3D Movie Tool
Games researchers are looking at adapting a domestic technology, enabling spectacular movies without spectacular Hollywood budgets.
Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time, inspired many to explore the possibilities of 3D storytelling. The challenge is the cost, but research at the University of Abertay Dundee may lead to cheaper versions of the kind of technology used in making Avatar. Matt Bett, a lecturer in Games Engineering at Abertay, began looking at new games motion-controllers. The research was inspired, says Bett, by wanting to see whether the equipment could ‘do anything that gives the user a tool for something beyond your movement into the computer game. It started from that and from seeing Avatar, getting an understanding of some techniques they used to make that. Then extrapolating and working out how we could do something similar.’ For Avatar, James Cameron and his team developed a system called Simul-cam which enabled the director to see the actors (in their motion-capture suits) instantly in the virtual scene, without having to spend days making computer generated images integrating it all.
Camera in virtual space
The motion-controller can give a very accurate picture of its position and orientation in a virtual space. ‘What we are doing,’ explains Bett, ‘is using that information in order to position a corresponding virtual camera in virtual space using a real controller in real space, so the controller in your hand turns into a hand held camcorder.’ The team has adapted the technology to do something similar to the Avatar team. ‘Picture yourself standing there in the gaming world,’ says Bett, ‘as you turn right round and what you see on the screen would be what you see on the viewfinder of a handheld camcorder. You get a tool, which is similar to these multi-million dollar technologies used for big production films that are in the cinemas right now.’
Currently it would be possible to use this tool to edit the replays of a game, zoom into the space and to create a movie of a player’s game moves. But Bett wants to take the research further, ‘we’ve got some other logical ways this can go, geared towards film making, rather than it being just a game playing tool. With the film angle there is a lot more we can do, some pretty exciting stuff that people wouldn’t believe were possible to do at home.’