Virtual production and higher frame rates dominated the conversation at this week’s SIGGRAPH conference in LA, just as they did at FMX earlier in the year. Despite Warner Bros. scaling back on the number of screens that it will play The Hobbit at 48 fps on Dec. 14, the two go hand in hand with 3-D in paving the way for a more immersive and lifelike theatrical movie going experience. I cover the highlights and speak with Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri and ILM’s Dennis Muren in my latest TOH/Indiewire column.
Autodesk immediately grabbed the spotlight in announcing a partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital that will improve the virtual production workflow for the upcoming Avatar sequels.
“Once Jim got involved more and more in the process, he realized that everything adaptable,” Letteri explained. “There are just parts of it that you didn’t consider before because you were coming from a different direction. How you have things that are put together in different ways. With our models department building both the sets and the costumes the specialization happens differently in the virtual world. We’re just trying to be more efficient in pulling this all together.”
Although full on virtual production is practiced mostly by Cameron and Weta, many view this as a trickle down proposition. Hence the virtual production committee currently going on with the ASC, ADG, VES, Previs Society, and others, chaired by David Morin. Eventually, the industry at large will be embracing this interactive, nonlinear process, which spans digital world building, character development, previs, performance capture, virtual cinematography, VFX and final render. The new LightWave 3D Group headed by Rob Powers and Dominic Spina plans on offering an all-in-one, interactive virtual production solution involving more of the GPU.
As part of Autodesk’s Entertainment Creation Suites 2013, the new virtual production enhancements will help studios of all sizes. The tools, found in MotionBuilder and Maya, will help improve performance, workflow and image fidelity.