Disney's New Lion King Is The VR-Fueled Future Of Cinema
July 18, 2019 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Achieving that photoreal look, the thing that trompes your oeils into thinking you might be watching a nature documentary, wasn’t simply a matter of employing space-age visual effects. Favreau and his crew shot The Lion King as one would any conventional movie: with dollies, cranes, and other tools that let cinematographer Caleb Deschanel get just the right angles. There were even lights and cameras. It’s just that the cameras and lights were nowhere to be found.

The Lion King was filmed entirely in virtual reality (well, save a single photographed shot). All the locations you know from the original—Pride Rock, the elephant graveyard, Rafiki’s Ancient Tree—exist, but not as practical sets or files confined to an animator’s computer. They live inside a kind of filmmaking videogame as 360-degree virtual environments, full of digitized animals, around which Favreau and his crew could roam. Headsets on, filmmakers had access to all the tools of the trade, just in virtual form.
posted by hippybear (52 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
And Jesus wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:40 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


I just want to jump in before the complaint train starts and say that this all sounds supercool and is a technique that I had never imagined as being done. Thanks, hippybear!
posted by Bugbread at 10:47 PM on July 18 [18 favorites]


Cool a fluff piece about the tech behind a widely derided movie with no artistic merit
posted by anazgnos at 10:55 PM on July 18 [13 favorites]


Whew, looks like I was just in time!
posted by Bugbread at 11:02 PM on July 18 [97 favorites]


I'm curious to see the new Lion King but it's trying to do a difficult thing. Make animals look like animals but also give them human personalities and tell a human story. Where is the line between making them look real and giving them life as characters? Disney has done a good job in their traditional animation of making animals basically human with a touch of animal left in them. But if they look real it's the opposite. They've got to make animals animals with a bit of humanity. It's a different idea.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:19 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


While I do, really do respect the leaps made in technology, I’m not sure I need to see a cgi lion singing about the circle of life when the hand drawn one was just fine.

Just typing that makes me realize I am an old.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:33 PM on July 18 [15 favorites]


It makes me think of the hard stereo panning on early Beatles records - novel but they don't really seem to have it down artistically yet.
posted by solarion at 11:35 PM on July 18 [8 favorites]


I'll be right there to—blinking—step into the sun with you, Ghidorah.
posted by anarch at 11:36 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


I'm curious to see the new Lion King but it's trying to do a difficult thing. Make animals look like animals but also give them human personalities and tell a human story.

So one thing that I've seen going around from Disney is how "cats don't have very expressive faces" and then multiple 4-picture tweets of lions doing really expressive things with their faces in photos.

So I think maybe they're downplaying the faces a bit, not having had enough imagination or access to Google Image Search.
posted by hippybear at 11:46 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


It makes sense. There's a whole infrastructure and vocabulary for producing film, that encompasses the things they're doing here. Blocking shots, then seeing that it'd work *better* if we did it this way it's a better shot when you can move around and "see" what it'll look like.

But VIRTUAL. Which, as you're dealing with rendered bits anyway, just seems like this was a natural evolution in the industry to me. I like how everyone's vr set is color coded. And Wii lanyards.
posted by mikelieman at 12:05 AM on July 19 [3 favorites]


*sighs, adds Lion King 2K19 to Spore and the Master Chief Collection on my Biggest Media Disappointments list*

People have been trashing the remake for the lack of facial expression in the photo-real animals, and that is a big weakness. But what really irks me is how the slavish devotion to realism led them to completely disregard all the sight gags and visual flair that gave the original so much charm. Consider the infamous "Hakuna Matata" comparison that Cartoon Brew posted the other day. In that 36-second clip, the original film squeezed in:
  • the sudden surprised zoom out from the bigger paw to adult Simba
  • the three amigos shot of them all harmonizing, heads together
  • the joke about Pumbaa causing the daintiest splash
  • the snapped vine-into-tidal wave (on that luminous green backdrop!), with Timon riding Pumbaa like a surfboard
  • the fuzzed-out mane
  • the carefree sashaying into the sunset
It's masterful, engaging animation that both entertains and underscores the primary themes of the song. By contrast, the same scene in the remake has them just... walking through the jungle. For 36 seconds. That's it.

Apparently the same thing happens in "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", with the original's vividly sylized, almost psychedelic visuals, spectacular set pieces like the tower of animals, and myriad clever jokes all junked for a long shot of Simba and Nala... running through a watering hole. That's it. Like, I get not everything from the original will translate to a "live action" style, but they don't replace it with anything else interesting or funny or meaningful. It's all so incredibly drab. Boring. Soulless.

Anyway, if you want to bask in the glory of the original animation, check out the fantastic YouTube channel LionKingInstrumental, which posts long clips of the film with just Zimmer's score for accompaniment. It's really cool to see how deftly the beautiful score complements and enriches the hand-drawn art:

Brave Like You

The Stampede

Kings of the Past

Simba and Rafiki

King of Pride Rock

It's up there with the best classic Looney Tunes episodes for its perfect interplay of animation and music.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:58 AM on July 19 [44 favorites]


So the future of cinema is....machinima?
posted by es_de_bah at 1:20 AM on July 19 [11 favorites]


I find the techniques used here completely fascinating, and also completed wasted on the movie they are actually making.

I just... Don't see the point in making a realistic lion king. I don't see what it adds to the story other than high tech but apparently soulless graphics.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:24 AM on July 19 [16 favorites]


( also it turns out that I have listened to and sung along with I Just Can't Wait to be King so many times that hearing someone else sing it slightly differently, in Rhaomi's link, is like nails on a chalkboard. It feels deeply wrong)
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:30 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


stillnocturnal: "I find the techniques used here completely fascinating, and also completed wasted on the movie they are actually making. "

Absolute agreement. I read the article having only ever seen a quick teaser trailer, but after seeing that Hakuna Matata comparison up above: whether you care about the original Lion King or not (I don't), it's clear that as cool as this technique is, it's really not suited to this movie. That, or it is but it's being woefully misapplied.
posted by Bugbread at 2:33 AM on July 19 [3 favorites]


I hope the technical wizardry pioneered here will someday be applied to many, much better, productions.

To be honest, that was exactly the reaction I had to seeing the stage musical of The Lion King.
posted by kyrademon at 3:46 AM on July 19


Coming soon, to a news channel near you.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:42 AM on July 19 [4 favorites]


So the future of cinema is....machinima?

It seems like it, yeah. And to be clear, I'm not poo-pooing what they've done here, but I do think it's worth really highlighting that this is basically what the machinima community has been doing for, uh, a few decades.

What's different here (and again, it's impressive!) is that they're custom building large-scale fit-for-purpose haptic controllers with integrated VR rigs so that people who know how to make a film in the real world can use those same skills in the virtual one (vs. having to translate those skills to working with a standard mouse/keyboard). But, what that's being done in service of (humans moving virtual cameras and lighting around a realtime rendered virtual space for the sake of making a movie) is just an extension of what's come before it, largely driven by and innovated by a hobbyist community.
posted by tocts at 5:12 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


The movie industry has been doing it for years as well, with films like Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin. Even the cave troll scene in Fellowship of the Ring was shot using a virtual camera. The big difference here seems to be taking the actors out of the equation.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 5:23 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


I didn't know the term machinima before, cool! What's interesting to me is that in some sense, the Lion King (2019) on tape isn't actually the movie - it's Favreau's Let's Play. Maybe in 20 years instead of watching one director's interpretation of a 3d animated movies on a 2d screen, we'll just watch the movie in virtual reality ourselves.
posted by muddgirl at 5:26 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


I remember this exact story being written about Toy Story in Disney Adventures magazine in 1995. I'm pretty sure it was the "first movie shot completely on location- in cyberspace!" I just want everyone to know I remember that
posted by bleep at 6:41 AM on July 19 [17 favorites]


Saw it last night, but I'll save my thoughts for the FanFare thread, as my feelings on the CGI are inextricably intertwined with my thoughts on other aspects of the movie. But I was curious, has anyone identified the one photographed shot yet? (And does it have animals, or is it just basically a still?)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:44 AM on July 19


It’s weird that everyone working at the pinnacle of computer graphics seems to feel that hyperrealism and not stylization is the best way to make an animation.

(Although I like to imagine they did screen tests of more expressive animals, where the lions all had like big, human, singing mouths, and everyone was horrified.)
posted by little onion at 6:50 AM on July 19 [7 favorites]


People keep talking about the "filming locations built in virtual space" as being the takeaway, but that's not the new or interesting part. The new, interesting part is controlling the cameras by having people put on VR rigs and actually move around in real space. What's interesting is the difference between how Pixar movies have been made and how Lion King was made.

Saying "So what, filming in 3D space has been going on since the 1990s" is like reading an article on how Weta used motion capture to make Golem and saying "So what, even the first Star Wars used computer graphics for the Death Star briefing scene."
posted by Bugbread at 6:56 AM on July 19 [6 favorites]


The VR film studio outlined in this article is an intriguing development. I'm more interested in what the *limits* of this technology are rather than its potential. Over the course of history a lot of amazing creativity happened due to constraints imposed on the creator(s):
  • Painters who lacked access to specific colors in their palette.
  • Early filmmakers who had to film in B/W or with no sound.
  • The early days of Pixar where excruciatingly slow rendering technology required intricate story-boarding of the script.
The examples could go on. I wonder where the limits are in this system when everything is completely malleable: the middle section of this article describes a "problem" the director had with a computer-animated character getting in the way of a Steadicam operator. The solution was to expand the scale of the world slightly and having the cameraperson adjust his timing. To me, this sounds as if they hit some limit and their creativity was focused on how to expand that limit, rather than work within it.

I wonder if this type of mindset led to some of the lack of creativity that Rhaomi mentioned above. It's also interesting to me that Jon Favreau mentioned the analogy of working this way to jazz improvisation, because so much of jazz is indebted to constraints. Many of the best jazz solos use a single interval, rhythm, or harmonic concept allowing the soloist to squeeze the most out of the song. What are the equivalents here?

I'm curious to see how the interplay of constraints and the virtual studio plays out in the future.
posted by jeremias at 6:59 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Humans seem to like to tell stories where animals emote and behave like us. But in reality, wild animals do not have the facial or behavioral equipment to give us a very wide range of emotions that we recognize. We have been able to tell these stories anyway by letting imagination or stylization bridge that gap (by necessity). But now that we can digitally manipulate photorealistic animals, we’re running into the problem that we diverged evolutionarily from our subjects 80 million years ago, and our brains aren’t very well geared to ascribe emotion to an actual wild animal.
posted by little onion at 7:01 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


It’s weird that everyone working at the pinnacle of computer graphics seems to feel that hyperrealism and not stylization is the best way to make an animation.

It is weird, but it's always been weird and isn't just limited to the people making the content -- see, for example, this 10+ years later write-up of the massive 2001 blowup when (gasp) the makers of the new Legend of Zelda game chose to not go for a photorealistic look. Fans lost their shit, claiming it was made "for 3 year olds", that it was ugly, etc. And then people actually played it and seriously it's basically the most beautiful Zelda game ever made and it aged really well (even before the HD update years later, it still looked great), while most early "photorealistic" 3D games are laughably bad compared to modern games (seriously, holy shit are early 3D LoZ games awful looking!).

Photorealism in computer graphics very frequently falls into the trap identified by Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park, where the people using it "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.".
posted by tocts at 7:07 AM on July 19 [4 favorites]


This sort of thing drives me up a wall:
The new Lion King rides an atomically thin line between CGI animation and live action.
No it doesn't. There is no live action in this movie. It is an animated movie, just using different animation techniques. I want to slap everyone calling it a "live action remake" of the original. Unless they trained actual lions, it is not live action.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:32 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


Disney’s Lion King Remake Is a Dazzling Safari in the Uncanny Valley
Only 15 years ago, Robert Zemeckis’ early experiment in 3D computer animation, The Polar Express, struck some viewers as more flesh-crawling than heartwarming, its human figures creepily stiff and waxen. (The film still performed well at the box office and garnered numerous award nominations; many critics loved it, and audiences were curious to experience this divisive new technique for themselves.) Since then, advances in digital animation technology, including in performance capture, CGI-augmented stop motion, and the combination of human and animated figures in the same frame, have happened so rapidly and in so many domains at once that the once-steep uncanny valley—the term dates back to the early 1970s, when a Japanese robotics scientist coined it in a paper on the problems of humanoid robot design—appears to be flattening out into a vast hyper-realistic savannah.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Like, I get not everything from the original will translate to a "live action" style, but they don't replace it with anything else interesting or funny or meaningful.

This was my complaint with what I saw of the Aladdin remake, too. "Prince Ali" in the original had that great gimmick of the Genie doing rapid-fire shapeshifting to blend in with the crowd and hype up the legend of "Ali" by convincing them that their friends and neighbors already know and love the guy, but in the live-action movie he's just doing the whole thing as the parade leader. It takes out the original gimmick and replaces it with....nothing, leaving the entire scene that much flatter. That seems to be a trend in these.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:58 AM on July 19 [3 favorites]


So the movement of each character is already predetermined and they can only adjust the camera angles and lighting. They can't change the path of that annoying extra; it's on rails.

That's less control over the characters than machinima.
posted by joeyh at 8:20 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


joeyh: So the movement of each character is already predetermined and they can only adjust the camera angles and lighting. They can't change the path of that annoying extra; it's on rails.

The next iteration will have to have a couple of animators on the VR crew as animal handlers.
posted by clawsoon at 8:24 AM on July 19


I'm obviously missing something. If the whole movie is CGI, why are there live cameras? What are they filming?
posted by treepour at 8:33 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


treepour: I'm obviously missing something. If the whole movie is CGI, why are there live cameras? What are they filming?

In a typical CGI movie, a layout artist will move a virtual camera around by moving a mouse while looking at a screen, the way you'd normally use a computer. In this CGI movie, a camera operator is moving a virtual camera around by grabbing on to a physical object that resembles the handle on a real camera, while looking through VR goggles.

Having never been a real camera operator or a CGI layout artist, I can't say whether this is the future or just a transitional device for directors not comfortable with computers.
posted by clawsoon at 8:42 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Having never been a real camera operator or a CGI layout artist, I can't say whether this is the future or just a transitional device for directors not comfortable with computers.

It's not just about comfort levels in theory, anyway. They're really trying to emulate a live-action production inside a virtual environment -- so everything on screen may be computer-generated, but the action was captured by living, breathing camera operators with heartbeats and certain ways of moving their bodies and certain tendencies when reacting to and framing things that they see. The idea is the CG stuff will seem more "real" if the camerawork has some of the idiosyncrasies you get from having actual human bodies involved. I think that specific idea has some merit, but the bigger question (as stated several times in this thread) is why be so obsessed with "realism" in the first place?
posted by Mothlight at 8:52 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Mothlight: so everything on screen may be computer-generated, but the action was captured by living, breathing camera operators with heartbeats and certain ways of moving their bodies and certain tendencies when reacting to and framing things that they see.

Thing is, all of this is true of layout artists working with mouse and screen, too.
posted by clawsoon at 9:07 AM on July 19


I'm looking forward to seeing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in movies again.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:22 AM on July 19


At the end of this article there is this:

> What The Lion King is pioneering could eventually become something almost unrecognizable: actors in headsets performing their scenes inside the movie’s virtual setting, their every line, gesture, and nuanced micro­expression playing out on the faces and bodies of their in-movie avatars, all captured by virtual cameras controlled by the headset-­wearing crew. The organic supercharged with a burst of the virtual, modifiers like “animated” and “CGI” withering away in the face of the infinitely possible.

And really this remake almost makes more sense if we look at it as a way to do some serious work pushing this kind of tech forwards that'll probably pay for itself - Hollywood always sees remakes of hits as a Sure Thing.

----

A while back I watched the half-live, half-animated adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress. The first act is in the real world, and concerns the worries and fears of an actress who is having her body and motions digitized, to be licensed forever by a major studio. She's never going to work again if she doesn't do this, the story says. The technician handling the digitization session is a master cinematographer she's worked with in the past; now that all the movies are handled by The Animators, he's out of a job. Throughout this whole sequence I was just about hollering back at the screen: no, all your skills are gonna be super valuable, they're gonna provide a solid basis for the animators you're demonizing (literally, one of the bad guys of the second half of the film is a guy who's been the lead animator on the actress' files for a decade) to work on top of, sometimes we will use your captured performance straight, sometimes we will completely throw it out and do something wild from scratch.

And here's Disney building a whole toolset that lets people do the blocking, cinematography, and lighting right there in the flesh, with an easy way to reach out and manipulate stuff that doesn't have the cryptic UI complexities of trying to do work in a 3d volume with a mouse and a keyboard.

This remake doesn't look like it'll be much. Maybe it'll shape up once all the shooting's done and the animators start really digging into their part. Maybe the "remake a cartoon animal movie as a solemn nature documentary" thing will work. Maybe it won't. But the techniques being laid down on this? That's the success. When this is sitting around Disney for a low-budget project with little executive oversight to use. When they've got it linked up with mocap suits that get rendered as the characters the actors are playing, and suddenly it's easier to improvise entire scenes and iterate the whole story on the fly, with the whole crew potentially able to say "hey what if we did this" and have the director reply "I never would have thought of that and it sounds great, let's try it" instead of having to lock the whole damn production down in boards beforehand.
posted by egypturnash at 9:40 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Thing is, all of this is true of layout artists working with mouse and screen, too.

Yes, but not in the same way. Wouldn't you agree that a woman carrying a camera on her shoulder or on a Steadicam rig is going to exhibit different kinds of idiosyncrasies in her movement of that camera than another woman who has her hand on a mouse or some other desktop input tool?

I mean maybe not, I don't really know if there's much benefit to this other than being able to say, "Caleb Deschanel shot our animated film, maaaaan." Certainly I don't think anyone's ever watched a Pixar film and thought, "That was pretty good, but I dunno, something about the camera moves just seemed wrong ..." Pixar does cinematography like nobody's business.

But one of my film professors, a fairly famous filmmaker himself, used to show us clips of early documentary filmmaking and encourage us to try to discern the heartbeat of the cameraman by carefully watching how he framed the footage in front of him, and how he reacted to things in the frame, and that's always stuck with me — how the heartbeat of the cameraman can be visible in the footage if you know how to look for it. I think that's the impulse at work here.
posted by Mothlight at 10:06 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


And here's Disney building a whole toolset that lets people do the blocking, cinematography, and lighting right there in the flesh, with an easy way to reach out and manipulate stuff that doesn't have the cryptic UI complexities of trying to do work in a 3d volume with a mouse and a keyboard.

I want to highlight this, because I think it touches on what I've failed to fully say before.

To be clear: I think the jury is still out, and so I don't know which way is going to ultimately be better. But: I do think that the big potential here is precisely as quoted -- providing a better way for the creative team to manipulate the camera without having to worry about whether a given kind of camera movement has been programmed for.

I've spent decades navigating 3D worlds via mouse and keyboard, both in games and dabbling in machinima. In every case, there's limitations -- you only have so many fingers, and so many mouse directions. In games what typically happens is, they simply limit your character to certain kinds of movements -- it's rare, for example, to have the ability to arbitrarily turn your head askance, because that would be one more set of controls they'd have to provide (separate from standard forward/back/left/right/tilt fwd/tilt back/turn left/turn right). And sure, if you're doing animation/machinima you have a lot more control, but anything you want to do with the camera that the toolmaker didn't envision is either not possible, or requires programming it ahead of time.

That doesn't mean animating things ahead of time is bad or can't get results -- but, it's possible that having a more direct and generalized way to interact with the camera will be beneficial. If the camera is literally a physical object that gets manipulated in the real world, that means that if you can make it move some weird way you just thought of in the real world then you can make it move that way in your 3D rendered world. That opens the door to potentially much faster iteration, because you don't have to re-program (or god forbid, add a feature to your toolchain) to allow the movement you want to make.

All that said: it could turn out that over time the mouse + keyboard approach can make the interface robust enough that this won't be necessary. I think only time is going to tell on this.
posted by tocts at 10:14 AM on July 19


Mothlight: Yes, but not in the same way. Wouldn't you agree that a woman carrying a camera on her shoulder or on a Steadicam rig is going to exhibit different kinds of idiosyncrasies in her movement of that camera than another woman who has her hand on a mouse or some other desktop input tool?

Indeed - but note that the interface that they've created here only uses the handles of real cameras, not the cameras themselves, so it's yet another "not in the same way". Momentum is missing. The heartbeats are going to translate into the final result in a way that's not the same as a Steadicam or a mouse or a Wacom pen or a Bezier curve on keyframes.
posted by clawsoon at 10:23 AM on July 19


tocts: I've spent decades navigating 3D worlds via mouse and keyboard, both in games and dabbling in machinima. In every case, there's limitations -- you only have so many fingers, and so many mouse directions. In games what typically happens is, they simply limit your character to certain kinds of movements -- it's rare, for example, to have the ability to arbitrarily turn your head askance, because that would be one more set of controls they'd have to provide (separate from standard forward/back/left/right/tilt fwd/tilt back/turn left/turn right). And sure, if you're doing animation/machinima you have a lot more control, but anything you want to do with the camera that the toolmaker didn't envision is either not possible, or requires programming it ahead of time.

Keep in mind that this new interface isn't a real-world interface, either, and if the ability to turn the camera a certain way hasn't been programmed in it won't work with this interface, either.

I doubt that's a problem in this case; I suspect they've thrown enough parallel processing power at the problem that they've programmed in the ability to turn whichever way you'd like, just as a layout artist with full freedom to define camera moves in a pre-rendered virtual space does.

What they haven't solved, which I think is closer to the problem you're talking about, is real-time control over the character rigs, which are much more complex than the camera rigs. Zooming a camera through a virtual scene any which way you like is much easier than making that damn hyena turn its head a different way.
posted by clawsoon at 10:33 AM on July 19


For folks who want a little more context on what virtual production actually looks like, this is a quick and short introduction. It's not the same technology as described in the article, and there's a fair amount of industry jargon in here, but it gets the point across.

Virtual Production: A New Era of Filmmaking | Unreal Engine
posted by jeremias at 10:41 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Indeed - but note that the interface that they've created here only uses the handles of real cameras, not the cameras themselves, so it's yet another "not in the same way". Momentum is missing. The heartbeats are going to translate into the final result in a way that's not the same as a Steadicam or a mouse or a Wacom pen or a Bezier curve on keyframes.

Well, I am a little confused about whether we're seeing the entire contents of their toybox in this article. The production notes have references to building rigs that use weights to balance them out in ways that simulate Steadicams and handheld rigs, so it seems like they're at least trying to get close to that. The photos in the article show Caleb Deschanel waving around some VR controllers, which isn't the same thing as real camera wheels. But if they're actually laying dolly track and building full size dolly carts, that's getting a little closer.

From the (studio-provided) production notes:
According to Favreau, the idea behind incorporating live-action language into the film
was to convince audiences that what they’re seeing is authentic. “My generation—
people who grew up with video games—is very sensitive to photography and shots that
look like they’re entirely digital,” he says. “You can sense the difference between a
visual effect that was added to a real live-action plate and one that was built entirely in a computer. How do you make it look like it was filmed? The way shots are designed
when they’re digital are much more efficiently done. The camera move is planned
ahead of time. The cut points, the edit points, the performance, the camera moves—all
that stuff is meticulous and perfect. But that perfection leads to a feeling that it’s
artificial. Not every generation of filmmaker is sensitive to this. I find my peer group has
the same standard where we want it to feel like something that was photographed, so
instead of designing a camera move as you would in pre-viz on a computer, we lay dolly
track down in the virtual environment.

“And so, even though the sensor is the size of a hockey puck, we built it onto a real
dolly and a real dolly track,” continues Favreau. “And we have a real dolly grip pushing it
that is then interacting with Caleb, our cinematographer, who is working real wheels that
encode that data and move the camera in virtual space. There are a lot of little
idiosyncrasies that occur that you would never have the wherewithal to include in a
digital shot. That goes for the crane work. It also goes for flying shots.”

Favreau was the designated virtual helicopter operator on the crew. “We also developed
new rigs for something that emulates a Steadicam and something that emulates a
handheld by having the proper weighting and balance on this equipment,” says
Favreau.

Says Legato, “In real photography, the cinematographer can tell which cameraman
operates a shot while you’re into the nuance of watching dailies. We want to inherit all of
those happy accidents, all of those human idiosyncrasies. How do you infuse emotion
and humanity? Well, that comes from the humanity of the people operating the
equipment.”
posted by Mothlight at 10:59 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


So does this mean that they're just half a step away from releasing the movie as a VR app? That would be neat.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:17 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Interesting, thanks for the extra info, Mothlight.
posted by clawsoon at 11:21 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


And as for the tech and its behind-the-scenes skeuomorphism, keep in mind that we still make buildings with design elements inherited from the early 20th century American imitation of an 18th century British imitation of a 16th century Italian imitation of a 4th century Roman imitation of a -3rd century Greek stone imitation of -11th century Minoan wooden structural elements. So I expect the camera metaphor to be around for a good 20 or so centuries more.
posted by signal at 2:13 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


What does it matter how realistic the lions are, in your thinly-veiled plot to inculcate acquiescence to the divine right of kings?

On the other hand, it'll probably be better than CATS.
posted by klanawa at 3:33 PM on July 19


Corporate
Recycled
Animation
Product
posted by fairmettle at 2:42 AM on July 20


Humans seem to like to tell stories where animals emote and behave like us. But in reality, wild animals do not have the facial or behavioral equipment to give us a very wide range of emotions that we recognize. We have been able to tell these stories anyway by letting imagination or stylization bridge that gap (by necessity). But now that we can digitally manipulate photorealistic animals, we’re running into the problem that we diverged evolutionarily from our subjects 80 million years ago, and our brains aren’t very well geared to ascribe emotion to an actual wild animal.

In the future we will sequence the DNA of every cute species, create a million virtual earths, run evolution forward at high speed while applying the same domesticating pressure on each species as created the AU101 muscle in dogs until they all have the full panoply of human-analogous eye and mouth muscles, then augment via design or evolution their virtual brains and larynxes to be able to learn and deliver their lines (while carefully deleting all sentience-associated virtual-neurons to remain ethical), and then download the best, most emotive animal actors onto the virtual film set where they will deliver true realism.
posted by chortly at 8:44 PM on July 20


I just need to point out that the new LK movie features the song "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" being sung.......during the day.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:41 AM on July 22


I try my best to boycott Disney, so I tend to avoid trailers and such for their products or properties they've somehow been allowed to come to own. I knew this movie was happening and that it's premise was, the same thing but with CG animals instead. I mean, Madagascar was okay I think, maybe, so whatever, seems pointless to make a 2D animation into 3D especially at this stage in history where making a 3D animation is easier than 2D.

Seeing the links posted in the comments, though, wowza. It seriously looks like someone took stock animal footage and just played some Lion King music over the clips. Wish the article had more video of the VR environment, by all accounts it seems the making-of featurettes will be infinitely more interesting than the movie they made with it.

To add to the absurdity, I see that they went and hired Eric Andre, someone whose comedy is often very physical and facial, and gave him the role of one of their taxidermy CG beasts in the movie. What an absolute waste!
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:53 AM on July 22


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