. For actors it would mean the production moved as fast as they were ready. But with all that freedom, most people would examine the options they never had before. It becomes entirely about your artistic vision.

September 26, 2013 at 2:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

Orson Welles, Kar-wai Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Chaplin were/are great directors who also took forever to shoot their films. It's a part of one's personality, not technology. Technology gives you options. To borrow from a different discussion, you can quickly shoot in 6K wide, reframe to 4K in post and be done with it. Or you can do what Kubrick did with Adolph Menjou and require seventeen different takes.
.
Now, these are my opinions, FWTW:
.
1) The reusable 3D scenes don't last due to the same technological advances that are mentioned in Joe's article. The difference is, at some point, they reach their saturation point. Much like most folks at home do not need a PC/laptop more powerful than than iCore3, the CPU/GPU MIPS count will largely remain relevant in the CGI biz only to the tier of being able to do rendering in real time. After that, you'll still need a human to control the process and the GPU's are basically already there - nVidia's Titan or the new ATI Radeon that was announced over the weekend. In that sense, you can render a new fake scene fairly inexpensively and quickly anyway. Or you can add/subtract from what you already have.
.
2) It's not about Wood or Corman ("Little Shop of Horrors", filmed in one day) shooting wide for the entire schedule but having the ability to shoot quickly without any drop in quality. I mentioned the daytime soaps. Those guys can shoot upward of 100 pages a day (saw an interview about the Hulu's schedule of "All My Children", where they shot 144!) and they're definitely professional quality. IMO, if they mixed in the Steadicam/MoVi type rigs, they could still put as many pages in the can (hah, old expression) without having to stick with the same static performances. Let's not forget that the soaps also do the hair&makeup, rehearsal&blocking and the taping itself within that same one day. Of course, they do have large crews but they know how to work quickly and efficiently. With that in mind, I don't see why a feature film can't be shot indoors on a set - even if it's a fake outdoor set - in one day as well.
.
3) Not to argue about the Federal Reserve and its inflationary policies here but, depending on the set requirements, one could probably make a very good looking film with under $20K worth of rentable gear. Ed Burns does his films for under $15K with his 5D Mk II. Hypothetically, you can get by with a couple of BMD 2.5K cams, $2K worth of media, $2K-$3K worth of lights - which Burns does not use - and your home laptop/PC. And that can look a ton better than the old 16MM with wide angles and poor lighting.
.
PS. @dixter, I think you're yearning for a camping trip.

September 26, 2013 at 4:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

Didn't they do this in Avatar? Cool stuff, I wounder what it will look like in 4 years from now.

September 26, 2013 at 11:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

5
Reply
Sean

no they didn't, In Avatar shoot, they'd see the actors in a rough, non-rendered environment. This is pretty much the final image straight from motion capture.

September 26, 2013 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Marcus

By the way, with all this new technology - not just CGI - it just might be possible for a major studio film to be produced for less (per minute of action, without accounting for the above-the-title talent salaries) than an independent film, shot with "real people" and "in real world". Normally, the economies of scale help in the mass assembly-conveyor belt industries. Hollywood has been half industrial-half artisan since its inception but it may be moving toward the industrial side very soon.

September 26, 2013 at 11:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

If anything, costs sky rocketed. In the days of Ed Wood (yeah, HIM again) there already were movies made for less than 30.000 bucks (corrected for inflation) - the poor guys always could make cheap flicks. But on the upper end everything went out of proportion. On Terminator 2, the main digital vfx house ILM was a crew of 36 people - on Avatar the film itself was reduced to an painfully long vfx shot, propelling the budget to over 230 million usd and several hundred cg artists.

September 26, 2013 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Mariano

So much bullshit here! I want to be part of the real world. I want to go out into the dirt and make my movie. In the rain and mud amongst the trees and everything that can be touched. With people who sweat and eat in the sun. And sit by warm fires under a cold moon. You people and your virtual crap, sickening.

September 26, 2013 at 1:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

Bravo and well said. Your work speaks for itself!

September 26, 2013 at 2:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DMW

There will always be a place for that as long as people like you and I exist. The world is what you make it. I, however, do welcome a bit more technological advancement in cameras, optics, and decreasing the clunkiness of properly lighting a film in the real, actual world.

September 26, 2013 at 3:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply
Harry Pray IV

I think we all do. If that is how you work you always have that option. Why limit your options though? Have you ever had to scale down an idea based on limitations? I know I have. Some story ideas call for things WELL outside of your budget. When the time comes to film you usually need to slice and adapt to get your story done. What if there was technology in place to limit that though? You're telling me you wouldn't take advantage of that? If you could fully realize a set that perfectly fits your artistic vision and it would save millions to build it virtually instead of practically, you would choose to neuter your vision to film it on a real set?

A lot of indie filmmakers have "million dollar" ideas that will never get made because we don't have the resources of a big budget movie. That, in itself, is a roadblock to the true nature of art...story telling. I wouldn't do it now because it's so robotic. Actors against a green screen, no thanks. If the Actors could be placed into a photo realistic set and deliver their performances in real time, then I'm 100% game. It's not about this particular technology, it's about what it represents for the future. Options.

September 26, 2013 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

Well said, Luke. One of my ambitions is to shoot "When Harry met Sally" remake in one day. One would have to rewrite a few scenes to bring them indoors or combine an indoor set with CGI or the 2nd unit pre-tape but, if you use a soap type process with concurrent filming of different script parts, a judicious use of stand-ins, etc., I think it can be done very well. Then, of course, you will need editing and post but, with fewer takes, it can be shortened as well.

September 26, 2013 at 4:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

Ha ha! I would imagine obtaining the likeness of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan would be costly though. Seriously though, have you ever tried building a practical set yourself? We just finished building a sci fi/space ship set with our own (my wife and my own) two hands. Photo realistic virtual sets couldn't come soon enough my friend.

September 26, 2013 at 4:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

11
Reply

I know they already exist but I would never use them. Again, I think filming against a green screen is weird. I would much rather use a real set. If we get to the point where the actors can actually be INSIDE the virtual set though (through software like this and an Oculus Rift type of device), then it gets very interesting.

September 26, 2013 at 4:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

The last sentence of my initial post might have been a little strong. Didn't mean to be condescending, either. It's just that I'm really gravitating to films like Mud, The Paperboy, Killer Joe (guess I'm liking Matthew McConaughey these days) and on a larger scale, things like Stoker and No Country for Old Men. Good stories told 'on the land' so to speak.

My apologies for the offensive nature of my post. I'm sure I have been and will be entertained by CG based movies to come. No harm in it. And who knows, if everybody's doing CG, maybe there will be a little more call for the stuff I like.

September 26, 2013 at 5:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

3
Reply

FWIW, there is a recent Russian film about the legendary Soviet era bard/actor/songwriter Vladimir Vyssotsky (1938-1980). The stunt casting of that film was the digital Vyssotsky himself . There was enough footage from the old films to visually mouth the dialog that was voiced over in post. They had another actor play a younger version. Me? I'd recast. The sets would not be free (I believe, it's about $20K per medium sized room) but that's why one would have to rewrite scenes taking place outside. In the soap world, the Hulu based shows cost about $100K per broadcast hour but that's with the fixed costs allocated over the entire length of the process (or over whatever the accounting rules allow). The sets, by the way, are movable, as Prospect Park tapes both OLTL and AMC in the same studio, with actors/directors taking turns every month or so. Now, can one raise $300K based on the script rights he does not own? I'd reckon, not without being a Hollywood insider. Which leaves me with a lot of work still.

September 26, 2013 at 5:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

Nonsense. Filming in nature is one of my favorite things to do. It's just when I start to get all of these large scale ideas and scripts going that the limitations of shooting everything practically becomes a head ache and often times causes me to change my script based on what I can and can't do with the resources I have available. It's infuriating. Anything that could stop that from happening is something I would want to see. But in no way would it replace being out in the thick of things (unless of course they can simulate real world conditions to the T).

September 26, 2013 at 6:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply

Get used to this, ladies and gentlemen, because this is the crest of the wave. Movies are soon going to be made mostly in post...and they'll eventually only involve a director and a few actors.

Certain people will refuse to shoot on location. Two camps will arise.
I will be in both camps since I absolutely love real lighting and optics and on the other because I dream of being able to do ANYTHING I can ever imagine.

Art is like nature. It will purify its-self and strip away the constraints that commerce applies to it.

I recommend those that are up in arms about losing their jobs decide whether they do this for artistic expression or money. It's becoming ever more evident that if you want both, you have to be the director.

September 26, 2013 at 3:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

1
Reply
Harry Pray IV

Technology is cool, but we've reached a point where technology is dominating and STORY(yeah, remember that old dinosaur) has become an afterthought. Just because we can do things, doesn't make them better and bigger is rarely better. This tool, as with all tools, should be used sparingly/judiciously and by skilled hands, otherwise we just end up with more bad films that look bloody fantastic and really, what's the point other than being able to say:"Wow, that LOOKS great. Too bad nobody will remember it 6 months, let alone 10 or 50 years from now". THRIFT= GREATER CREATIVITY

September 26, 2013 at 4:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Drew

Render Raytracing lights, Final gather, Global Illumination and Image base lighting need lots of CPUs, the GPUs are still not there. Even fast/good renders such as vray uses a lot of processing. I don't how you can have photorealistic rendering in real-time on a budget or even with a few GPUs... Perhaps in 20 years, but Jurassic Park is from 1993 and still hard to render in that quality on at least a good farm.
We need a change in how processing works.

September 26, 2013 at 4:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

7
Reply
Alex Mand

How much computing power is needed for the photo realistic scene rendering? There are companies offering a render farm on wheels (I assume, to major clients). But, in terms of the absolute computing power, the most powerful supercomputer in the world four years ago was measured at ~ 1 Petaflops. The current most powerful list is topped by a 33 Petaflop cluster. The first Toy Story was rendered on an old Sparc processor farm in 1993 that is comparable to a modern $500 Core i5 desktop.

September 26, 2013 at 6:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

3
Reply
DLD

Well... If you try to render something like a car with Image base lighting and Arnold or Vray on a sinple farm (10x i7 nodes) it would take days for a few seconds depending on the scene. Just did that a month ago. I've got my render clusters using i7s and had to wait a lot... The algorithims are just too complex and demanding. Raytracing is awesome and gives a photorealist result with HDR reflections but with major cost in performance. GPU rendering is still in its early days. So you need a wagon of CPUs to have something not real-time but at least on a schedule.

But If you have millions to spend on big render farms and those big boys are REALLY expensive, then the sky is the limit.

September 26, 2013 at 6:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply
Alex Mand

Thanks for the rely, Alex. It's always good to have an expert around. The "farm on wheels" that I saw earleir today (from BOSS in Austin, TX, IIRC) was with 40 CPU's/GPU's.
.
I'll add another YouTube links on Octane and the render farm/cloud services. nVidia presentation.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etoS6daj20c]

September 27, 2013 at 12:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
DLD

Have you not played with Octane? I'll post the link again. Their cloud service that is being tested now can do almost real time path tracing (depending on scene complexity). That's right, the algorithm that used to be too slow to even use for feature film rendering can give you a real time interface. Octane Standalone doesn't even have a render button. It is ALWAYS rendering. You have to turn the render of

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYUOUMy-VDo

September 26, 2013 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

9
Reply
Dan

[raises hand] Why not simply build real sets, use real actors and props? Just a thought. Seems like MOST of the time anymore costs for CGI is more than just making it. ?? No?

September 26, 2013 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

1
Reply
Greg Best

Christopher Doyle argues for the real settings - out and about, not on Hollywood sets - but it's easier to do in some locales (Hong Kong or Thailand) than in others (LA, NYC) with strict licensing and high fees. And, of course, some locations are nearly impossible to replicate indoors.
.
PS. Kubrick didn't get his Napoleon film made because of its high projected cost. With the CGI and a render farm, one could probably recreate Borodino and Waterloo wide shots in a couple of hours. In the Soviet version of "War and Peace", Bondarchuk was given 15,000 extras - and these extras were actual Soviet Army soldiers, not just some folks off the street, including the cavalry battalion - on the house. Even then, the budget exceeded an average Soviet film budget by some 40 times. Under a current Hollywood cost structure, it'd be over $1B. No wonder, studios passed.

September 27, 2013 at 12:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

3
Reply
DLD

The last 3 star wars movies were some of the most ugly artifical looking movies ever made due to bluescreening the entire movies, if he continues in that direction I won't even see them just as I have been unable to watch through any of the last 3 of them combined with the abominable acting. I will be able to watch especially the first one made in the 70's till I die, it is classic and even the cheap models are nicer to look at then the fake ass disgusting computer generated crap. .

September 26, 2013 at 11:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

6
Reply
Dylan

at this pace, we won't need actors or DP's or gaffers. it will all be a 1 man production. who needs people and real life?

September 27, 2013 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

1
Reply
AlexaMan

Works for some music producers, why not film makers?

September 28, 2013 at 5:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

4
Reply
Dan

This is incredible! I had no idea this was possible at that level of quality.

I wonder if in a few decades, CGI will be so simple and cheap that we will just assume that any movie at nearly any budget level can be set in any historical period or fantasy world.

Will that ruin filmmaking? Or will it simply give filmmakers the same level of control that novelists have? After all, it costs nothing extra for a novelist to set a scene on Mars as opposed to Manhattan. Maybe it will actually be tremendously freeing if filmmakers have Avatar-level effects available to them at super low budget levels.

This might be a good thing!

September 27, 2013 at 7:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Ben

When actor Mark Hamill leaned against his Star Fighter in the original Star Wars we believed it was real because he believed it was real. We bought into the illusion and got involved! Actors need realistic props and situations in order to believe that what they are doing is real. The actors in the prequels had little more than bluescreens and ping pong balls to react to - and boy does it show! They didn't "believe" and neither did I. The films were sterile and lifeless! Don't misunderstand me - CGI isn't evil - it's overrated and overused, thats all. And when it's overused it often ruins the illusion it's supposed to create. And it's no more "cost effective" than the old special effects methods were. It's been oversold, pure and simple. A good rule for CGI is "less is more". The reverse is also true: when it's "more", the result is almost always less - a lot less, and a waste of time and money.

September 27, 2013 at 7:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

9
Reply
Ed Wright

I am with you on this. Akira Kurosawa had incredibly elaborate sets built because it actually improved his actors performances.The problem with most sets is that they are still sets as making something more authentic is too expensive. It is not real. You go around the corner and there is the concessions guy talking to the makeup girl. Not to mention the green screen problems Luke mentioned earlier.

This is actually why virtual sets are so interesting to me. What if everywhere the actor looked, they actually saw the scenery of the world? What if instead of pretending their character was doing something like flying or shooting, they actually saw the effect of their actions. I think it would improve performances.

September 28, 2013 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

Yes, you have a point. Provided it was realistic enough, it might enhance the actor's performance. But don't forget the other problem with this and all "live" special effects (even the "old school" variety). The setup times can be very long - and the long wait robs the actors and the crew of energy. I'll never forget the time our DP got "inspired" to set up a long complex tracking shot - (it wasn't even a "special effect"). It took hours to get it right. We were freezing our butts off in an abandoned building in the middle of winter surrounded by bird droppings...the shot could have been broken up into simpler pieces that would have told the story just as well. What I love about the DSLR revolution is the simple, lightweight, fast approach DSLRs (and their derivatives) bring to filmmaking - the energy stays high, and you get more "in the can" by the end of the day. Add complexity like a "video village" and you need more crew, more planning, more budget. Add this new Lucas Film technology and the day's over before you've got more than a shot or two. Yes, these tech tricks are good - even great - sometimes. But you've got to consider the time it will take to make them work.
And wasn't the "DSLR revolution" promising us that filmmaking was going to get easier and faster?

September 28, 2013 at 11:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

5
Reply
Ed Wright

Canon started the DSLR revoution and their motto seems to be, "negligible upgrades with long waits between them" :D. I agree with you about speed which is why MOVI and other brush-less gimbals are so interesting.

I talked with some of the guys who work at the motion capture studio that did Avatar, The Hobbit, etc, and they have projects come through that will do all the mocap for a full length animated film in 2 days. As the tools become more advanced I think it will be the fastest method possible leaving "reality" in the dust.

September 29, 2013 at 6:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

10
Reply
Dan

how does one get started with cgi? any recommended books, tutorials for beginners?

September 28, 2013 at 7:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

2
Reply
jojo

Big question! Cg is basically about learning to make art through software tools. At large studios people often spend their entire career focusing on just one aspect of CG for big pipelines. Learning to do it all yourself can be a big task. The steps in a full cg pipeline usually go Modeling, Texturing, Rigging (if it is something that moves), Animating, Simulating, Lighting, Rendering.

Intro to basic 3d concepts: https://www.youtube.com/user/GuerrillaCG

For software tools Autodesk Maya is the industry standard for film work. It has the biggest user base and most 3rd party plugins. It has a student version. An alternative is Blender which is free. It has a steep learning curve but lots of youtube videos and some great tools.

For me the best way to learn a new tool is to marathon tutorials on it until I understand why they are doing what they are doing. I would start with a youtube search for tutorials and move on from there.

September 29, 2013 at 6:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
Dan

thanks for the info Dan!

September 30, 2013 at 5:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

0
Reply
jojo

This is absolutely brilliant. Imagine an entire production done in one room from start to finish! You can eliminate costs associated with shooting on location. You can just send the artists out there to gather their inspiration to build the world necessary to perpetuate the story. I see only great things out of this if we can blend the tech with the filming process in such a way that it isn't the obstacle that it tends to be. When the story and the shot are directly accessible in this sort of tangible fashion, everything benefits. I wouldn't worry about jobs. It just means that more people will have greater access to share their ideas.

June 6, 2014 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply