Filming the Fantastic with Virtual Technology
Filmmaking on the Digital Backlot
This book brings fantasy storytelling to a whole new level by providing an in-depth insight into the tools used for virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 cinema and motion capture in order to repurpose them to create a virtual studio for filmmaking. Gone are the long days and months of post before seeing your final product. Composites and CG characters can now be shot together as fast as a live-action show.
Using off-the-shelf software and tools, authors Mark Sawicki and Juniko Moody document the set-up and production pipelines of the modern virtual/mocap studio. They reveal the procedures and secrets for making movies in virtual sets. The high-end technology that enabled the creation of films such as The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and The Jungle Book is now accessible for smaller, independent production companies. Do you want your actors to perform inside of an Unreal® Game Engine set and interact with the environment? Do you want to be able to put your live-action camera on a jib or dolly and move effortlessly through both a live-action and virtual space together? Do you want live performers interacting with giants, elves and other creatures manipulated by motion capture in real time? This book discusses all of these scenarios and more, showing readers how to create high-quality virtual content using alternative, cost-effective technology.
Tutorials, case studies, and project breakdowns provide essential tips on how to avoid and overcome common pitfalls, making this book an indispensable guide for both beginners to create virtual backlot content and more advanced VFX users wanting to adopt best practices when planning and directing virtual productions with Reality™ software and performance capture equipment such as Qualysis.
Table of Contents
Preface - Bill Taylor
Chapter 1 The First Magicians
Chapter 2 A Brief History of Computer Graphics
Chapter 3 Performance Capture
Chapter 4 Camera Tracking
Chapter 5 Under the Hood of the Reality EngineTM Compositing System
Chapter 6 Making a Storyboard with Unreal ® Engine
Chapter 7 Compositing Fundamentals
Chapter 8 Production Considerations.
Chapter 9 Creating Photo Real Environments
Chapter 10 So You Don’t Have a Million Dollars
Chapter 11 Production Case Study
Chapter 12 Virtual Reality: Indistinguishable from Magic.
About the Authors
Mark Sawicki entered the visual effects field as an effects cameraman, animator, and compositor in the late 70s. As a co-supervisor for Area 51 on Tom Hanks special "From the Earth to the Moon", Sawicki was part of the combined use of models, motion control, and CGI as a pivotal transition point between the traditional and digital eras. Mark went on to become visual effects supervisor and lead cameraman for Custom Film effects working on such films as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. At the start of the 21st century, Mark took a hiatus from production to write books, create video programs for the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, and teach at a variety of film schools. He has now re-entered the field as a virtual production artist and corporate trainer.
Juniko Moody graduated from USC Cinema and entered the industry as a motion control and compositing technician working for New World Studios, Ultimatte Corporation, and ILM. She entered the digital field working for Eastman Kodak’s Cineon project digitally restoring the Disney classic Snow White and went on to work for Warner Digital and Sony Imageworks as a digital artist. She was hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation to provide CGI lighting and digital compositing for the film Dinosaur. She also provided corporate training at Disney and Dreamworks animation. She received a doctorate from USC Rossier School of Education and continues to write and research.
"Filming the Fantastic with Virtual Technology is as immersive a book on the history and process of visual effects creation as I’ve seen. Anyone wanting to know about how we got where we are now, what’s next, and how to get it done today, should read this book."
Michael Fink, Chair, Film and Television Production, USC School of Cinematic Arts
"Filming the Fantastic with Virtual Technology provides an excellent historical overview of traditional and digital approaches to lighting, shooting and compositing. In addition, the text delivers highly detailed technical information on these same approaches to get started building virtual worlds."
Elizabeth Leister, Assistant Professor, California State University, Northridge, Cinema and Television Arts Department
"A unique blend of hands-on tutorials, practical on-set production advice, and historical insights into the complex, fascinating, and exciting world of virtual filmmaking and visualization. A recommended read for artists and technicians interested in realizing their stories through cutting edge technologies and processes."
Jeff Spoonhower, Animator, Game Developer, Professor of Film and Digital Media Production at the University of Notre Dame
"Mark Sawicki and Juniko Moody have taken the complex and often baffling world of visual effects technology and presented it in a clear, organized fashion that both the seasoned professional and ambitious journeyman filmmaker can understand. Beyond just a technical essay, Filming the Fantastic is, in itself, a tool that will guide visual effects artists and film and video producers to achieve great results. Mark proves once again that he is, indeed, "the man behind the curtain," and Juniko, who has worked for Warner Digital, Sony Imageworks, Dreamworks and Disney, is our guide through the history of CGI from early engineers at IBM and the movie TRON to the present-day ramifications of virtual reality and its impact on storytelling and entertainment. If you incorporate this book into your workflow you will not only glean a broader overview of the field, but you will arrive at the best and most correct choices-- quicker. And that, in itself, is a fantastic achievement."
Ernest Farino, Two-time Emmy®-winning Visual Effects Designer/Supervisor