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The Third Floor – Empowering Production Through Real-Time Technologies

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In the past 15 years, visualization has become integral to the creative and technical planning of ambitious cinematic worlds and stories in television and film. Across this time, The Third Floor has been working with directors, cinematographers, production designers and other key departments to develop real-time visualization and planning tools that creatives and crew can use to further shape ideas and solve practical production challenges in real time through virtual production. These new capabilities — from scouting a location virtually to walking a set before it’s built to previewing digital assets in the environment where they will be filmed — are only a few of the new ways collaborators from all areas of production can ideate, communicate, make decisions and carry forward work toward the project vision.

Within The Third Floor’s suite of virtual production tools lies Chimera, Kraken and Cyclops. Each of these tools is designed to support ideation, review and collaboration within the art department.

Chimera:

Chimera is an exciting new way to visualize and conceptualize sets in the design, review and early build process. Chimera can be used to view and discuss virtual set designs with collaborators seeing both the proposed design and each other via Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality (AR) glasses. Everyone is still standing around a real table, but now the adjustable model of the set is virtually on the table for everyone with the AR glasses to see, opening up new ways to interact with and progress the design. Utilizing the full power of the Unreal Engine, an operator can adjust the virtual model in real time and display the change requests. Any part of the set – walls, pillars, ceilings, etc., can be moved, rotated, and scaled, and components like CG set extensions can be turned on or off to better judge their position and placement. The model can be sized up to real-life scale such that everyone is actually standing virtually within the design. Now, without having yet built anything for real, you can understand the scale of the set, physically walk around in it and thoroughly discuss its design with colleagues who are all experiencing the design at the same time.

Chimera: Walk your set designs in AR to collectively design and review)

Kraken

Kraken is The Third Floor’s real-time VR virtual scouting tool. Virtual set scouting is an integral part of the Virtual Art Department (VAD) design process, especially for projects that will be shot on LED volumes. VR scouting enables multiple departments and collaborators to “walk” the virtual set in VR. From helping the virtual set deliver maximum impact for the story to experimenting with object placements and camera angles before committing to the final virtual build, you can use the virtual scout as a new immersive way to test ideas and collectively plan. VR scouting is not just aimed at LED workflows. Real film locations can be represented via photogrammetry and with accurate geography and lighting from that location, allowing teams to visit and evaluate the location in Kraken without having to travel. Key tools in Kraken VR enable collaboration with colleagues and other key creatives across town or in another time zone via multi-user sessions that provide everyone the same view no matter where the various parties are located.

(Kraken: Dive into sets and locations virtually using VR)

Cyclops

Cyclops is an AR app developed by The Third Floor to put simulcam-like capabilities into the hands of creators and crew. Often on a project, there will be digital characters, effects or background elements being produced through post-production visual effects that need to be imagined as the set, shots, camera framing and practical action is developed. Using an iOS handheld device, Cyclops allows you to view these storytelling assets – whether a digital top-up to the set or an animated CG creature integrated into the live image from the device camera. As you move around the environment, the CG elements track correctly to the physical view as if they actually exist in the framed shot. Cyclops can be used on any stage, set or location to see how a proposed set extension, prop or character will integrate into the real-world scene. During pre- production, this might include visualizing CG set extensions during a location scout, viewing CG vehicles, props and set dec at their actual size “in the room” and previewing scene blocking at full scale.

(Cyclops: See CG assets overlaid on the real world with simulcam-like technologies on a hand-held device)

Article by Brad Blackbourn – Head of Virtual Production at The Third Floor

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