- Merik Pelletier
Invasion of the Virtual! Part One
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
Every creation has a starting point, the inspiration source! A moment, an object, or maybe a song, has ignited this creative spark leading to the masterpiece.
#Virtualproductions are, for the most part, the reflection of reality. The creation of virtual actors' foundation blocks is life performers and talents. Artificial intelligence can't yet, replace the complexity of human behaviors.
I say yet because, in this domain, progress is moving fast, real fast!
I had the privilege of working with amazing people able to make the movie magic a reality! It always fascinated me to see how dedicated are the artisans of the industry. Nothing goes unnoticed. Every minus detail is carefully researched and applied to create a character's identity that it is a starring role or part of the background.
Labor, sacrifice, passion
Years of labor, sacrifice, working with impossible schedules and often demands, budget restrictions, and so much more are required to make an apprentice a master. For the last four years, I have been exploring the realm of #virtualcharacter development. Starting from scratch, having to learn the techniques as those are in constant evolution, there was not a day that I was not thinking of my friends on set.
As I was going through numerous moments of frustration, I wondered how the conventional crew would make the shift. Most importantly, who will be able to move their skills in the new work environment, also when it will be the point of no return?
Let's understand that it is only a matter of time before most production becomes entirely virtual.
Why, you ask? First and foremost, money, is that so surprising? For those working on set, you must have noticed that the workload did not reduce; in fact, it is one thing that made a sharp rise in the industry! What did go down are the budgets and the shooting delays! Why did you ask again?
Streaming is the main reason as it created more content demands for so much fewer revenues, resulting in an imperative need to adapt the productions methods. Not only no more cool production gifts and parties, but no more locations, carpenters, most of the equipment gone, no more background actors, wait, no more lead actors!
Over the years, I witnessed the impact of technological introduction within the conventional production system. I remember how people were saying that digital would never replace film, and guess what it had, for the most part. Already, many traditional jobs are practically gone.
You can't stop progress, nor should we. However, we must preserve human rights, and integrity put down rules and restrictions to protect jobs and preserve knowledge!
As I was making my way to understand this new creative universe, I quickly realize that while being great on the technical, the newcomers lack the knowledge and attention to detail. They are going for the out of this world, such as ultra-busted women and ridiculously muscular men! Dress to impressed, but without much attention to the character's background history. Roman Gladiator is nothing without Rome and the people who live in it. Hairs are not always pristine and shinny; sometimes it rains, or they are thirty!
We can't blame them; most are from the game sector and have never spent a day on set, even less worked closely with a production crew.
Millions of little details are involved in giving a live character its charisma, making this character unique! Imagine a virtual character that is not flesh and bones that don't naturally sweat or even blink; how much more details are needed to infuse this digital shell illusion of life?
In the last year alone, avatar realism made a spectacular advancement. Most examples I saw were talking heads, silhouettes showcased in sci-fi, film noir settings.
It was clever to use environments designed to camouflage help in supporting the illusion to introduce the new technologies.
I can tell you something; it is not easy to create and move realistic clothing or hair. Not to forget, the process of live rendering requires big computers with top graphic cards. We are not yet ready for live performances with multiple characters, but to the risk of repeating myself, it is coming our way fast!
Nothing will replace years of experience and knowledge, not even Google mad scientists.
This new industry must start working on ways for the traditional crew to transition to the new environment. I have been pounding on the problem. Introducing innovative tech approaches is not new to me. Years ago, a business partner brought me on the set of a show named Las Vegas. I noticed the amount of paper that the poor script supervisor had to carry around. For those who don't know what a script job is, she or he has the responsibility to make sure that the production respect continuity and much more details.
I was then working with #MotionComputing PC tablet. I came up with a way to use PDF authoring tools and an internal network system to allow the script using the tablet for her work. It was a revolution; they even used it on other shows, including Grey's Anatomy. You would have thought that the system would spread all over? But there were a few issues; first, it was PC-based, people in the industry use #MAC, then it was the price of the tablets.
I was not doing this to make cash, so I moved on, and then when the #iPad was introduced on the market, the idea found a home! Now, most scripts are using this system. I don't even know who is behind the app on the iPad, and I don't care. This story underlines the main issues, brand, and cost! Cost I get, brand not really, but people are who they are.
Humans are creatures of habits, so much so that even faced with the inevitable, they prefer the policy of denial until it is too late! People of the industry are the same. When introduced, look at the film history; sounds were considered just a fad, color the same, digital also! For each evolution phase, there were denials as the fad was taking over!
Don't get me wrong; I don't want this to be a doomsday blog but underline that if we are not paying attention, the entertainment we so much enjoy now may become part of the past!
All those innovations are great creative tools, as long as they stay tools and not the other way around.