John Helliker, Director, Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT), Sheridan College
Seelan Vamatheva, Software Development Lead, SIRT Centre
Sheridan College’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT), located at Pinewood Toronto Studios, is a collaborative workspace for research and development into integration of new production and post-production technologies within the film, television, gaming, and interactive industries. The Centre houses advanced infrastructure and a team of Sheridan researchers working with industry partners. One purpose of this talk is to introduce SIRT to researchers at Waterloo to initiate discussions about research collaborations.
The quest for advances in technology is central to SIRT’s work, but as part of this process the development of partnerships and collaborations with other academic institutions and researchers is critical. The University of Waterloo’s Institute for Computer Research is a key partner with SIRT. The presentation will focus on virtual production but will also include a more general discussion of potential areas of research collaboration between Sheridan/SIRT and University of Waterloo researchers. The development and application of virtual production technologies for moviemaking and other forms of screen-based entertainment is a key focus in these sectors worldwide, with the highest profile applications being in studio movies such as “Avatar.” Yet at this point in time there is no clear consensus of what constitutes virtual production. One working definition was initially provided by a Joint Committee on Virtual Production established by various industry groups including the American Society of Cinematographers, the Art Directors Guild, the Visual Effects Society, and the Previsualization Society: “As a starting point, virtual production is defined as ‘computer graphics on stage,' or the process of shooting a movie with real-time computer graphics, either for all-CG movies (such as Christmas Carol) or visual effects movies with live action (such as Avatar).” These virtual production developments can be broken down into two types of technologies: those that generate real-time animation of characters, camera and props, often based on a form of motion capture; and technologies that are part of a process for generating real-time compositing on set or on location.
The latter processes involve integration of computer generated and live action elements in green screen and other shooting situations where the live action elements can interact with CG elements in real-time. Camera tracking as well as transmission and recording of lens and camera metadata are critical to this type of virtual production. Although currently used primarily in higher budget productions, the technologies and processes even at this level are in early stages of commercialization. At the lower budget levels, for series television and independent moviemaking, academic researchers and production companies around the world are investigating development and application of customized off-the-shelf solutions and technology integration to create solutions. SIRT is heavily involved in this quest to create trickle-down virtual production solutions that will ultimately become part of all productions within the screen-based sectors, whatever the budget level.
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