The wins of real-time technologies take centre stage at Cannes Next
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On 19 May, the Main Stage of the Marché du Film (17-25 May) hosted a Cannes Next talk titled “What are the Wins of Real-Time Technologies for a Feature Length Production Pipeline?” The panel focused on identifying the differences between working on a virtual production pipeline in contrast to a traditional production, how the workflows change and the main benefits of using these new technologies.
The event was moderated by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine Strategy Advisor Joan Da Silva, who introduced the speakers, namely The Third Floor’s Virtual Production Manager Brad Blackbourn, Lux Machina Consulting’s Virtual Production Supervisor Louisa Bremner and Monolith Studios’ producer Valerie Johnson-Redrow.
First, Da Silva asked what was the moment in which the three panellists realised the importance of virtual production. Johnson-Redrow defined as her “eye-opener” the work she carried out on a theme park attraction, King Kong 360 3D, which Peter Jackson turned it into an immersive tunnel: “I realised how fun it was to put people in this world, even though it was real-time it was a precursor to that [technology].” Bremner started using virtual production around 2018-2019, when working on Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, which was initially intended as a simple tool for VFX work. Blackbourn came to the realisation that “bits” of a project’s world exist on a computer somewhere, then those bits are something that can be used for virtual production.
While virtual production might be at first intimidating, Bremner highlighted how its benefits can make the whole process faster and smoother. “One of the tools people find really useful are virtual cameras for locking actors,” she said. With the use of ‘metahumans’ and not just mannequins, directors can frame upon, try different lens options and develop their visual language until the day before the shoot.
Blackbourn agreed and stressed on the financial impact of this new tech: “One of the key points of virtual production is that a large part of its benefits is trying to get all the exploration, elimination and improvement of ideas early in that sort of virtual process, not trying to do that on set.” He added that big players own huge catalogues of assets ready for use or to modify for further use, which is another opportunity to lower costs and “extract more value.”
Later, Bremner and Johnson-Redrow agreed on the fact that virtual production can ease the hiring of more diverse creative teams, a process which has been accelerated by the remote work carried out during the pandemic.
Blackbourn suggested to think of virtual production as “a power supply, a telephone line or a communication tool” – in other words it is “a visual communication system” which can help any departments to do their job better. He also pointed out how most of the expensive part of virtual production is about volumes, so he recommended to “get rid of crazy ideas early, turn up with a plan and make sure everyone there knows what options you’re looking for on the day.”
Towards the end of the panel, Blackbourn invited everyone to approach virtual production: “As long as you’ve an Internet connection and a web browser, the amount of information available out there is massive.” He explained that the likes of Epic and Netflix have published numerous manuals sharing their best practices, and that most of the required software is free. Thus, one can connect a few screens and devices and effectively create their own primitive “training virtual production system” to start learning and exploring the potential of this new tech.
The panel was brought to a close by a short Q&A session.
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