Mova's new Contour `reality capture' system debuts at SIGGRAPH ... LiveMansion.com's communal movies ... New-media power players
The Contour system requires actors to cover their faces and clothes with makeup containing phosphorescent powder that is not visible under normal lighting. In a light-sealed room, the actors face two arrays of inexpensive video cameras that are synchronized to simultaneously record their appearance and shape. Scenes are lit by rapidly flashing fluorescent lights, and the cameras capture light from the glowing powder during intervals of darkness that are too short for humans to perceive.
The captured images are transmitted to an array of computers that reassemble the three-dimensional shapes of the glowing areas. These can then be manipulated and edited into larger digital scenes using sophisticated software tools like Autodesk’s Maya or Softimage’s Face Robot.
“Steve is really on to something here,” said Ed Ulbrich, vice president of Digital Domain, a Hollywood special-effects company in Venice, Calif. “The holy grail of digital effects is to be able to create a photorealistic human being.”
...“It’s been used in stunts and big special-effects scenes,” Mr. Ulbrich said. “Now you can use it for two actors sitting at a table and talking. You have the ability to tell stories and have close-up scenes that make you laugh and cry.”
The story says that David Fincher is "planning to use Contour next year when he begins filming `The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' a movie...in which Brad Pitt will play a character who ages in reverse."
Here's the Contour Web site. Interesting that they've dubbed this "reality capture" instead of "motion capture." That's good positioning.
Here's the Wall Street Journal's version of the Countour story. Nick Wingfield says that Fincher is only "considering" using Contour for his next project. (I wonder what motivated Fincher to give quotes for both stories... I'm sure both reporters must've asked what his link to the company is... so he must not have a stake in Contour's success, or be getting it at a discounted rate for his next film.) Wingfield writes:
[Perlman] predicts the system will allow film makers to create photorealistic faces for roughly $2,000 per second of screen time.
By contrast, he says, using older motion-capture systems to create faces of lesser realism can cost between $50,000 and $100,000 a second because computer animators must still do costly reconstructions of details not captured by the technology. Mova will begin offering capture-services to clients using Contour in the fourth quarter.
Live Mansion is the creation of Ckrush, a film-production company specializing in low-budget fare aimed at teenagers and young adults. Its biggest hit is likely to be “National Lampoon’s Pledge This!” a sorority comedy starring Paris Hilton. But its greatest innovation has been to imagine movie making as a completely democratic enterprise, eliminating the need for market research by allowing the audience to vote for precisely what it wants.
Members of Live Mansion will not only choose the actors and also the director and the soundtrack. The only hired professional is a screenwriter. Those who vote most often can accrue points that allow them to receive a producer’s credit when the movie is completed.
“The idea here is obviously to build up an audience for the movie beforehand,” Jeremy Dallow, Ckrush’s president, explained.
But the larger goal also seems to be to draw as many members to the Live Mansion Web site as possible in the hope of attracting a big advertiser base like that of My Space, which currently boasts tens of millions of users.
- This "New-Media Power List" from the Wall Street Journal (which you can see without being a subscriber) mentions most of the viral videos and movie-related podcasts that I've heard people talking about this summer, including "Four Eyed Monsters," Channel101, and the Mentos and Diet Coke guys. It's worth a look.