Confronting Change at the VES Summit
If the first VES Production Summit last year was about grappling with the new paradigm shift in breaking down barriers between pre-production, production and post-production, last Saturday's second Summit was about digging deeper, especially given the realities of the recession.
In fact, VES Exec Director Eric Roth led off the proceedings at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey by announcing that the goal was to aid the attendees in surviving the next five years. He then introduced Chairman Jeff Okun, who said that one of the goals of the Summit was to help "force our heads out of our rut" and to "get to the future in a lock-step fashion."
In other words, "to find a new way to the future so you can plan accordingly." He proffered a simile with the race to the moon that was initiated by John F. Kennedy when he set the goal of landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth. Well, that should be easy enough for all of us to do…
Dr. Rich Terrile, NASA/JPL Astronomer and Evolutionary Computation Designer began on a technological note with "Pathways and Challenges to Innovation."
He pointed out that, given the fact that the computer is able to create such reliable worlds that are mathematically-based and can simulate our world so well that the day will come when the "virtual immersive experience is indistinguishable from reality." The universe, according to Dr. Terrile, actually behaves like a video game. As a result, "does reality lose its place as an objective truth"?
Issue specific to our industry, a number of topics were explored by the featured panelists, especially the hot one of where our business is headed. For example, when we initiate our work, we also create an archive on the day that perfectly matches the bits we're working with. But over time we modify those pieces we're working with and by the time the job is finished we may have strayed from the original information by as much as 20% , so the archive no longer represents the current truth but an older truth that has much less application than the modified footage. This is all due to the fact that metadata is generated by humans and is prone to the mistakes that humans make.
As we go deeper into the technological advances we need more on-set support. Video Village continues to enlarge to include not only sound and picture playback but also previs and a number of other technologies that will continue to blur the lines within a production. In the past we perceived three separate periods of the filmmaking process: pre-production, production and post-production. Historically, they overlapped very little, but with the incorporation of all these galloping technologies the line is largely disintegrated. Instead of reacting to what the set provides us as footage, we are now able to strongly influence how and what is shot during production and we actually determine the approach so that the captured footage will integrate smoothly into the finished film. In the case of Avatar, the James Cameron was able to see a high-quality comp that showed him exactly what the final shot would look like. This allowed him to move as confidently in a virtual environment as he would on a real, hard wall set. This empowered a fast cycle of decision making on the part of the director thereby reducing the influence of the unknown. The cycle of decision making is speeding up.
The final goal of all this integration will be the completion of the film on the final day of shooting so there is simply no post-production, just production. To this end there are more and more tools being developed. Dan Germain, WW Strategic Business Dev., DVS Digital Video Inc., stated that "each production is different and each needs a different set of tools to solve its problems.