I’ve been at Creative Week the past couple of days, so only have time for a quick post today. I wanted to share a few highlights from yesterday’s VFX Summit from the panels and speakers. As someone with no experience in VFX, it was an eye opening and fascinating day.

The UK VFX industry has seen massive growth in the past 15 years to become one of the leading players in the world and a ground breaking force for innovation, as seen by Framestore’s jaw-dropping Oscar winning work in Gravity. 

The roots of this phenomenal rise can be attributed to two major factors – the Harry Potter film series and the introduction of the UK tax credit.

The first led to talent development and massive capacity building in the industry. In the first Harry Potter film, less than 15% of VFX in the film were done in the UK. By the last film, that had risen to over 85%. The steady pipeline for work from the films allowed VFX companies to invest in their staff and develop their skill base.

The tax credit made it attractive for productions to come to the UK, sustain that growth and drive innovation and excellence in the industry. UK VFX companies helped make the magic happen on films like Skyfall, Robocop, Captain Phillips, Dredd 3D, Les Miserables, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy. Star Wars  is set to shoot in London

So, what did the speakers have to say about VFX today?  VFX is seen as a post production tool. Yesterday’s speakers argue that VFX is actually a production tool. Getting a VFX team involved early can result in immense savings in time and money.

Instead of fixing it in post, let’s fix it in pre-production.

As Paddy Eason from Nzible said, “Good planning means you can be spontaneous on set.” Techniques like previsualisation (previs), the process of visualising production through computer animation techniques, can help directors, DOPs and producers plan complicated sequences, like action set pieces and crowd scenes, and lock down camera shots and other choices to make on the day production run as smoothly as possible.

The speakers fully expect previs to become an integral part of the studios’ production process for their tent pole titles in the next five years, with a complete previs of a entire film commissioned in development to test concepts, minimise risk, and get projects greenlit. Check out Raffael Dickreuter’s previs and post vis work on Man of Steel.

Software like Ncam is already adding value in the production process. From the Ncam website:

“Ncam is a real-time multi sensor markerless camera tracking technology, designed to supplement live action images in real-time with virtual CG backgrounds or any kind of CG animated assets.”

What does that mean? When shooting a VFX sequences, you can see what that would look like in real-time, helping you frame shots, give actors reference points and ease the transfer through to post production. Here’s an example of what that looks like.

Rob Holmes from The Mill made the point, “The sooner clients can see work, the sooner they can make choices, which is key.”  Changes can be implemented much earlier

VFX is changing the game for actors. In 2013, Framestore brought Audrey Hepburn back to life in their commercial for Galaxy.

The Audrey you see on screen was created using CGI and face and body doubles. To see more, check out the behind the scenes video. The implications of this are astonishing. Mike McGee at Framestore explained:

“Actors can now license their future image rights for films.”

That means they can sell their image to appear in films after their death. Imagine a version of Oceans 11 with George Clooney and Frank Sinatra planning cons together. We’re already heading there.

Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Hit me up in the comments.

Picture Credit: Gravity

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