Inside the Virtual Production of ‘The Lion King’
Al Moloney chatted to director Jon Favreau about creating the world of The Lion King, working with visual effects company MPC and his use of vfx as a director.
The methodology MPC VFX Supervisor Adam Valdez had discussed with Disney and director Jon Favreau would come into play as virtual production got underway in June of 2017. It would be further developed by Technicolor’s MPC, VFX Supervisor Rob Legato, Production Designer James Chinlund, Magnopus, Unity and other game engine companies, as they all came together to work on The Lion King.
“When we talk about representing the true Africa, that encompasses both world-building and character-building, and that all started in virtual production,” says Valdez. “After we all went as a crew to Kenya together, we continued to do the virtual production together, and we did the final animation and visual effects together. We were collaborative partners from beginning to end, and the technology and methodology we used enabled us to capture the creative choices made together on the virtual set – cameras, lighting, animation, etc. – and carry them through to the end. Everything lived on in this way, enabling us to learn the rules together, what worked and what didn’t. For example, what’s the best way to light a lion from a certain angle? If we figured that out in post, we could relight/ reshoot it, with the real subject on the real (virtual) set.”
The pipeline that evolved on The Lion King served as a “translational” system, with back and forth communication between planning, visualization, art department, production design, and virtual production at one end – and visual effects and animation on the other end.
In addition to virtual production, the production was a milestone in lighting.
Filmic lighting is completely different from game lighting, so the team had to find a way for the DP to light a shot as you would on a real set.
“It was an interesting challenge to apply the rules of traditional filmmaking to virtual production,” says Giordana. “Similar to creating visual effects, you need to give some form of close approximation that is good enough to make creative decisions. If you want an African sky or sunrise, we can show you some reference images and speak that language. But it’s a different language from what your game engine offers you, so we need to build on top of the engines to implement the language and toolset you’d have on a real stage conversing with the DP.”
Source: MPC, Technicolor
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