Over the past few years we’ve witnessed one of the most significant advancements in the filmmaking process – realtime technology. Through hardware and software technologies, we’ve finally gotten to the point where filmmakers and craftspeople can interact with digital worlds no different than they would the physical, in some instances with even greater control over their environment. The ability to iterate on sets, objects, lighting and characters, in realtime and in collaboration across departments, is a tremendous benefit to the process of visual storytelling.
At its core, virtual production is breaking down barriers between the virtual and the physical – but more importantly, it is stripping away the root cause that kept filmmaking departments siloed and access to storytelling mediums separate. For shows that leveraged computer graphics to visualize the story, the process of having to wait for renders caused an artificial barrier between heads of production departments and post production, where often craftspeople had no idea what the final product would look like until it was put in front of an audience. Realtime workflows are changing the dynamic of production, enabling the teams to bring the best of their crafts to the project in a collaborative and fluid way. But this is not the only opportunity realtime provides.
In addition to allowing for increased collaboration, the mechanics of realtime workflows are also setting the stage for increased access to other storytelling mediums – live action, animation, experiential, games, live events and beyond. Digital world building and realtime assets have greater transmedia portability and are increasingly unifying the processes that go into creating these paradigms. It’s gotten to the point where traditional directors and cinematographers can feel just as at home creating animation as they would shooting a live-action project.
What this means is that virtual production is inherently preparing us for a new era of entertainment – empowering content creators to collaboratively expand storytelling in brand new ways that were previously difficult, and opening up new worlds for audiences to interact with and explore. When the same asset can be re-used seamlessly across any medium, it builds that many more on-ramps for audiences to engage with an IP – exploring that universe through anything from a film, to an immersive experience, to a video game, or anything beyond, creating unexpected connections along the way. We are at the beginning stages of studios and creators thinking through what’s possible, and in the year ahead I expect to see more unconventional stories and crossovers as virtual production hits its stride, and people start to think about what more they can build from that foundation.
With realtime tools and virtual production, the building blocks for a new generation of content creation are already here. The versatility of today’s digital assets means that consumers will soon be able to easily aggregate the kinds of experiences and entertainment that they want, when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. Tighten your seatbelts, we’re in for a fantastic ride!
Miles Perkins is the Industry Manager, Film & Television, for Epic Games (www.epicgames.com). Founded in Cary, NC, Epic is an interactive entertainment company and provider of 3D engine technology that provides an end-to-end digital ecosystem for developers and creators to build, distribute and operate games and other content.