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How Video-Game Engines Help Create Visual Effects on Movie Sets in Real Time

Posted by George Freund on January 7, 2020 at 12:30 PM

Bye bye, green screen.

Variety |

Janko Roettgers


Donald Glover was blown away. “This is the coolest thing I have ever done,” he could be heard muttering into a hot mic after he had put the Millennium Falcon into hyperdrive for the first time on the set of “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”


What impressed Glover so much was that the scene wasn’t filmed in front of a green screen, as is typically the case with movies that rely heavily on visual effects. Instead, Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic unit had built an elaborate setup of five 4K laser projectors around the Falcon’s cockpit, which displayed the iconic hyperdrive animation in real time. The setup not only allowed Glover and his fellow actors to perform in less of a vacuum, but the projectors were also used as the sole source of lighting — resulting in stunning reflections of the flashing blue lights in the actors’ eyes.


The hyperdrive-jump scene is just one example of a new production paradigm that has become a growing part of Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” movies. Instead of adding visual effects in post-production, the studio is relying more on real-time technologies. And Lucasfilm isn’t alone in the approach: From major movie studios to independent producers, everyone is increasingly embracing real-time production tools that change how movies and TV shows are made — and enable projects that might not otherwise have existed.


Over the past few years, ILM has been developing a suite of virtual production tools that embraces a range of real-time technologies. Dubbed Stagecraft, these tools encompass the entire production process, from early set design with the help of VR headsets to visual effects like the ones used for “Solo.”


What unites many of the tools is that they deliver results instantly that previously would have taken hours, or even days, explains ILM head and executive creative director Rob Bredow. “Real-time is a fundamental change to the workflow,” he says. “Visual effects and digital techniques are being included much, much earlier in the process.”

The next set of fake shootings will be so real, you'll feel the blood splatter and smell the gunpowder. Maybe you already have.

Categories: New World Order