The phases of a Chronosphere production
In this article, we explore different phases of a Chronosphere production process and also answer a question as to what needs to be done to guarantee a successful production. Well begun is half done, but with volumetric video, this is even more important.
Pre-production is the key!
The project partners and Chronosphere team must discuss research questions before starting the production. It is highly important to keep talking about the content of the project throughout the process. What will be filmed in the studio and how? How many people will be filmed together and how? Only by clearly coordinating, communicating and discussing the wishes and demands of both parties, a good end result can be achieved.
The project always starts with a kick-off meeting between the project partners and the (volumetric video) production team. In this kick-off meeting, thoughts and ideas are being shared and adapted when necessary to achieve the best possible result. Depending on the project, it is common practice to have a clear idea about the scripts, clothing choices, and objects, and any choreography at least two weeks before filming the actual project.
‘Everything you don’t discuss with each other is a risk. Everything you do discuss with each other, can be prepared for and it really does give a better result,’ says Lisa Geurts – project manager at 4DR Studios volumetric capture studio. ‘In the beginning, we worked with a list of things that could be problematic, but nowadays it’s fortunately the other way around and we have reached the point where we can ask the client to come up with their ideal script.’
Film direction, technology and audio
‘A moving 3D object on your phone is very special, and there is a lot of work involved to make it happen,’ says Steye Hallema – Volumetric Director.
Once it is known what and how it will be filmed, it is up to the scriptwriter to write a script that takes a full advantage of volumetric video capturing while accounting for how the end result will be used. Will it be augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR)? With a VR headset, and if so, which one? How long will the experience last? Because of the data size and the computing power required for volumetric captioning, there are several limitations that should already be taken into account in the concepting phase.
How will choreography be? Will there be a focus point to which the actors must talk or react? How many people need to be filmed at once? For example, if there is dancing involved, a different kind of surface must be used. Will there be talking, singing or does a dialogue have to be acted out? Asynchronous filming of different actors in one scene requires meticulous planning. So, direction, technology and audio are three important elements that have to be fine tuned in the pre-production to avoid problems in the post-production.
Learning to experiment and improvise
The first year of Chronosphere was full of useful learning moments. For example, Lisa explains that the costume checks take much longer than initially thought. The costumes are always checked in detail in order to prevent problems in the (post) production phase. It’s therefore now much easier to estimate how much time is needed to check the actors’ costumes.
You can’t always avoid improvisation on set. Despite all the knowledge and experience, it still remains a risk. Of course, it expands the knowledge, but improvisations can go both ways; it can turn out well or not so well. However, it always contributes to the knowledge about the system and the project partners. For example, a highlight of improvisation on the set was filming outfits with shades of green in our green studio. This was a challenge because the software removes green from the footage. So parts of the outfit could be taken out, creating unwanted holes. By experimenting with the green ‘despill’, we were able to bring parts back.
Once the ideas and expectations are clear, it’s time for the production phase: the volumetric capturing can begin!
During the production, things like costume and hairstyle, among other things, are being checked. During shooting of the scenes, the stylist has to be fully alert to ensure that the hair stays perfectly in style. Loose hair – or hair that falls down the face when wearing a ponytail can cause deformations to the face (see example below).
Because the loose locks of hair are falling along the face, the face will change as well. The system recognises the loose strands as part of the ‘face’ rather than the ‘hair’. Completely loose hair (tight behind the ears) or tight ponytails or buns without any hair locks along the face work best to successfully film the person in volumetric video. Therefore, more time is now invested in hairstyles to avoid facial distortions.
The process of delivering the volumetric video images is a lot more complex than you would think. This is mainly because of the long render time of volumetric video images.
After filming the volumetric footage, the project partner will first receive a 2D shot of all the takes from one of the (32!) cameras. Based on this footage, it is determined which takes should be rendered and which sequences (from frame to frame) will be used. In which resolution should the footage be delivered and for which device will they be used? These are questions that the 4DR team asks in pre-production, but carries out in the post-production as well.
The task of Casper Moerkerk – Head of Volumetric Capturing – is to ensure that the sequences do not contain any unwanted artefacts after rendering. Once this is done, the footage can be exported with the most appropriate post filter and sent to the project partner. For the project partner, the implementation begins: the volumetric footage must be processed into the experience they had in mind.
Chronosphere research questions
Chronosphere revolves around the research questions that arise from various productions. The questions relating to the production process have already been addressed along the way. The questions relating to the immersive experience and the audience are being tested afterwards, when the whole experience is complete.
The 3D world of Chronosphere
For each Chronosphere project a lot of effort and time is put into the details to achieve the best possible result. For more articles and updates about the Chronosphere projects, keep an eye on the Smart Venue website, the LinkedIn page of Smart Venue and the LinkedIn page of 4DR Studios!
You can find part one here.