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The past few months we have been working on a new tool we hope will revolutionize the way we use pre-visualisation in film and television productions. This system, developed by our brand new branch Planet X Technologies (in collaboration with VR expert Marijn Eken's ScreenSpace Lab) carries the working title ‘Visual Development Tool’ (VDT) and is currently still in beta phase. It is being used intensely on 'Bumperkleef', a new feature film by Topkapi Films. And besides that, we have organized six separate ‘demo days’ for which we invited a broad range of film professionals such as directors, DOP’s, VFX supervisors, production designers and producers to explore the potential of our VDT. Their enthusiasm and willingness to implement it on their next production, made it clear to us that we’re on the path to something truly exciting and useful!
The development of techniques such as VR seem to progress at the speed of light and as they move forward, they open doors to a new and fresh look at how we currently implement the existing options to design, before principal photography, image-related processes. This concept, known as ‘pre-visualisation’ can currently be explored through the use of storyboards (drawings that don’t show any timing) or animatics (animations that do show timing).
Although these options can suffice for some productions, they are limited in what they can offer. A director or DOP can only partly participate in the creation of a storyboard (unless they can draw themselves) and when setting up animatics, they rely on an external operator (animator) to meet their needs. In short: both director and DOP are more on the sidelines rather than have an active, intuitive participation in this previs process. On top of that, a storyboard can still be ‘multi-interpretable’ and might not be understood as clearly by the various departments involved.
Visual Development Tool (VDT)
Due to the ever increasing use of visual effects in the film and television industry and the growing technical complexity of those productions, it makes perfect sense to apply the advantages a complete virtual world can offer us.
What makes our VDT unique is the combination of a virtual surrounding (the filmset) in which we can see and control the camera, allowing the filmmakers to explore their shoot beforehand. It enables experimentation with camera angles, mise-en-scene, grip, lighting, etc.
The ultimate purpose of the VDT is to gain a far better insight in the ideas and wishes of the filmmakers involved. Leveraging the knowledge in the steps that follow, will limit the financial risks by preventing surprises during post-production.
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Actual in-session footage of the VDT with three different scenes
The VDT uses a prototype camera, an Arri Alexa, made from lightweight foam.
Image courtesy of 'Bumperkleef', a feature film by Topkapi Films