Lucasfilm May Bring Video Game Tech to the Big Screen

By September 24, 2013
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Lucasfilm hopes to remove the “post” from “post production” using video game engines and real time motion capture. Is it a bold step, or a pipe dream?

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At the London-based BAFTA Technology Strategy Board event last week, Lucasfilm’s chief technology strategy officer Kim Libreri spoke about the future of film post-production, and how some technical moves that the company is making may make post-production as we know it wholly unnecessary in the future. Video game engines and real-time motion capture could be used to do post-production overlays in real time as the live action scenes are filmed.

It sounds improbable when you first hear it, but look at the next generation of consoles. The in-game graphics can look as good as, or better than, cut scenes of today’s top games. That’s no small feat, and Libreri has no doubt that this fact can be used to improve the movie industry. Here’s what he said (quotes via The Inquirer, h/t SuperHeroHype):

“Everyone has seen what we can do in movies, and I think most people will agree the video game industry is catching up quite quickly, especially in the next generation of console titles,” said Libreri.  “I’m pretty sure within the next decade, we’re going to see a convergence in terms of traditional visual effects capabilities–making realistic fire, creatures, and environments–but working completely interactively.”

To further this point, Libreri showed off what they’ve been working on:

Admittedly, the real-time rendering looks amazing. One can’t help but wonder if this this is something that they intend to employ to assist in the rapid fire Star Wars movies due to be releasing over the next few years. It would definitely help in allowing them to meet the “Star Wars a year” promise which they’ve made. [Editor’s note: Keep in mind also that this is a variation on the technology that James Cameron and his team created to film Avatar, so this isn’t entirely new; that being said, there’s certainly room for Lucasfilm to innovate with this fledgling concept.]

Now, here’s the rub: Yes, it will indeed make post-production less of a bear, especially in the case of series filming. However, it comes at a cost that Libreri failed to mention. Pre-production will doubtless become the new bear. While post will be compressed to mere fine tuning, one tends to forget that high resolution assets don’t fabricate themselves. Someone has to build them, and that’s not an easy job. I know that artists love to create, but I don’t envy them when they have to imitate reality. It’s a ton of work to recreate real world objects, and living creatures even moreso. This new technique could certainly revolutionize filmmaking to some extent, yet the cost of doing so will essentially create a whole new “pre-processing” phase.

Do you see Lucasfilm making this mainstream, or are we looking at something that may end up becoming a toy for Pixar?

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Bryan is a tech and gadget geek, as well as a fan of media in all its forms. Film, music, games, you name it. He also has a deep love for nearly all things indie, because sometimes the little fish have the biggest adventures. You can find him as @DieselBT pretty much anywhere on the internet.