Lucasfilm, for the better part of forty years, has been at the forefront of new technological advances, special effects and filming techniques. Obviously, their Star Wars releases have ushered in the most examples of revolutionary techniques that, today, are used world over in movies of all genres, budgets and languages.
When Disney bought up Lucasfilm (and their special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic) not too long ago, cynics thought that the mega studio would stifle any advances in entertainment experience that Lucasfilm and ILM had in the works. But those detractors can be put to sleep today.
The video proof can be found at That Video Site (and embed can be established at this time).
The picture and sound quality aren’t the best things in the world, but that video making the rounds this morning is a very interesting watch indeed. It shows a presentation of a “real-time special effects generator” of sorts. Actors in motion capture (or “mo-cap”) suits perform while monitors around them display their scene: a Star Wars scene complete with C-3PO, R2-D2, Stormtroopers, AT-ATs and Tatooine’s binary sunset.
The program being displayed (I can’t tell if it is named in this video because of that poor sound quality) displays dynamic lighting, particle and shading effects and seems to work very smoothly in this little demonstration. It looks much more like a video game than a film.
That’s because this obviously isn’t meant to completely replace post-production practices. People often forget that post-production is a long process that includes re-shoots, sound mixing and editing, special effects implementation and polishing and editing. What this technology seems to function as is merely an enhanced monitor. It’s a tool for a director to see how a given shot will look like before any effects are finalized in the shot.
The issue I have with this is that it further detaches the filmmaker from the set and what is going on in front of the camera. It certainly is a nifty little tool, but doesn’t it take the imagination out of production? Isn’t it part of the excitement (some filmmakers would call that excitement a headache) of shooting scenes like this not knowing what the final shot will like after post?
It remains to be seen how filmmakers will embrace this technology. I personally can’t picture Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or Peter Jackson using this kind of technology on set, but who knows?
What do you think of this technology? Is it useful or does it seem to do too much for the filmmakers who will employ its power?