Sunday, December 4, 2022

Movies and Games Become One with this Crazy New Technology

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A new kind of craze is coming our way with thanks to Epic Games and VFX studio, The Mill and is something like we’ve never seen before. These two companies are looking to how the public just how far photorealistic graphics can go with your very own choose your own adventure entertainment.

The first of these creations is called The Human Race and is a short where the user can choose what car they want to see in the upcoming Chevy commercial, and then watch it as it comes alive on their screen. Boo Wong is global director of emerging technology at The Mill, and she says, “We created a virtual production toolkit to visualize what you see in the film – a virtual car. But that can be extended to any character, prop, etc. From a visual effects point of view, that’s super exciting.”

In the demo, the pseudo-car used was called the Blackbird and is similar to that of a dune buggy that’s equipped with trackable markers and cameras that film outward. The Mill normally choose to shoot a commercial using the Blackbird as often the actual vehicle in question isn’t quite ready yet. Or because it’s so hush-hush that no one is to know about it.  But it’s the putting it all together post-production that takes the real time and effort and single frames can often take days to render.

That’s where Epic and Project Raven come in. Project Raven is a new technology that’s an extension to the Unreal Engine 4 that’s currently used in video games. While Project Raven is connected to the Blackbird, a virtual playground is unleashed. The footage was taken from the cameras onboard the Blackbird is transferred onto the curves of the CGI car.  The software then sets to work analyzing the footage to infer where it needs to be in the sky to create the perfect realistic lighting system.

Pretty cool, eh? But that’s just the beginning. The Unreal Engine is constantly evolving and is being used more and more in mainstream entertainment. Both Nickelodeon and the latest Star Wars movie have used Unreal in their filming. Pretty soon if things keep going the way they are, we’ll be able to pause a live game, then transfer it to the Xbox and carry on where the human players left off. Kim Libreri, CTO at Epic Games, says, “What we see happening is the gamification of everything in our lives. If you’re watching an animated TV show, why shouldn’t you be able to change the costume on the princess, or change the location, or have a personalized experience – and share your version with friends?”

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