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    The evolution of VFX technology: Some key things to know

    With the help of rapid advancements in the field of technology, the VFX industry has come a long way. Today, filmmakers are able to think out of the box, rethink their approach, and they are able to increase real-time collaboration. Some examples include-

    Released in the year 1985, Young Sherlock Holmes in which fully computer-generated characters were implemented. Or, we can talk about the movie released in the year 2019, Lion King in which some unbelievable full environment productions were seen.

    The credit of the evolution goes to all those large studios and creative minds who have been able to recognize the potential behind all these powerful engines, having created in-house labs to develop them to the full potential.

    The major role of better production pipelines has now been recognized by many studios, they help in creating a better collaborative environment among directors and artists. This, in turn, allows studios to come up with the shots that are closer to the final results, without having the need to rework them.

    Let’s take a look at these technologies that are helping the VFX industry to reach its potential, how these technologies work, and who are actually making the right use of these technologies- all your questions answered here!

    A little bit of background…

    For those who have watched The Mandalorian, they have already seen the power and potential of using in-camera visual effects with the help of LED volumes.

    Let’s make it easy to understand, these are some key techniques that are a combination of real-time game engine animation making the use of Unreal Engine, it also involves LED screens and tracked cameras that help in delivering shots live and in-camera.

    Instead of traveling to real-world locations to do the required shots, the scenes are performed in front of the huge volume of LED panels, they have animated backgrounds that with accurate parallax, respond to the movements of the camera. The results are amazing.

    LED display technology

    When The Mandalorian achieved enormous success, the LED wall technology came into everyone’s knowledge. ILM released their behind-the-scene and their key focus was on LED wall technology, It was also named The Volume. With the help of real-time rendered virtual sets, the actors and directors got access to direct connection with the environment while offering a well-finished product.

    The blue and green scenes are now a thing of the past. When we talk about the common pipeline, the shots must be sent to the VFX department where they will be converted into the required environment, and also to fix the lighting as per the requirement.

    As everything can be fixed on the LED screen, from background and props to reflections, all are getting the benefits of this lighting change and all without the requirement of the original VFX pipeline.

    Unreal engine

    Without the power and help of Epic Game’s unreal engine, the LED technology wouldn’t have come into existence. And this, without a doubt, is the most powerful real-time 3D creation platform to date.  It allows accurate parallax between the camera and the objects during the filming process, and photorealistic rendering and ray-tracing in real-time is made possible. Unreal also offers a noteworthy feature, production engines can make use of the power of CGI characters, and there can be animation at the time of the scene.

    Virtual set scouting

    Another technology worth mentioning, Virtual set scouting, technology serving its purpose of creating a 3D environment of a set, the one that has never been created in real life, and it also ensures that every single element is useful for production. With the help of virtual reality, the director and crew members can pre-visualize the shot all while standing in the environment generated by a computer. Hence, if there is any change required, this can be addressed before building the actual set, saving a great deal of time and money for the production.

    The adoption

    Especially, after the COVID-19 pandemic, these technologies have gained popularity, The virtual environment became a necessity, that too should have been controlled remotely, and it should be allowing the directors, artists, and photographers to work together, these technologies have proven to be quite useful during these days.

    Previously, these technologies were utilized by only bigger productions, now when people have realized the potential of these technologies, they are now used in every aspect of production. The virtual production technology is now used by smaller studios as well, the reason being it helps in eliminating various limitations.

    Bringing some sense in the entertainment industry

    In addition to bringing some pace and sense to the entertainment industry, these virtual production technologies are disrupting the industry. For those who are newbies to the industry, these technologies are dedicated to bringing a lot of conveniences and there are some highly advanced methods for pre-visualization of the shots, enabling a precise way to bring what is needed by the director.

    In the show that we have talked about previously, The Mandalorian, somewhere between 40 to 50% of the on-set capture shots turned out to be the final one, giving the newbies the right path to get things done in less time and with more perfection. This helps to create environments that can be modified right away, saving time and cost of the production, also a great thing that can ever happen.

    One thing is sure…

    Of course, these technologies are helping the industry in plenty of ways, streamlining a lot of production activities, saving time and money. But, the fact is, the existing pipeline is not going to disappear soon, not every shot is in need of the advanced functionalities and options that these latest technology solutions have to offer. Any new production will need plenty of knowledge and skills as well as experience to utilize these technologies to their full potential. One more thing due to which these technologies may take a while to come to full existence is the cost involved. Currently, the cost of bringing these technology solutions into play is high and this may not be worth investing in for every production.

    The final shot

    As time passes, these technologies are sure to become more and more popular, many productions are going to make use of these advanced technology solutions. Not only the movies and TV shows but even advertisement productions may start using these solutions in the near future. Ultimately, it means that the technologies are going to be brought into use and new developers are expected to bring the cost down to some extent.

    Soon, we can see that these technologies have become a common practice in productions, the artists will be provided with all the required training to perform what they are intended to in real-time on the set. It will never affect the job of the artist directly. The skills of the artists will be needed pre-production or at the time of production instead of post-production. It will become easier to implement once the artists have the needed training to perform the shots.

    Let’s see where these technologies take the VFX world, the future, of course, seems to bring and there is huge potential in these highly advanced technologies.