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Visual Development Tool (VDT)

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  • Producer
    Planet X Technologies

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The past few months we have been working on a new tool that might revolutionize the way we use pre-visualisation in film and television productions. This system, developed by our brand new branch Planet X Technologies (in collaboration with VR expert Marijn Eken) carries the working title ‘Visual Development Tool’ (VDT) and is currently still in prototype phase. We have until now organized three separate ‘demo days’ for which we invited a broad range of film professionals such as directors, DOP’s, VFX supervisors, production designers and producers to explore the potential of our VDT: their enthusiasm and willingness to even implement it for their next production made it clear to us that we’re on the path to something truly exciting and useful!

The development of techniques such as VR seem to progress at the speed of light and as they move forward, they open doors to a new and fresh look at how we currently implement the existing options to design, before principal photography, image-related processes. This concept, known as ‘pre-visualisation’ can currently be explored through the use of storyboards (drawings that don’t show any timing) or animatics (animations that do show timing).

Although these options can suffice for some productions, they are limited in what they can offer. A director or DOP can only partly participate in the creation of a storyboard (unless they can draw themselves) and when setting up animatics, they rely on an external operator (animator) to meet their needs. In short: both director and DOP are more on the sidelines rather than have an active, intuitive participation in this previs process. On top of that, a storyboard can still be ‘multi-interpretable’ and might not be understood as clear as intended to by the various departments involved.

Visual Development Tool (VDT)
Due to the ever increasing use of visual effects in the film (and TV) industry as a whole and the technical complexity that grows along with it, it seems to make perfect sense to apply the advantages a complete virtual world can offer us.

What makes our VDT unique is the combination of a virtual surrounding (the film set) in which we can see and control the camera and other tools that allow directors, DOP’s, production designers and even stunt coordinators to explore their shoot beforehand and experiment with camera angles, mis-en-scene, grip, lighting, etc. Or: a complete simulation of the set which offers the possibility to (re)visit a location as they encountered during a recce, but also to ‘forward’ to the situation after the addition of VFX or after the completion of set construction.

The ultimate purpose of the VDT is to gain a far better insight in the ideas and wishes of the filmmakers involved and to anticipate to those ideas and wishes for the steps that follow. As well as limiting the financial risks so no surprises will emerge during post-production 

Actual in-session footage of the VDT with three different scenes

Prototype camera, an Arri Alexa, made from lightweight foam