New Realities
Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 12 (December 2003)

New Realities

A: We didn't think it was possible to do a superhuman in any other way, because we wanted the performance you could only truly get with real actors, yet we wanted the impossible feats in a comic book that you cannot do with stunts and rigs.

A: We began with this idea of a dimensional representation of a space and performances in the 1990s, when people first started connecting spatial analysis and photogrammetry with computer graphics. We used it first in What Dreams May Come, when we scanned the sides of mountains in Glacier National Park and converted the landscape into a world of paint. Because we had to create virtual characters and the spaces where dynamic events take place in The Matrix, the films have provided the perfect canvas for us to push a little bit harder on how to dimensionally acquire spaces and performances.

A: In Film One, the concept was that when you are in The Matrix, in the simulated universe, there are no limits, and as you gain control over being in The Matrix, you are able to perceive things. So with the first primitive Bullet Time method, we created imagery that allowed that concept to come through. In Reloaded, with our real-time performance acquisition system, we took a step toward the real-time simulation of virtual humans. Obviously, the scenes in Reloaded aren't the product of AI scenarios running in real time as you interact with them, but the idea of that happening is readable in the content. And in Revolutions, the virtual human project ends with a shot that George Borschukov and Kim Libreri call the super punch. It's the closest, most realistic virtual human face ever rendered, ever seen in a movie or elsewhere. Guaranteed.

A: There are two types of movies you can see emerging when you see Revolutions: One is a fully virtual film made using this method of acquiring components from the real world and stylizing them. It could look real, or it could be something unlike anything you've ever seen. It's your choice. The other is the pursuit of a more heavily detailed animated film that is realistic but is completely creatively made, like Zion and the machine world in Revolutions. The proceduralization of effects developed at Tippett Studio for the machine world is pretty astounding, as are the behavioral animation techniques that emerged at our studio, ESC. It isn't a big stretch to imagine making every shot in a movie like that.

A: Virtual cinematography is the act of composing material from components—humans, performances, background, what have you. If you have a stand-alone scene sourced from the real world, completely augmented and created into a whole new type of cinema, that's virtual cinema.

A: It leads to dimensional filmmaking and much more than that. It will lead to what is the real component of virtual reality because the most immersive experience is obviously going to be one in which the participants are utterly convinced of the truthfulness of the space around them. For any type of interactive content to be emotionally engaging, we need to figure out a way to dimensionally capture performance.

A: We were pretty determined to create a new level of realism that hasn't been seen before but with the stylizations of anime in mind. It's a stylized realism, a perfect merge of imagination and reality. It becomes like a dream at that point. Also, it's been a dream to try to follow in the footsteps of Alien, Blade Runner, and even 2001, which began a science-fiction aesthetic of the horror of the blackness. We wanted to do the ultimate update with all the new tools. So we have aliens by the tens of thousands, but they're all CG.

A: We could come up with other real-time performance-capture systems that would be more sophisticated and flexible than the universal capture process we've made. Even now, there are technologies out there that we can start training on this problem. But it very likely will not happen for some time because the movie business is not a very good engine for that. It pushes things along for a completely different reason than anybody interested in creating virtual humans originally might think.

A: I'm quite interested in a lot of things: interactive content, games, fully animated films, fully virtual films. I'd like to try dimensional recording of important historical events, to dimensionally record important moments of your life, so you can replay events from different perspectives for the rest of your life. I love films, obviously, and I intend to stay connected there. But we're being asked to do more shots faster that are more complex and are more real in more films with a finite number of people. No one has the capacity to do 100-hour workweeks to complete these insane little films. So, I feel that's inspiring a lot of people to shift laterally toward the game industry where it still feels like the Wild West in terms of the rules of how content is made and the types of content you can pursue.

A: Yes, I think I am. I began working on The Matrix films in 1996 as a young man. It'll be a little like leaving prison and figuring out how to make my life work again. I count the seconds to be able to hang out in my hometown with my family, with my son. I can't wait. What good is being an artist if you can't find even a minute to go outside and see what society is like in the year 2003?