The first space SF series, ‘The Silent Sea’, that was made in Korea made headlines for its realistic moon setting, and delicate expression of the base. ST looked into the VFX technology, a production secret that could generate these special scenes. ………………………….Ed
While watching movies or dramas, people often wonder, “How could the production shoot the scene?” With the recent developments in science and IT technology, the film industry has also accepted changes in technology, enabling high quality filming. ST planned the article to find out how the latest IT technology has affected the film industry.
The series named The Silent Sea, which was recently released on Netflix, was created by using In-Camera VFX (Visual Effects) shooting techniques. A visual special effect, In-Camera VFX is a technique for photographing realtime visual effects. Real-time visual effects means that it runs immediately as soon as a command is issued from a computer, allowing to see or hear movies or music directly within a short amount of time when playing it on the computer. It is not a conventional method that focuses on CG (Computer Graphics) work after filming in front of a green chroma-key. It films directly with a video from a huge LED wall in the background. Therefore, by visualizing images or graphics in real time, the actor’s acting and virtual backgrounds can be taken at once. Graphic rendering, which converts data into human recognizable images, in real time is possible because of the “unreal engine.” Unreal engine is mainly used in games and has recently been used for various purposes not only in games, but also in industries that require visualization, such as movies, dramas, and real-time performances. Thanks to the engine, it is possible to implement and modify the background of the movie in real time as the director intended during the filming stage.
The most basic thing for In-Camera VFX shooting is a large LED panel. A large LED panel is composed of various resolutions, from high to low resolution. Productions often require an LED wall of about 270 degrees. However, depending on the situation, a flat LED wall and an LED wall of about 360 degrees may be used. Furthermore, precise, and diverse technologies, such as camera trekking and network elements, are needed. When taking each shot used by a different camera, the color may vary for each capture when the resulting scene is gathered. Therefore, it is important to take one shot with one camera.
Then, why did In-Camera VFX shooting t e c h n i q u e s become popular? F i r s t , t h e production can reduce costs. Results based on existing CG can be reflected in real time at the shooting site. The need for detailed second-half CG work and the cost of renting a place can be reduced. Therefore, it is possible to reduce production costs by about 10-20%, compared to conventional chromakey shooting. Second, the production can save time. Using the techniques, data can be converted in real time to see the results implemented as images. Moreover, the production can freely implement the desired background without weather. Lastly, it is possible to improve the immersion of actors when filming. According to actor Bae Doo-na, who appeared in the Netflix original series, The Silent Sea, the LED wall was so natural that she hardly noticed it when she acted. She didn‘t think it was an LED, and it looked like an extension of the moon. As such, it makes the actors feel like they are acting in front of a real background.
A representative example of the In-Camera VFX shooting technique is the Star Wars world-view drama, The Mandalorian, which aired on Disney Plus, and became hugely popular. It has been widely known in the industry that through the production of this drama, good quality results have been achieved by actively introducing such filming techniques in Korea. In the Netflix original series, Sweet Home, which was released in 2020, Unreal Engine technology was used to check the movements of giant monsters in advance and allow actors to interact with them and act realistically. Moreover, The Silent Sea, released in 2021, and Wave‘s original drama, I‘m Going to the Blue House Now, also used the same techniques.
Looking at the prospects of Korean contents in the future, it is expected that more In-Camera VFX shooting techniques that use unreal engines would be applied more than conventional green chromakey. Son Seung-hyun, CEO of Westworld, who oversaw the digital creation and VFX at Sweet Home, said, ”We have high expectations for the innovative real-time technology of unreal engine in the future, and we plan to actively utilize unreal engine in various projects.” Park Sung-chul, CEO of Epic Games Korea, also replied that many domestic VFX studios will do their best to introduce unreal engines to produce contents that can achieve global success. What would happen t o Netflix‘s move to produce contents that incorporate new IT technologies? On December 17, Netflix held the “Korea Virtual Production Webinar 2021” to share special visual effects and professional skills with virtual production creators. At this event, several partners participated in small group meetings and Q&A sessions. It also provided a venue for Virtual Production (VP) education of domestic film directors. Ten Netflix VP experts shared the latest technologies and trends. As such, VFX and VP officials around the world said they would continue to hold close exchanges and actively utilize new technologies. By looking forward to how VFX and VP would be applied to contents in the future, it would be fantastic to enjoy contents that incorporate such new technologies.
Lee Yu-jeong (ST Cub-Reporter)