A love of innovation and new techniques is hard-wired into the brains of VFX artists. To find out what innovation means to a VFX professional today, we asked our Head of VFX Technology Michele Sciolette the following question:
What’s New in VFX?
There is a lot of expectation that 2016 will be the year when immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will become mainstream. Current-generation devices have many limitations, but clearly show the potential for truly immersive experiences. This will inevitably drive demand for new types of entertainment. I expect that the ability to support and create content for immersive experiences will become a common task for visual effects houses in the relatively near future.
The quality of real-time graphics has been improving at an incredible pace, and the output of modern game engines — supporting features such as physically based shading — is fast approaching the level of quality we need in high-end visual effects. The explosion of independent game publishers in recent years has led to new licensing options, making top quality engines accessible to everyone. Thus game engines could soon become a viable option for certain kinds of work — especially if you drop the constraint to run the engine in real-time.
In my opinion, the main obstacle still to overcome is pipeline integration. In order for visual effects houses to fully embrace video game engines, we need the ability to transparently move assets between a more traditional pipeline and one based on a game engine, to ensure consistency of the final look and minimise duplicated effort.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Machine learning and artificial intelligence is an area that has the potential to disrupt many industries, including visual effects. It’s difficult to predict what the effect might be in the long term, but we’re already in areas such as computer vision, machine learning techniques are already performing at par with, if not better than, the best algorithms that have been developed so far.
The major next generation of advanced tools for visual effects artists may well involve running what a machine has learned over very large datasets, rather than implementing a specific image processing algorithm designed by a human.
So, what does our 5 minutes with Michele reveal?
Setting the technology aside, its obvious that senior visual effects professionals are becoming more closely involved with the wider creative process. As for the future … well, some of the new arrivals outlined above will undoubtedly gain strength, and perhaps even endure over time. Others will spike briefly and then fade. However, there’s one thing we can be sure of. This time next year, everything will be new all over again!
Michele’s comments were shared alongside many other VFX industry experts in a recent Cinefex blog.
As head of VFX technology, Michele leads our development team and is responsible for Cinesite’s production pipeline and artist tools development in all areas of production. He is also a director of the company.