Click visits the visual effects company behind hit film Gravity and finds out how performance and facial capture technology is changing the film industry.
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They sat me in the chair for ages.
They said it was all right, but can I at least have a mirror?
If you're feeling a little blue, join the club.
This week, Click dons the Lycra to see how, in the movies,
you really can be anything you want to be.
Yes, with the Oscars just around the corner, we are
celebrating the cool tech that keeps us glued to our seats at the cinema.
We find out how you send Sandra Bullock
and George Clooney into space without an actual rocket,
and we'll put our ears to the speaker and turn up to 11
for the very latest in sound.
Plus, we have the latest news
and handy apps for any budding Spielbergs in Webscape.
Welcome to Click.
I'm Beppe the blue alien, and if you're not keen on my new look,
let me assure you that my real appearance right now...
is even more disturbing.
If you haven't seen this before,
this is how computer-generated characters in movies and video games
are created. A real actor will wear
a motion-capture - or Mocap - suit like this,
covered in these highly reflective dots.
And it's the movement of these dots around this virtual stage
which is all-important.
There are 66 special cameras around me,
which are registering the movement of the dots,
which become joints and body parts
onto which you can drop any kind of body you fancy -
from a humanoid to a crazy cartoon character.
Today we're at the studios of Audiomotion, just outside Oxford,
and while the set may look rather empty, the tech around it
not only gives the postproduction team complete freedom
over an actor's appearance, but they can even alter their performance
long after the shoot has taken place.
You can start with what happened on the day,
but you can also tweak it a little bit if you want to.
You can embellish it or you can play it down,
you can emphasise certain things or de-emphasise certain things,
and by recreating a shot world inside a computer, that flexibility exists.
Even if the end result is a completely virtual character,
performance capture still needs that human element -
the performance artist wearing the suit.
In fact, it's ushering in a new breed of actor
who is aware of both its possibilities and its restrictions.
You have to make sure the balls don't get cloaked or hidden
from the cameras, so if two actors get close together,
they are going to get hidden,
so you have to make sure that movements stay far apart,
but if they are together, then they don't stay that close for very long.
It enables us, especially on screen,
to be able to do far more effects and make stunts safer, for instance,
so it is something that every actor should have on their repertoire.
These days, it's also possible to see a fairly good version
of the finished shot on set in real-time,
rather than having to wait for months of postproduction.
And that's handy if you're perfecting your Shakespearean remake
of the Dirty Dancing routine.
And if you don't have a hunky actor to lift you into the air,
well, that's no problem either.
Sometimes it is necessary to be up higher in this virtual space -
for example, if I need to maintain an eye-line with an actor
who is down there. They can build you a set of steps,
you can climb them and then, in post,
after the event, they can turn this into a virtual balcony, for example.
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?
Is this a good look?
A performance for your consideration there.
But while my Oscar-dodging act can easily be caught
by the cameras all around me,
there is one area of my body that is a lot harder to pinpoint.
And that's where this beast comes in.
It's the very latest in facial-capture technology.
The helmet holds four high-def cameras that sit just outside
of the wearer's vision.
Each one records data from dots of make-up that are strategically
placed on the actor's face, to help capture each tiny muscle movement.
It is a step forward in accurately recreating an actor's performance,
but it still does require a little bit of getting used to.
With motion capture, you have to enhance your expressions
because you don't have the eyes.
The eyes come later with the computer geniuses.
So we have to either frown more if we are sad, smile more if we are happy,
but not to the extreme,
like it's a theatrical, over-the-top pantomime performance.
Yes, so not overdoing it is the key.
But, as we've learned, even MY moves can now be reined in
to the precise amount of flailing the director wants to see.
And if said director really does want to get hands-on,
they can grab this mobile pseudo-camera
and see the shot from whatever angle they like.
That said, no decision needs to be final these days.
You can recreate the world that was shot on the day inside a computer.
And you can mess with camera angles after the fact, you can
tweak performances, you can emphasise or de-emphasise.
You've got that flexibility to be able to do more work after the shoot,
but you're also capturing the truth of what happened on the day.
And with all of the these cameras capturing this virtual space,
the sky is no longer the limit on where you can place your actors.
And it is a set-up like this which was used in a movie
that many critics are calling a game-changer
in terms of how technology is used in film.
Houston, this is Mission Specialist Ryan Stone,
I am off structure and I'm drifting. Do you copy?
Tipped to win big at the Oscars,
Gravity may well have you actually believing that they sent
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney into space.
Its director, Alfonso Cuaron, originally wanted to make the film
without using much computer-generated imagery, or CGI.
That was an idea that wasn't shared
by the visual effects supervisor Tim Webber
and the team at the BAFTA-winning effects house, Framestore.
I think Tim Webber was less naive than me.
From the get-go, he was saying, "This is not going to work like this."
It was, "Yes, we can do it!"
I really thought that we were going to be mostly practical -
meaning a more conventional way in which you build sets
and you have your actors with their suits and you have wires and stuff.
Zero gravity is incredibly hard to achieve on a film,
and what then, in this film,
takes it a massive leap forward - I was going to say "step" -
a missive leap forward is Alfonso's style,
which he was pushing further than he had before,
of the very long shots and the immersive shots
with a roaming camera.
Tim was very sceptical - he kept saying,
"Let's do all of these digitally."
I was sceptical about the digital result,
so, um, then the dance began.
That digital dance resulted in a film that is about 80% CGI.
In fact, sometimes the only real things on the screen
are the actors' faces.
Even their spacesuits were created on a computer,
which overcame the problem of making the actors weightless.
In fact, the entire movie was created in a low-resolution
so-called pre-visualisation form first,
before the actors stepped on set.
It was used to calculate the movements of the robotic camera
and also shown on the inside of this thing.
Because this IS the set.
The light box was invented for this movie,
and it's made of almost two million LEDs.
It was used to simulate the correct lighting on the actors' faces
and give them a frame of reference
for everything that would be digitally added later.
The International Space Station, for example,
took ten modellers working for about a year to create,
and such was the complexity of the finished shot
that each single frame would take about 50 hours to render fully.
And the render was achieved by using the grunt processing power
of about 15,000 CPUs.
It's estimated that if the job had been done on a single core computer,
it would have taken about 7,000 years.
But even after the comparatively moderate five years of work,
with the film ready to be delivered to the studio,
the process wasn't quite done.
We have to go, go, go!
We had finished and we were just hanging, chilling out,
talking about just general things,
and the visual effects producer next to Tim - Charles - said,
"You know, the cool thing about this film
"is you can watch it in any position."
He took the computer and flopped the whole thing.
And that is when I realised, "Wow, we screwed it -
"it should have been like that."
So, you were pretty much finished with Gravity
and then Alfonso sees the first scene
and he asks you to make quite a major change, doesn't he?
To make a simple change,
like flip the first two-and-a-half minutes upside-down,
took a couple of months.
It's a big number because you have to very slowly rotate the camera
during this one continuous shot to get back to the right way up
for the rest of the scene, which meant reanimating, re-rendering...
Something simple like that was a significant thing to do.
Do it now!
Houston, I've lost visual on Dr Stone!
OK, next up, a look at this week's tech news.
Oh, no, hat hair.
There's been a backlash from users of the messaging service WhatsApp,
after Facebook bought it in the biggest internet deal
in over a decade, worth £11 billion.
Many of the comments you have sent to us
focus on worries over privacy and the introduction of ads.
WhatsApp says it has more than 450 million active users
and is adding one million every day.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said there were no plans to place ads
on the service, and that WhatsApp would continue
to operate independently. Watch this space.
Europe could soon be offering its own cordoned-off portion
of the internet, if proposals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel
wins support among fellow European leaders.
Motivated by the recent NSA revelations,
her plans for the European communications network would see
no e-mails or other data passing through US data centres.
But critics say the design of the Internet makes it hard
to restrict data traffic to geographic regions.
And what happens when thousands of people
try to play a video game simultaneously?
Social gaming site Twitch is hosting a multiplayer version
of the Gameboy classic Pokemon.
By typing one of eight commands in the video's chat,
players can control the game one move at a time.
But with hundreds of thousands of Pokemaniacs
wrestling over the controls,
they may have bitten off more than they can Pikachu.
Now, not everyone has a Hollywood budget or a Hollywood crew
to make their dream project.
And that's why we asked David Reid to go to Paris to meet
the film-makers who are making movies not with traditional cameras,
but with these - smartphones.
PIANO PLAYS, CAMERA WHIRRS
The rules of France's Mobile Film Festival are simple -
entrants have one minute to make their mark with judges,
like the leading French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
He was 17 when he forked out a small fortune for his first camera.
It was expensive.
You had to buy some pellicule, some print from Kodak.
It was very difficult.
You needed a lot of money.
You might think that all you need now is a mobile,
but not so fast. It's still tough to get to do this for a living.
For those who win, the festival offers connections and cash -
15,000 euros - to nudge budding directors into full bloom.
The major problem is the financial problem, the means.
This moving industry, how you get in.
Find some friends, write a good story, have energy,
be creative, and we will give you the means to go further.
Mobile films have a familiar feel.
The nouvelle vague of the '50s and '60s had directors
shooting in natural light, in real homes, using jump cuts.
And stories left unresolved.
I give up. I'm having Marmite.
Mobile movies do something similar, giving us
a glimpse behind the closed doors of aspiring film-makers.
Bathrooms, balconies, kitchens, car parks.
So does this have the makings of a new genre?
-The films that win
strangely, or maybe not so strangely,
are the films that have that little flavour of being home-made,
but are a bit, shall we say, rough and ready.
Sylvain should know - this year he won with The Vicious Circle -
a cautionary tale of our times.
Girl meets boy, boy proliferates intimacies of girl online,
dire consequences ensue.
Here he's taking some shots on the hoof, but this is him fully armed -
tripod, digital audio gear and a fancy LED light.
So what do you need to make a good movie?
An idea, script, good actors - sure.
But surprisingly, which camera is largely irrelevant.
We don't care about if it's internet, computers,
camera with "brrr" - we don't care.
Just find good ideas and tell good stories.
David Reid on a subject that has got our cameraman Mike very worried.
Don't worry, Mikey, we will keep you on, I promise.
That tea won't make itself, you know.
Anyway, film isn't just about the visuals, of course.
You only have to experience Hitchcock's Psycho
to hear how important sound can be.
After years of being afraid to go into the shower,
Mark Cieslak is about to pull back the curtain on the audio
that could be coming to a cinema near you, soon.
Smart movie-makers understand that sound matters.
Based on a true story, and starring Mark Wahlberg as a US Navy SEAL
in Afghanistan, the film Lone Survivor has found itself
Oscar-nominated for both sound mixing and sound editing.
Go, guys, go!
We had a great sound department who understood that we wanted
realism to put the audience into the sounds of war.
War is loud and deafening and confusing
and disorienting, from just a sonic standpoint,
and we wanted to try and capture that kind of audio experience.
But to fully realise a movie-maker's audio ambitions,
cinemas and audiophiles had had to invest in dedicated sound set-ups.
From mono to stereo, surround 5.1 and 7.1,
the story of sound in cinema
hasn't just been written by advances in technology
which affect the quality of audio that's being reproduced.
A big part is played by the number of speakers and channels
that surround an audience and, most importantly, how they are used.
But Dolby's engineers have created a system they have dubbed Atmos.
They think that by adding speakers to an area which has previously been
a speaker-free zone, they'll help to create
a more immersive sense of surround sound.
They've popped them in the ceiling.
It's not just about adding speakers, though.
Audio can literally be moved around the room
and placed in specific locations and speakers.
The effect at times can be quite eerie,
particularly if an object is supposed to be moving around you.
Don't you hate it when you get buzzed
by a computer-generated version of the 9th Air Cavalry?
It's an object-based system, so we are taking audio items
and making them objects that the sign designer or director
can move around within a big soundscape,
and we can reproduce that in the cinema, and it gives you
a much more immersive, more dynamic reproduction of the soundscape.
Dolby is hoping to roll-out the system in cinemas around the world,
and believes that it will future-proof cinema owners
from further advances in audio technology.
So, any cinema has a calibrated sound system.
Once the system has been installed,
it will be calibrated by a qualified engineer,
so you're getting essentially the same playback
that the director heard in the mix studio where he mixed the movie.
You're getting that in your local cinema or local multiplex.
Atmos takes that a little stage further on.
The room design is programmed into the processor that replays
the sound in the cinema.
So the processor essentially knows where all the loudspeakers are,
what their power-handling capabilities are,
and then it gets this map of audio of objects
that it then has to re-render into the space.
It's difficult to convey to you, the viewers at home,
the difference this sort of audio set-up
makes to the cinema experience.
Sounds seem to move around the viewer in an uncannily realistic fashion.
If anything, systems like this prove that for movies,
sound is just as important as visual.
Mark Cieslak, a man you can usually hear before you can see.
OK, now it's over to our very own leading lady.
Here comes Kate Russell with Webscape.
Having peeked behind the cinema screen,
you might be feeling inspired to get creative yourself.
But you don't need a ticket to Hollywood,
just point your browser at crowd-sourcing collaboration platform
There are loads of projects or you can start one yourself,
ranging from short films and animations
to full-length feature films.
Everyone is welcome, both amateur and professional.
Just take a look at the tasks for a project
and let them know what you can do.
We come in peace!
Far from looking amateurish,
this community has already produced some truly impressive movies,
complete with rich cinematography and stunning special effects.
You'd be hard pushed to pick out films like this, Iron Sky,
which was made by the Wreckamovie crowd
on a budget of 7.5 million euros,
against a Hollywood sci-fi production costing ten times that, or more.
You could get involved in graphics, script writing, promotion,
design, or as a music composer.
It's surprising how many roles there are,
when you get down to the nuts and bolts of producing a film.
So sign up and get involved.
Smartphone cameras produce a pretty good-quality picture these days.
But it's all academic
if the person holding the camera doesn't know what they're doing.
Or is it?
Horizon is a brand-new app that rotates and resizes your shot,
no matter what orientation you hold it at,
producing amazing results from even the shakiest camerawork.
# Any way that you want me... #
This is one of those apps that will make you go, "Wow!"
It uses the phone's gyroscope to recognise how you're holding
the handset, and adjust the rotation and scale of the shot
to produce a seamless horizontal clip.
Sadly, it's only available on current Apple mobile devices -
the 4S and up for your phone, for example - but the developers
told me they are considering an Android version in the future.
It supports a range of aspect ratios and quality settings,
although one potential downside here
is the loss of resolution you will get
when a video's cropped and zoomed.
This should only really be noticeable, though,
when displaying the film on a large screen.
# I've been watching you. #
The bestselling Star Wars games series in history...
If you're just not the creative type, there are plenty of other ways
to enjoy the world of cinema online, and on your smartphone too.
..just got bigger!
LEGO Star Wars is the perfect example of a Hollywood franchise
that's been exploited in many forms for your general entertainment.
Check out these great online games, desktop wallpaper downloads,
cute little films,
and a slew of entertaining apps mainly for iPhone and Android.
May the force be with you, young padawan.
Rescue mission I must launch!
Oh! A trap it is!
There are a lot of initiatives around right now,
encouraging children to learn to code,
and this week's video of the week picks up on that baton
and gives it a movie-style shake-up,
with Bill Gates explaining the principles of computer programming
using zombies, courtesy of code.org.
You can see that if we do that, if we are taking a turn to the left
and otherwise moving forward, we'll achieve our goal.
Thanks, Kate. Kate's links are all online if you need them...
And if you'd like to get in touch, you can. We're on e-mail.
We're also knocking about Twitter, Google+ and Facebook too.
That's it for now, though.
Thank you for watching. We'll see you next time.