One of the things that has always impressed me about James Cameron as a filmmaker is how he confronts obstacles to achieving his vision – if current technology can’t help him achieve his vision, then he will help develop brand new technology to actually make it happen, damn it! The line between technician and artist has continued to blend in this way over the past 15 years or so, with filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Robert Zemeckis building entire movies around fresh tech, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but always adding more to the conversation.
The last filmmaker I expected to push the technological envelope was Jon Favreau, whose low-key beginnings eventually propelled him into the blockbuster arena, but here we are. After creating photorealistic animal characters and environments in The Jungle Book earlier this year, he’s now talking about how virtual reality tech will influence his upcoming remake of The Lion King.
Speaking with Coming Soon, Favreau explained how a great deal of the groundbreaking filmmaking tech created for James Cameron’s Avatarhasn’t changed much in 2009 since it’s not a consumer-driven product and there simply aren’t enough customers to warrant fresh innovation. But VR tech, which is being developed to appeal to movie viewers and gamers, is always charging forward and offering new opportunities for those who want to utilize it.
Since The Lion King will follow in the footsteps of The Jungle Book and be created almost entirely within a computer, Favreau noted that his team will be able to create digital environments, put on VR headsets, and “scout” their manmade locations, looking for the best shots and adjusting tweaking scenery if it doesn’t look quite right in person:
Being able to scout – and some of this we were doing with Jungle Book as well, but the ability to actually design an environment virtually, and then to walk around in it with your crew, doing a scout. And to be able set shots and to be able to choreograph movement, and move set pieces around before you do the heavy versions of it. Because there’s a lot of really light files, again, the processing is getting better and the coding is very specific to game engines now, so that the files remain light, so you can experience them in real time, so you can move assets around in real time, and start to rough in what you want to do as a filmmaker. And finally, when you deliver it to the point where you’re actually turning it over, and rendering the stuff in a very expensive, time-consuming way, you’ve already made all your creative decisions using technologies that are more geared towards gaming.
My handful of experiences with VR have been fascinating – I don’t think it’s going to replace traditional video games or movies anytime soon, but it’s a brand new medium that offers its own distinct pleasures and rewards. However, the thought of it being used as a tool to create traditional media is fascinating stuff. The Jungle Book managed to be an entertaining film while also highlighting cutting edge technology, a balance that has felled talented filmmakers in the past. Hopefully, Favreau’s desire to experiment results in something special. I know I’m not the only one not entirely sold on a new version of The Lion King.
Banner Photo Credit: Disney