fmx 09: You Know What's Interesting?
written by Johannes Wolters
You know what´s interesting about the fmx?. You stay there in the foyer, in the halls, you have this big accessibility to each and everyone. So I found myself talking to one of the big visual effects designers of this planet.
Kevin Tod Haugs worked on "Quantum of Solace," "The Kite Runner," "Finding Neverland," "Panic Room" and many more. An his opinion about the stereoscopic films is a technical one: “I just find it heartbreaking, that after years and years and years of dealing with resolution, we are finally getting to the point, where its 2k or 4k, we could make choices, its all gonna be fine, we get digital cameras, we get rid of scanning, its all gonna be fine and then we have to make it twice as complicated. Just, when its gonna be easy, we have to make it hard.” So I asked him, if it will enhance the storytelling.
“Eventually. Right now it’s a gag. Someone will find stories that need it. Mostly it will be like when color came in. Lots of people said, do we need color? Really? But can do the film industry without it now? No! So, it will be about the same, I am sure. They said it about sound, they said it about color, they say it about stereo. But do I feel, that it enhances the storytelling-process right now? I haven´t seen any example, that blew my mind, but you know…. It will have to happen.”
Kevin is by the way the author of a VFX-related blog called Manifxto, so please, if you are interested, go there.
Day three of fmx09 started with lots tech talk, regarding the future of moviemaking as well as many other parts of our daily lives. Patrick Davenport and Steve Caulkin explained their Image Metrics system, how fast this wonderful tool works. Both showed the Performance Capturing, which works without markers, then the Performance Analysis, after that the data is combined with a rig in a retargeting process. The final output is clean, editable animation curves. The system was heavily used in "Benjamin Button" and in the upcoming animated feature “Foodfight” as well as in games like Grand Theft Auto IV and many, many other big projects. The capture of lips through Image Metrics was shown in a hilarious musicv ideo of Gnarls Barkley´s “Who gonna save my soul”, directed by Chris Milk. You have to see that one! And of course you have to learn more about “The Emily Project” (www.image-metrics.com)
Paul Debevec, the Whizkid from the USC, the University of Southern California´s Institute for Creative Technologies, showed the audience the future or the recent developments he and his fellows are working on. Having driven the facial expression capture to new heights with the possibilities of USC´s Light stage no. 5, Debevec showed and explained the goal to establish a telephone conference with a real 3D image of the guy on the other end of the line. A real time 3D face scanning system interfaced to a face sized autostereoscopic3D display with some more unbelievable gadgets. In other words: it looked like the heads in “Futurama”, still in black and white, a problem they will solve in the very near future. This brilliant talk by Paul Debevec was truly inspiring and let us hope, we will live long enough to see the “holodeck” from Star Trek become real. Please check out their website its called http://gl.ict.usc.edu/ or shorter www.debevec.org
Christophe Hery from ILM explained about the latest in Skin and Reflection Research. Parag Havaldar from Sony told you a lot about the evolution of motion capture. He is currently implementing a new markerless video based motion capture system to assist full body animation for characters in Tim Burton´s “Alice in Wonderland.”
For the first time the 5D conference is now part of the fmx here at Stuttgart, Germany. Alex McDowell explained, that the conference at Long Beach will be held biannually. In the meantime, the conference will travel and go to interesting events like fmx to spread the idea and to find new inspiration.
Peter Plantec opened up the conference with a short history about his first getting contact with 5D. He had to admit that he did not get it in the first place!
“What the heck, I can´t figure out what 5D was. 3D with two extra D´s? So Alex McDowell had to carefully explain it to me. And he had a hard time. He knew what is was. Its all about Design! Let´s say Design, Design, Design, Design, Design and its about immersive design, it is about the future of design. As we move on into new worlds, new types of entertainments, we have to evolve our ways, how to do design. And the idea that a single designer comes up with the concept, those days are over. Doomed by the incredibly complex. And 5D looks at the whole issue and how we bring in more minds and resources to create virtual collaborative workspaces. It looks at how we bring talents of various sorts together in order a design synergy that can lead to really wild immersive storytelling experiences.” And this idea is already becoming reality. Or as producer Chris de Faria put: “For better or for worse this will be the future of cinema!” Very lively debates between the panellists and the audience went on through the whole afternoon. A young design student from Berlin, Daniela Kleint from HWT Berlin summarized it for me afterwards: “Great! Really great!!! The event inspired me very much. The people here choose an open platform, open discussions, very convenient for an interactive immersive design, a wonderful mixture of input and discussion. I would like to know more about it, so Iwill go to see, what they are doing next and what they have already achieved.” And so can you!
The only bad thing about this day at fmx was that, if you choose to go to the 5D conference, you missed Jonathan Litt and Steve Preeg from Digital Domain and their panel about the truly amazing work on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." As you can imagine the place was crowded, while Litt and Preeg revealed some of the magic behind the first convincing fully animated character in a live action film.