Previsualization and Virtual Production Conference Wraps Up to Rave Reveiws

Ontario's first conference on previsualization and virtual production ended with kudos from both international and local presenters and attendees on the quality of the discussion and technology demos. Thanks to industry partners who sponsored the event at SIRT: Computer Animation Studios of Ontario (CASO), Directors Guild of Canada - Ontario, I.A.T.S.E. 667 (International Cinematographers Guild), the Previsualization Society, Film Ontario, the OMDC and Pinewood Toronto Studios. Industry panels were sponsored by William F. White Ltd. and ACTRA Toronto.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Previsualization and Virtual Production conference for helping create an event that fostered international and regional discussion and collaboration on the future of film and television production practices. A special thanks to our presenters and sponsors for making the conference possible, some of whom are featured below.

Keynote speaker David Morin, Chair, Joint Technology Subcommittee on Virtual Production (also co-chair Previsualization Committee), provided a context for the two days to follow with an introduction to the work and current outcomes of these committees. The committee is a joint effort of six organizations: the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), the Art Director's Guild (ADG), the Visual Effects Society (VES), the Previsualization Society, the Producers Guild of America (PGA), and the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG). David talked about the impact that the increasing digitization of workflow is having on processes from pre-production through on-set production and post, and how this is impacting adoption of previsualization and virtual production processes.

Dennis Berardi, VFX Supervisor and Don Carmody, Producer of Resident Evil: Afterlife discuss the role of previsualization in production of Canada's highest grossing feature film of all time. Both speakers talked about the critical role that previs played throughout the project, with Dennis screening and discussing previs sequences in relation to the finished film and Don emphasizing the importance of the previs in generating cost savings.

Ron Frankel, Founder of Proof Inc., one of the world's leading previsualization companies, was also co-chair of the U.S. Technology committee on Previsualization (joint committee of American Society of Cinematographers/Art Directors Guild/Visual Effects Society). Ron was part of a panel on the state of the art of previs on day one but on day two presented his thoughts on the future of virtual production as a collaborative design process. Drawing examples from recent projects he's been involved with, he spoke of the implications of virtual production technologies such as on-set real time compositing for the future of collaborative design work on film and television projects.

Parag Havaldar, Research and Development Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks, provided an inside look at the development of previsualization and virtual production practices at SONY. Covering the history of both full body and facial performance capture on films such as Beowulf and Watchmen, Parag also discussed the need for virtual production and previs processes that have a minimal impact on traditional on set production practices with a particular emphasis on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. In order to provide the director, actors and others with an on set environment conducive to creative collaboration Sony is developing and implementing motion capture and other virtual production practices that are less intrusive on set.

Rob Burton, VP of Technology for Starz Animation Toronto (Gnomeo and Juliet), discusses the importance of previsualization in the preparation and shooting of its live action/visual effects short Lovebirds. Decisions regarding stereoscopic cinematography and other production choices were made on the basis of previsualizaton.

Jimmy Corvan and Jarrod Kozeal of Vicon, a SIRT industry partner and one of the leading motion capture equipment suppliers in the world, work with actor Scott . Vicon reps completed cg modelling of two scenes and scene blocking and recording with three actors from ACTRA - Toronto, Canada's union for film, television and new media performers, on the first day. Performance capture took place within a 24 camera motion capture volume that was set up for the conference.

On day two Jeff Beavers of Vicon uses the virtual camera within the capture volume to create various camera setups of the pre-captured scenes within Autodesk's Motionbuilder software. The audience was able to see the camera operator's view of the cg actors and set projected in real time on adjacent screens.

Brian Pohl, previsualization supervisor, and one of the founders of the LA-based Previsualization Society, represented the society in a discussion of its educational work and the outcomes of the activities of the previsualization committee.

Rob Aitchison, Product Design Team Lead for SIRT industry partner Autodesk Media and Entertainment works with a variety of products including Maya, Mudbox, Motionbuilder and FBX. These are all important components in Autodesk's virtual production workflow. Rob outlined the production process for a short dramatic demo that was done at SIRT last year as part of the development of best practices by Autodesk's Virtual Production Consulting Team.

The dramatic short was then played back in a loop in MotionBuilder, a game engine based animation software, while a volunteer from the audience worked out camera moves in the program while viewing the cg scene on a virtual camera monitor.

Virtual cinematography was performed by Brian Gedge (Canadian Society of Cinematographers/I.A.T.S.E. 667 member, DP on SAW 3D). Following the presentation, audience members were enthusiastic about being given the opportunity to practice with the SIRT designed virtual camera system, working out their own coverage of the scene.

Michael Geissler, CEO of U.K.-based Mo-Sy discusses their demo and presentation of the Chameleon system, a software/hardware based solution for providing real-time on-set compositing of live actors within the cg environment during a green screen shoot. This system was used last year on the feature Immortals directed by Tarsem Singh. Interest from conference participants centred on the ability of the system to provide camera, dolly, and lens data for use in post-production visual effects work as well as on its use as a previsualization tool for directors and actors. Additional presenters on this panel included Michael Darby of William F. White, Canada's largest motion picture equipment rental company, and sponsor of the Mo-sys panel.

Rob Magee and Paul Salvini, Chief Technical Officer of Side Effects Software, an industry partner at SIRT discussed the process for using Houdini software within the previsualization workflow. Their presentation partly focused on the advantages of using the procedural modelling features of Houdini to allow for more interactive alteration of cg elements of a scene.

Avrim Katzman, SIRT Researcher and Sheridan College faculty member in computer animation discussed and demonstrated an early stage research project taking place at SIRT with the involvement of Vicon and Side Effects Software. The ultimate goal of the work is real-time previsualization of cg visual effects on set with the Unreal Engine. The demo involved real-time display of both camera movements and performance capture within the Unreal engine, a process developed with the partnership of the University of Waterloo's Institute for Computer Research.

Additional thanks to all of of our other speakers and moderators, and to Neishaw Ali, President of SpinFX who graciously served as host/MC for the two day event and kept the flow of the event moving extremely smoothly. Neishaw is also a current board member of the Computer Animation Studios of Ontario, one of the event sponsors.

Hosted by the Screen Industries Research and Training Centre, with the participation and sponsorship of the Directors Guild of Canada - Ontario, I.A.T.S.E. Local 667, FilmOntario, Computer Animation Studios of Ontario (CASO), the Previsualization Society, Pinewood Toronto Studios, and made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation on behalf of the Ministry of Culture.

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