Articles in "Expanded Cinematography":
"Practical Expanded Cinematography"
Previs, Virtual Production and the Role of the DP
with GCI Guest Instructor Matt Workman
(Director of Photography, Founder of "Cinematography Database" and Creator of "Cine Designer" Software)
At Global Cinematography Institute, we combine teaching the aesthetics of Cinematography with the latest developments in craft and technology, to create our unique and world-known Expanded Cinematography® Courses. A key component of Expanded Cinematography® is enlightening Cinematographers on the new horizons of image creation possible in the realms of VFX, Virtual Production, CGI, Previs, Digital Lighting and more. One of the foremost experts on developing tools and learning resources for DPs expanding to areas of Previs and Virtual Production, is Director of Photography Matt Workman, founder of Cinematography Database and creator of the Cine Designer software package.
We are excited to announce Matt's participation in GCI's May Session 2016, in which he will teach a special remote course on "Practical Previs in Expanded Cinematography®" focusing on connecting students with the tools available for visualizing lighting and camera using 3D modeling. Matt practices and teaches a style of 3D Previs that is called "Cinematography Design" or "Cine Design" for short. Previs is a process for directors and VFX artists to plan the high level filmmaking. Cine Design is the process of translating Previs or storyboards into a real world live-action set. It relies on an accurate 3D database of real world film equipment that is available through his Cine Designer application.
In GCI Expanded Cinematography® courses, we offer classes on Previs, Virtual Cinematography, Digital Lighting, Virtual Reality as a way to connect the concepts taught in other "traditional" courses (Lighting, Composition, etc.), with the current reality of Cinematography. Moving forward, the role of Previs, Virtual Production, etc. will continue to grow and Cinematographers must be prepared to adapt to this new technological reality. Global Cinematography Institute is the only program teaching this new, innovative way of preparing DPs for the future of the craft.
GCI Guest Instructor Matt Workman has long been an advocate for expanding the role of cinematographer into the virtual realm, as evidence by the great articles, videos and podcasts he creates for Cinematography Database, along with his contributions to practical Previs by connecting DPs with the tools they are accustom to, in a new 3D Virtual environment, via Cine Designer. Below is an article written by Matt Workman, original published on Cinematography Database, commenting on how DPs can, and should, remain relevant in the booming field of Virtual Production.
"The Cinematographer's Role in Virtual Production"
by Matt Workman
Originally Published on Cinematography Database
In the current “Production/Post-Production” paradigm the director and his main collaborators are not present in the visual effects process. During “Production” the director works with the cinematographer and production designer to define the look of the film. When production ends and “Post-Production” begins, the cinematographer and production designer are released and the VFX team takes over.
On a Virtual Production set, the cinematographer would stay by the director’s side for the entire process. He or she would oversees the live-action photography and the virtual photography. Instead of treating the filmmaking process as two separate phases, (Production and Post-Production) virtual production is a continuous feedback loop between live-action cinematography and virtual cinematography.
The VFX Industry Needs Virtual Production
John Hughes (Founder of Rhythm & Hues) recalls that in earlier years, films were completely planned in preproduction and the number of VFX shots required were fixed. When VFX was new, the process was so expensive and time consuming, that radical changes were not practical.
With the increasing speed of computers and the advent of digital cinematography, filmmaking has become a more fluid process. Although a VFX house may bid for a fixed amount of shots, what is required may change dramatically by the end of the show. This fundamental change in the film industry has put the VFX industry in an unsustainable state.
Two fundamental differences between live-action and VFX industry are:
1) On a live-action set, the crew is paid by the hour. In VFX, the house is paid per shot.
2) On a live-action set, the director, actors, and crew are protected by unions. In VFX, there are no unions.
Virtual production would bring the VFX team right on set with the director, DP, production designer, etc. and would hopefully create a new paradigm for the VFX industry that treats them like a cinematographer or traditional art department. There will always be a team of true Post Production VFX, but by having the key VFX leads on set with the director and DP, costly mistakes and miscommunications are avoided.
Virtual Production = Live Action + VFX
Virtual Production brings the live-action team and the visual effects team into the same sandbox. Now the director, live-action cinematographer, VFX supervisor, CG supervisor, etc. are all in the same room and making decisions together. In this environment the director and crew aren’t looking at a vacuous green void, they are seeing and crafting the CG sets, actors, and lighting in real time.
For a virtual production cinematographer to properly oversee the live-action photography and virtual photography, he/she would need to be well versed in previs, real world photography, editing and color correction, visual effects, and CG lighting. On a virtual production stage, he would have a live-action crew: Gaffer, Key-Grip, Dolly Grip, Operator, 1st AC as well as virtual crew: Lighting Supervisor, Layout Supervisor, Compositing Supervisor, etc. Both units would be working in concert to execute and craft the director’s vision. The VFX team would be given direct access to the director and DP and treated as equals in the filmmaking process.
The cinematographer’s place is by the director’s side and his role is to execute the photography whether live-action or virtual. It’s up to current cinematographers and most importantly future cinematographers to be able to live up to this challenging role.