Performance Capture Shoot Wraps

So the shoot has finally wrapped. It’s been an amazing 5 weeks and the time has flown by. We had a great atmosphere on set and the cast and crew worked together brilliantly. The speed and imagination that went into transforming our trusty ramps, mats and plinths into everything imaginable would have made even the The “A” Team gawp; forests, snow drifts, waterfalls, cliffs, houses, meadows, carriages, weird angular underworld rock landscapes, rubbish tips, guard huts, beds… And then there was “kes” the startling realistic cardboard eagle with training weights in a sock for feet! It a shame it’s all over, as a lot of new friends were made, but we have pick-ups and plenty of ADR left to do yet, so we’ll be arranging future sessions over the next few months. Over the weeks the cast really lifted the script off the page and took it places I’d only started to visualise from the text and storyboards (on the subject of storyboards, there was much excitement over master Chavdar’s on set story boarding. If we fail to get finance for the rest of the movie we’ll be selling his drawings online; could probably raise a few million) As a result we have some great solo and ensemble stuff and I’m not ashamed to say my eyes welled up when we filmed Becky’s tumultuous beach scene. (assisted by our use of onset music.. The finale of Mahler’s second symphony in this case) The hard core technical work begins now, to bring all the performances into our CG world. It’s not going to be quick but it’s going to be good ūüôā

Report From the Shoot: Week 2 (8th – 13th August)

Week 2 now over with the bulk of the ensemble drama now captured. This week we saw a huge range of shots from fast visceral action (thanks to our “stunt” Stina: Lucy.) to satisfyingly awkward kitchen sink drama. The film is now taking shape and we’ll clearly have a wealth of material to select from after the shoot. (A rather terrifyingly huge amount in fact) A hectic and thoroughly enjoyable week; Plus the actors and crew got wave swords around. (until Alex hid them under the ramps)

On Set Rehearsals

So, we’re now a week into on set production. The mocap stage is finally in use with motion,facial, audio and set pieces all working well. We’ve been rehearsing hard with the actors, who’ve succeeded in bringing life to the scenes in ways well beyond what’s apparent on the printed page, crafting some vivid characters in the process. The crew have been particularly patient, working around the rehearsals and jumping in to action to build sets and test capture for the shoot next week. Special thanks go out to them, as they’ve had to do a lot of waiting around this week.
All in all Its been a very useful preparation for the shoot, with all the major scenes now rehearsed and blocked out and most of the kit tested. Next week we start filming. Its going to be hard work I suspect, but a lot of fun.
shoot+rehersal+8 shoot+rehersal+6 shoot+rehersal+7 shoot+rehersal+5 shoot+rehersal+4 shoot+rehersal+3 shoot+rehersal+2
Next report after we’ve wrapped in September.


Hand Stitched Dalek Antennae

After a brief break to¬†celebrate¬†the hallowed festival of Winterval, the team is now cranked up and is back up to speed producing film¬†related¬†stuff. ¬†We now have 3 functioning facial capture systems with¬†accompanying¬†Velcro¬†straps and¬†expertly¬†sewed nylon strapping and have the talented Geoff¬†Samuels¬†doing¬†some¬†kind of magical giggery-pokery on¬†the¬†computer that will allow us to interpret the facial recordings into usable animation data. We’ve tested them all out on the actors, which went well once they had stopped laughing at the prospect of having hand¬†stitched¬†Darlek¬†antennae¬†strapped to the their fore-heads.
We now have the¬†performance¬†capture session scheduled in for July – August, accompanied by¬†the¬†reassuring¬†knowledge that the planned 5 story university extension, ¬†being¬†constructed¬†opposite the¬†motion capture studio, is well¬†behind¬†schedule; so we won’t have the expected sound track of pile driving steel¬†girders¬†while we try and capture our actors. ¬†We have, however, discovered¬†that the university is keen to completely¬†replace¬†the air¬†conditioning¬†system in¬†the¬†mocap studio the month we are capturing the film data. This is in the¬†process¬†of being¬†forcefully¬†renegotiated. ¬†Regarding¬†the¬†script we now have a solid first act blocked out on a scene by¬†scene¬†basis with the rest of the film tightly plotted, but without scene level detail. ¬†We are confident¬†the¬†first draft will be finished by Easter and have¬†lined¬†up a collection of¬†notable¬†film¬†industry¬†gurus to give us feedback and help us iron out any loose¬†ends by the end of June.¬†¬†The work at FOAM is slowly cranking up to full production speed and we have a visual¬†research¬†trip to mount OMU in¬†the¬†Carpathian¬†mountains¬†planned for¬†the¬†Easter¬†holidays,¬†that should hopefully prove inspiring and¬†useful, so long as nobody strays from¬†the¬†path or develops a fondness for the cheap¬†Romanian¬†wine. The work in Environments is going well and we have some excellent Carpathian mountain¬†environments coming from¬†Harry¬†Ellard and some very spooky caves coming from Sam Hoffman. ¬†We now have a generic facial¬†animation¬†system for¬†the¬†creatures¬†department¬†who will be modelling all¬†the¬†characters and¬†their¬†accompanying¬†faces¬†over the next few months (from the wonderfully¬†weird¬†and disturbing designs coming from our production designer Chavdar Yordanov) Our actors have now had¬†their¬†pictures taken and are in the process of being turned into¬†virtual¬†CG characters (with a few¬†tasteful¬†design additions from Chavdar) All for now.

December Production Update

The Stina facial animation rig is now finished (finally!) and has all the functionality of the Gollum rig from Lord of the Rings (that it was initially based on) with a few automated extra features (such as automatic proximity based lip meniscus) that should make the 80 minutes of screen time vaguely feasible! We are now planning to build a full facial capture system to save us having to hand animate the whole 80 minutes (i.e. how Gollum was done – Incredibly time consuming) We’ll still be doing a clean up pass in Animation from the original filmed reference, but this should cut production time down radically. We’re relatively confident this can be done by FOAM without contracting externally. We’re presently chatting to various companies about their experiences doing facial capture and have a talented PHD student starting on the capture software full time in February; plus a wealth of knowledge on fuzzy logic systems within the university. This will hopefully form the backbone of the system. It does mean, however, that our actors will all have to have face casts made and have a camera (light weight honestly.. modern technology init! they won’t even know its there!!) strapped, very comfortably, to their heads.
This month we also cast our first male role GUNTER, who is to be played by the talented actor David Taylor. David is a professional actor with a wealth of experience in theatre and film. We did some workshops at the Gregg school with David, Becky and Lucy (who play Stina and Gunter’s side kick Olaf) and were very encouraged by the dynamics coming out of the session. It gave us some great ideas to enrich the screenplay. We’re also continuing with other workshops with the other cast members and its great to see them starting to inhabit their characters. And well done to Evie for putting up with all the ill people last week! Particularly as the last session rather dissolved into a flu infused laughter session by the end.
FOAM has taken on some new staff this month, with the ranks of MODELLING, ANIMATION, CREATURES and ENVIRONMENTS now up to respectable numbers: good work here John! The dept. leads are now leading their teams effectively and the work seems to be flowing from everyone. Good variety of stuff on show at dallies this week. We also have a new architectural student, Henry, who has joined as a production designer and is helping us fix the art work bottle neck by designing the village and surrounds.

We’d like to welcome the following new additions to the team:
Phil Shenton
Athos Cammell
Matthew Hernandez

Laura Millar
Tautvydas Katkevicius
Luke Wilkins

Tang tsz-hin

Stephen Campbell
Edd McDermott
Rokas kucinskas
Simon Pearce

Dan Little

David Taylor (to play Gunter)

cheers, Paul

First Motion Capture Tests

We’ve now completed our first motion capture tests with mocap supervisor Alex Council and a few of the actresses. It was a very useful exercise, accompanied by much amusement at the silly blue costume and the somewhat surreal situation of performing a scene supposedly set in the mountainside, in a white room, whilst covered from head to foot in velcroed reflective spheres. Becky was particularly patient, as she was this session’s mocap muppet ūüôā We are now using the collected motion capture data to test out the rest of the pipeline. We also tested out some high quality hands free mics in an effort to test out capturing on-set audio, as an alternative to ADR overdubs later. This worked well (although a few worries about air-conditioning noise – hopefully we can turn this off for final capture)

The effects on the film are now to be provide by the newly formed FOAM Digital, an effects facility imbedded within the faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at Portsmouth University. The departments have been hard at work developing 3d assets for the production. The script is still under development by Red Rabbit Films and we are aiming get the first draft down by the end of Christmas. Concept and production art are still rolling out and we are aiming to accelerate the production of this in the next few weeks, as it’s starting to create a bit of a bottleneck in the production process.