Behind the scenes: how VR/5D movies are made

People love watching immersive movies. Multi-sensory films paved the way years ago and now that we’re living the golden age of virtual reality, this kind of entertainment is becoming even more popular. How are 5D and VR movies made? Well, there’s a lot of work involved in order to produce these films.

As a production company, we are more than glad to show you how we produce our movies. Have a sneak peek inside our studio!

Market analysis

Studying the market is fundamental, you can actually learn a lot of things. Most of all, you can understand what’s going on in the industry and what the most important trends are. You can even learn from others’ mistakes - because making the right move is great, but avoiding failures is very important.

Thematization and script writing

Deciding the theme of the movie and writing the script are among the activities we enjoy the most when we make a movie. Anyway, once the theme is settled, we define other important aspects of the movie: title, characters and environments are all decided at this stage.

Then, we start writing the script. This is where all the thoughts translate themselves into words. When it’s finished, the script becomes the reference for everything regarding the movie: plot, scenes, characters features, cameras, cuts, settings… All of these elements are described in detail and provided to the artist who will be in charge of creating the storyboard.

Storyboard

Just like the script translates thoughts into words, the storyboard translates words into drawings. Basically, a storyboard it’s like a stripped-down comic book. It’s made with a series of frames, which represent the sequence of events in the film.

The storyboard is of great help to establish if the plot can actually work. It’s the best way to visualize what the film could look like beforehand. A great storyboard contribute to minimize production risks.

Bonus: often, the most surprising and exciting scenes in a movie are made up by arranging parts of the storyboard in a different order. It’s a simple trick that does the job!

Once the storyboard reaches its definitive version, artists can start working on their computers to model and animate!

Modeling and texturing

How are digital characters created? Digital artists work just like sculptors. They create a sphere of material (it’s like a digital version of clay, actually) and then they start working it. Modelers remove what’s unnecessary, modifies what they don’t like, add layers of material where they consider worthwhile.

The same procedure applies to every other kind of object. Environments are assembled following the same procedure. With the digital tools at their disposal, 3D artists can set up any scenario they have in mind. Thanks to computer graphics, we are able to create entire worlds in the most detailed way possible.

After having modeled the characters, the artist puts them in the so-called T-pose: every character stands up with their arms wide open. This is very useful for the animators during the rigging stage - we’ll dive into that later.

But, just like statues, these models are uncolored. At this stage, they don’t look like finished products because they are completely white. Texturing is what gives life (and color!) to the previously modelled characters and environments. By applying the appropriate textures, the artist can “paint” the skin of a character, replicate the roughness of a wall and much more.

At the end of this stage, we have all the environments and characters of the movie. When the artists are done with modelling and texturing, it’s time to animate!

Rigging

Right now, our computer graphics models are just like marbles sculptures. But we need something to make them move and we need their movements to be as natural as possible. In order to do so, 3D artists create a digital “skeleton”.

This digital skeleton is called rig and just like the skeleton you have inside your body is made up of bones. Animators use the rig to put the character into the pose they like. All the joints in the rig are linked one another following a strict hierarchy. This hierarchy is fundamental to give a natural feel to animations.

When the digital skeleton is done, animators have to focus on facial expressions and start working of the facial rig. This is particularly important, because a natural and pleasant expression can make a difference and it’s great to convey specific emotions to the audience. Only a proper facial rig can bring the character’s faces to life!

Now that we have decided how characters should behave in certain conditions, we’re ready to start “shooting” the movie!

Animatic

Animation is a labor-intensive process, so you don’t want to waste time creating scenes that will end up being deleted. This is where the animatic comes in handy. What are we talking about? Basically, we can say the animatic is an animated storyboard.

Now that we have all the characters and environments, it’s a good idea to do a test drive. The animatic is particularly useful to test the timing of the movie scenes, to evaluate if sounds and images can effectively work together.

To put it simply, the animatic is a raw draft of the movie. You don’t have the final animations but camera movements, cuts and transitions are already there.

Animation

During this production stage, animators take the storyboard back on the table and start creating the movie as the audience will watch it.

There are three principles that every animator should always keep in mind when working.

  • Movements must be as natural as possible. Animation lends personality to the character. Spontaneity is what makes animation believable.
  • Poses are very important in this process. The animator has to decide all the poses (also called keyframes) and the transitions between them.
  • Timing is crucial. When working on a transition from one pose to another the animator must carefully set the right timing for the movements.

By using specific softwares, animators follow these principles to move the digital actors across the scenes and tell them what to do on the set. The cameras are placed during this process.

After the animation there’s still some job to do. However, the outcome - even if it’s far from being a finished product - can be tested on actual equipment to have an idea about how it will look like. If we need to do some small changes or refinements, we usually make them at the end of this stage.

Stereoscopy

When this draft passes the check, we start working on stereoscopy. With multi-sensory movies we set up stereo cameras to shoot proper 3D footage. When we produce VR movies, this step is not considered, since virtual reality films just use one 360-degree camera.

Stereoscopy is very important in multi-sensory films, it’s what gives to our brain the illusion of depth. Thanks to stereoscopy you can see the images actually popping out the screen. It’s a delicate process: if you mess up with stereoscopy you feel the movie as nauseating or uninteresting. This is why we do a lot of tests!

Shading and lighting

Metal and wood are different in real life and they don’t behave in the same way when dealing with other objects. Skin, plastic, glass, concrete, fur: every surface has its specific features. This is when shading comes into play. When creating a computer graphics film, producers assign physical data to every surface inside the movie. These data tells the software how surfaces should behave in the digital world. All the materials inside the movie are “tagged” by shaders, which transmit to the software every information about it.

It’s easy to understand what the lighting is about - the name says it all. During the lighting process, all the lights inside the movie are put in place. The way a certain environment is lighted is very important in order to create a realistic virtual world and to replicate the atmosphere imagined by the authors of the movie.

Special effects

Do you like special effects? This is when we create them! Special effects heavily contribute to immersive films as they create a unique atmosphere inside the movie.

Water, smoke, explosions and much more: these are the things that make virtual reality and multi-sensory movies so engaging. Your audience wants to experience an exciting adventure in person: that’s why special effects are so important for your spectators. And making them is great fun as well!

Rendering

Basically, the rendering is performed by the computer, which has to interpret all the data provided by the modelers, animators and artists. This stage is very important since it’s the final outcome of all the previous steps. The rendering “freezes” models and animations inside a final file. This file will become the basis for the professionals that are in charge of the next stages.

Editing

This is one of the skills that are exclusive to cinematic arts. During this stage, the scenes are put in proper order and arranged to foster the narration. A great editing can really make the difference as it can help the audience to understand the story and immerse itself in it. It’s an invisible art, but it’s present in every movie you watch, immersive or not.

At the same time, during this production step, our visual arts team produces all the promotional material for the movie: covers, press releases and trailers are all created now.

Color Correction

Every movie has a color palette that reflects the atmosphere of the film. Color correction is the activity that gives visual coherence to the movie by assigning it the appropriate color.

It may seem like too nitpicky, but, really, having a properly calibrated set of colors inside a movie is very important to help the storytelling. One thing’s for sure: a poorly made (or worse, absent) color correction is very disturbing and ruins the atmosphere of the film.

Speaker

Do you want to make a movie about your brand or museum and want a character to tell your story with her voice? We will record all of your characters’ speeches during this stage.

As you already know, ride films don’t require a lot of talking - they go straight to the action. But when we create a custom-built movie in which characters are required to express themselves with their voices, this when the dubbing actors jump in.

Soundtracking

Music and sound effects: there’s no movie without a proper soundtrack! Sound really contributes to the general atmosphere of the movie. All the steps of the creative process are linked to each other. That’s why finding the right music is so important. A soundtrack can change the perception of the movie among the audience. It’s not something you can ignore: every movie has its ideal soundtrack to underline the most important transitions of the story.

Final thoughts

Multi-sensory and virtual reality films hit the mark when all the elements work together to put the spectator at the core of the experience. There’s a lot of hard work involved in creating a moment like these. Nothing happens by chance. Actually, as you can see, movie producers have to meticulously follow procedures to make this magic happen!

Would you like to see the final outcome of this production process? Watch all of our VR/5D movies in full length! You’ll also receive a free report about the mistakes you should never make when choosing new immersive video content for your venue!

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