Geo Week News

August 13, 2012

Might you steal an idea from the movie biz?


In the movie biz, visual effects types, or directors in general, have to do what’s known as a “previs” – a previsualization of how a scene is going to happen before live filming actually beings. This is the sort of thing that used to be done with charcoal drawings, but has now entered the realm of computer software. A new iPad app called Sandbox might even give you some ideas for the work you’re doing in your neck of the woods, be it in a plant environment or at the scene of a crime. 

As outlined in an interview on the Gnomon School of Visual Effects’ web site, Sandbox was developed by Olcun Tan, who’s been working in the visual effects industry for more than a decade. What he’s created is a way to do previsualization virtually, loading in the 3D details of the location and placing cameras, extras, lighting, and all manner of other potential variables in a shoot completely digitally. 

As for the benefits of working this way, he explains it better than I: 

You don’t have to go to a stage to do previs. Large VFX houses typically have entire virtual studios for this kind of work, which are expensive to operate and can only generate data while staff are present. With Sandbox, you have your locations with you all times. It’s a live storyboarding and previs system in your pocket.

How exactly he fits an iPad in his pocket I’m not sure, but that’s neither here nor there.

Tan was an early user of lidar, so he knows the value of captured 3D data. He always scans locations before beginning VFX work. Now he’s incorporating that lidar data with digitally generated data from programs like Maya, right out of the gate. Plus, all the heavy data is stored in the cloud, and simple proxy geometry is downloaded to the iPad, so you don’t have to worry about your point cloud data using up all of your memory and processing power on the iPad in about five seconds. 

It really gets the mind working about where this same kind of pre-planning could be useful in other industries using location data. Anyone with an iPad could pre-plan the route to installation of large pieces of machinery needing to be installed in a plant environment. Construction firms could pre-plan the staging and maneuvering of raw materials. Police working to solve a crime could run through different scenarios of how suspects might have entered and exited a scene and how a scene might have been lit differently at a different time of day. The possibilities are endless. 

The article is definitely worth reading and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a similar iPad app in these other verticals fairly shortly. 

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