Remember the magnanimous sculptures in the Baahubali franchise? The kingdom of Mahishmati, the palace, the pillars — every element and every prop transported the audience to a different world. But all this came at a huge cost and a lot of time and manpower.
Now, place yourself in the director’s shoes and imagine the huge sets of Baahubali and all the big props — created virtually. Along with the props, every detail from lighting to camera angles can be pre-visualised, cutting down the post-production time.
If you are wondering how virtual production can happen in Bollywood, the answer lies with the partnership between Eros International, a global Indian entertainment company, and Epic Games, the company which is famously known as the creator of popular game Fortnite.
Epic Games’ Unreal Engine can also pave the way for restarting film shooting by adhering to all the guidelines that various state governments have issued.
The partnership comes at a time when restarting movie production has become a tough task due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Ridhima Lulla, Chief Content Officer of Eros Group, said, “It is going to be high VFX projects for which Unreal will be used and for such a project, this technology will bring down the number of people on a set significantly due to the controlled environment. Number of people required will be lesser. It will help a set environment to be more contained.”
Lulla also revealed that Eros is currentlyworking on high-level VFX big-budget projects.
International experts from the movie production business also agree that virtual production will provide a safe alternative to cast and crew whenever shooting for films resume. Also, technology like Unreal Engine helps production team to collaborate despite being in different places.
What is Unreal Engine and how it helps in movie production?
Firstly, Unreal Engine is a real-time 3D tool that helps create a virtual world.
Now, the answer to how it helps has many aspects.
Looking from an actor’s perspective, they have to act in front of a green screen and the visual effects are added later.
“It provides actors with all the elements that is required during a shot that can help them in their performances. They can look at what is surrounding them rather than looking at the green screen. Also, you can update and create real time on set,” explained Lulla.
Adding to this, Quentin Staes-Polet, GM, SEA/India at Epic Games, said, “We are seeing more traction in pre-production process. In the past, you go to a location and then prepare the set. But Unreal Engine allows you to stimulate the required environment very closely and one can plan shoot in extreme level of detail to make the set exactly look like the required environment. One can replace the entire set by a virtual set.”
So, if a director wants a sunset shot, traditionally it can be done by having the actors and the crew at a set during sunset until the shot is complete. So, the director has to wait every day for sunset until the scene is completely shot.
If the director is using Unreal Engine, the similar setting can be created virtually and the scene can be shot in one go.
“Unreal has the potential to reduce costs dramatically and increase the speed. Also, small budgets that were allocated to pre-production is getting bigger because a lot of the work that was done in post-production is happening in the pre-production stage,” Polet told Moneycontrol.
Even Lulla added, “Real-time rendering technology saves a lot of time by providing creators ability to change the virtual aspects of production. Unreal cuts out lengthy rendering time and time is money.”
Also, what is done in post-production especially VFX for which a director has to wait months to see the final product, can now be done while the director is shooting, added Polet.
Unreal- is it only for VFX heavy, big budget projects?
If you are thinking that Unreal or virtual production techniques are only helpful in VFX heavy big budget ventures, that’s not the case.
Experts say that even independent filmmakers can make use of Unreal. In fact, internationally a few independent filmmakers have already experimented with the new technology.
Also, in the current times, when a lot of locations are inaccessible and foreign locations are a strict no no due to the coronavirus outbreak, those foreign locations can be created virtually. Plus, a lot of outdoor shoots can be done indoors by simulated versions of the outside world .
Unreal- it will let the creative juices flow
Polet pointed out that “Unreal also opens the possibility for creativity as the vision of the director will be with the entire crew as with the technology it is possible to create a set and a shot very close to what it will be actually and a range of creative production personnel can see the composition.”
But can Unreal be used only in films?
The answer is no. In fact, many broadcasters are already using Unreal for weather and sports channels.
“Production of TV serials is not very different from movies. The adoption there will be as beneficial,” he said.