Early Saturday morning, filmmakers congregated at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles to discuss new areas of interest that have been generated over the year. This year the conference focused on technology and convergence in the movie/media world. With the main question being, will this entire new wave of tech help to control or break apart the industry?
On the panel to discuss the topic: Carolyn Giardina, the contributing editor, tech at The Hollywood Reporter. Rainer Gombos, Emmy award winner for his work as a VFX Supervisor on Game of Thrones season 2. Joachim Zell, formerly a VP of Advanced Technology at Technicolor Thomson in Burbank, currently VP of Imaging Science and Technical Director at EFILM. Then rounding out the panel is Prof. Aaron Seitz, an expert on the mechanisms of learning and memory using behavioral, computational and neuroscientific methodologies.
As discussion opened up after introductions, the conversation moved in two directions—the higher resolution images we can now capture/project and the recent fad of virtual reality headsets.
By higher resolution images, it is meant that that there is a larger dynamic range in frame (to have a greater difference between your blackest black and whitest white) as well as higher frame rates (less flicker, smoother motion). The film with the fastest frame rate right now, at least one that’s been released, is ‘The Hobbit’ which was shot on 48 frames per second. However, coming up is Ang Lee’s new Iraq war film, which Lee announced recently to be shot at 120 frames per second.
From the impressions the panelist’s gave, this higher resolution of images is a good thing and will allow for a reinvigoration of the cinemas over at home streaming. It’s important to note, the increase in definition is throwing some filmmakers off, due to the excessive detail that can now be captured. Though, some love it, according to Joachim Zell, when he showed the director of recent superhero flick ‘Deadpool’ what the new resolution looked like, the director said he found it captured what he wanted.
Modern Virtual Reality has been up on it’s feet and going for about 8 years. As of late, the trend in VR is headsets; products like the Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard have captured the global imagination, however they do not present what the panel considered to be the model of where VR should end up.
According to those that tried VR through a headset, they found it to be nauseating and most have to give it a break after five minutes. Also, it time is spent in excess in the headset, once you step out it’s akin to stepping off a boat onto shore and still feeling like your on the waves—so it takes a period of readjustment. For these effects, the panel talks about VR companies being required to give a Health Warning to the user before entering VR.
In the department of how well VR depicts a convincing world, there is still much improvement to be made. These include, working on 3D sound that will accompany any experience, to really immerse the participant in the world. Also, the grammar in which VR tells a story is still being discovered.
Then finally the last hurdle can be found in the graphic visuals department and the problem of the uncanny valley when trying to depict a life like environment. For those that don’t know, the uncanny valley has to do with the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.
Some interesting theoretical ideas were passed around in the positing of where VR might go from here, these include: the idea of a VR wallpaper, which would allow you to stand in a room and use that as an interface. The notion that even though old films wont be converted to be watched as if it were VR, they will put movie theatres in VR so you’ll be able to go see a movie with a friend who is halfway around the world. Imagine that!