5D | FLUX: A New Paradigm for World Building
The 5D | FLUX at USC (presented by the 5D Institute in association with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and Autodesk) offered the first in a series of digital design summits about the new paradigm for world building through virtual production, which has ascended since the game-changing Avatar and has been evident most recently in Hugo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin and the upcoming Hobbit, among others. The summit was curated by production designer Alex McDowell (5D creative director), Peggy Weil (adjunct professor, USC/SCA), and Francois Audouy (production designer, 5D founding committee).
World Building is defined by 5D as "the new metaphor for the creation and actualizing of the story space in digital narrative media is the theme of this design summit. It addresses narrative design thinking, the iterative and immersive experience of creating new worlds of storytelling. As such, it expresses the full arc of design’s role through narrative media."
The three-day summit breakdown for world building, as laid out by McDowell (Man of Steel), consisted of Inception (imagining and developing the world); Prototyping (testing the story space and visualizing the world); and Manufacturing & Capture (building and experiencing the world).
McDowell offered that world building is not merely the domain of franchises. He recently worked on the indie Upside Down, a futuristic Romeo and Juliet love story in which Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are not only separated by class but also by space. The two worlds have their own gravitational pulls but are on top of each another.
McDowell suggested that Upside Down (directed by Juan Diego Solanas) offered the perfect opportunity to test this workflow while also being a definite design challenge. “In order to work within this relatively low-budget film, a convincing way of understanding the world, building backwards here, starting with models and then painting over the models, allows you to really look at the experience of the world, even in Photoshop,” he explained.
They looked at locations in Montreal for converting into spaces that could be built up or down. "The set that we built allowed characters to be composited on the ceiling," McDowell added. "The really complicated thing here was eye line: How do you actually track the eye lines between characters that are performing in two different spaces and have to interact with each other?
"They used a real camera connected in real-time to a slave remote camera with a motion control unit receiving the data from the encoders, with a computer calculating both video signals composited in real-time to allow one frame per image… Some really interesting, complex solutions to this film played out with a d-vis process to get the eye lines to connect and to be able to build these two sets that had to be stitched together."