💡 MetaYeda Insights #4: How do video games redefine the Hollywood business?
How do video game technologies redefine the entertainment business? Bella Voroviob and I dive into the disruptive future of Movies.
💡 Enemies. The creativity behind product evolution
"I have everything that anyone has ever known. You have in your heart everything anyone has ever felt". (Enemies by Unity).
Bella: Nothing you see in this video clip “Enemies” is real. It was created by Unity. A 3D video game engine.
What interests me in Unity is the philosophical approach to product evolution, according to which "character" is one of the most complex characteristics of digital creation.
That is precisely the magical element that differentiates between impressive but soulless graphics, a work that does not evoke an emotion (remember the Rings Of Power?), and immersive storytelling.
This is precisely the philosophy the team behind this demo is trying to convey, whose job is to present a product far beyond its technical evolution. It proves that using the Unity toolbox can convey a crazy storytelling experience in just two minutes!
Some believe that technology is the enemy of creativity - but I think that without creativity, it is impossible to develop products with real value.
Less than ten years ago, the Unity engine was not this impressive. It was hard to imagine that it could really compete on some level with the monster Unreal Engine of Epic Games. Even today, the team behind Unity agrees that they are not yet standing side by side with Unreal Engine, but manage to reduce gaps thanks to creativity of their development processes. And in my opinion, Unity's famous demo team is a great example of that.
Over the years, the team was creating fantastic and crazy scripts based on the trends in the gaming industry in order to challenge the development capabilities of the company and to make sure that the technology can stand the test of creativity, evoke emotion, create meaningful characters and evoke real emotions.
With each Unity’s demo, it is very interesting to witness the different improvements of the product's capabilities from the previous version. Thus, the current demo comes to test and present Digital humans' creative experience, the possible future avatar, and may be much more than that.
How does it work?
In general, there are three main stages:
Data acquisition, Data processing, Unity setup.
On Unity's YouTube channel, you can watch a long “the tech behind Enemies” video clip presented by Mark Schoennagel, Technical Marketing Manager at Unity, at GDC 2022. The process is fascinating!
The interesting fact is that the actress chosen for the concept was photographed inside a chamber without moving, but after that, the image went through a cleaning, stabilization, machine learning process, etc. Please note the actress was not asked to read the text, act, or even move. She "handed over" her data, and that was it.
It is fascinating to see the evolution in the movement of the hair, to the changing shadow on the face, reflection in the eyes. The company's work has clearly evolved the product Toolbox from the previous version.
It is essential to remember that all these characteristics, and many others, are complex in creating a realistic effect and experience (even when it comes to traditional movie making). Still, It becomes even more complicated in the production processes of digital rendering using a computer game engine.
The point is that in traditional movie productions, precise viewing angles have to be taken into account concerning the camera's position. Still, in virtual space, it should be considered that the players/users can "look" and approach the character from almost every possible angle. Hence, that requires the engine developers to address every element at the 360 level. Therefore, producing "realistic" and genuinely immersive experiences is difficult. However, in the case of Unity, they are on an exciting path.
Elhanan: This is very cool. It opens up new possibilities for filmmakers.
Take, for example, Ang Lee's 2019 Sci-Fi Movie Gemini Man. The Movie featured a 50-year-old Will Smith against a 23-year-old Will Smith clone. Smith technically acted in both roles: Henry, who is the actor's actual age of 51, and Junior, a clone who is nearly 30 years younger. Was he paid for two acting jobs?-)
Video games are a "pushing technology" medium. They drive innovation. The core of CGI development is video game technology.
Do you know that this path of Digital Clones Movie Stars was imagined more than fifty years ago and then came to life as a Sci-Fi Hollywood Movie nine years ago?
💡 From a Sci-Fi Novel to RL in 50 year
‘The Congress’ is a 2013 live-action/animated Science Fiction drama film written and directed by Ari Pullman. It is Pullman's free adaptation of Stanisław Lem's science fiction 1971 novel. The film narrative is about living in a dystopian future outside the current time and place.
In this dystopian future, common laws do not apply. 'Abraham' is an animated territory located in the heart of the desert and owned by an all-powerful corporation called Miramount. The cooperation took over Hollywood and later took over the entire world. Much like the draconian cooperation in Arnest Klein's 'Ready Player One book. Miramount's entertainment conference, called the "Futurological Congress," is like the Oscars in 3D animation.
The film's protagonist is a movie actress named Robin Wright (played by Robin Wright). As Forty-five years old, chances are she's already over her top success and too old to make movies. But new technology invented by Miramount may secure her future. All she has to do is allow them to create a digital twin of her.
Her synthetic clone includes her entire body and face. Additionally, her sampled clone has her feelings and thoughts. Using advanced artificial intelligence and Machine Learning, her digital twin clone in Miramount's movies will stay young and a star forever.
One of the movie's highlights is the scene of the digital cloning process of the protagonist's body and mind.
They gave her a choice.
For Wright's protagonist and other movie actors, it's a real temptation. It's like sighing up a deal with the devil. Sell us your sole and get the ultimate reward: An eternity of life on the screens.
Like in 'The Congress', Will Smith's 'Gemini Man' forever young digital clone was created using CGI. The process involved scanning and simulating him on the computer. The movie makers used computer graphics tech, artificial intelligence, artificial neural networks, and facial recognition.
🧭 What’s Next?
Are you willing to pay and watch a movie knowing that the protagonist is a CGI syntactic character?
Would you instead step into the Movie's protagonist's shoes and play his role in a video game? Can you suppress your uncanny valleyfeelings?
Imagine what it would be like to go to the Movies in 2050.
Can we expand this Video Games technology beyond Hollywood Movies to the Metaverse?
📡 On our Radar:
Meta’s Notorious B.I.G. VR Concert to Feature ‘Hyperrealistic’ Avatar of Late Rapper The Notorious B.I.G, 25 years after his death. His “true-to-life, hyperrealistic” avatar in a virtual-reality concert is coming exclusively to Meta’s VR and Facebook platforms. Source: Todd Spangler for Variety.
Metaverse is a risk to human social skills, Abba Voyage producer tells MPs. Source: Martyn Landi for Yahoo Finance).
Think Fast, Level-UP Smart.
🕹Elhanan Gazit, Ph.D., is a Gaming and Metaverse Strategist, Advisor, Entrepreneur, Investor, Speaker, Lecturer, Video Games Scholar // Founder @ juloot @ MetaYeda, @ YedaVerse, Ex-Founder & CEO @ MetaverSense Ltd. GAME-ON!
Co-Author Bella Vorobiov is Associate Director, Data, Digital Assets & Media at Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Computer-Generated Imagery, abbreviated as CGI, creates still or animated visual content with computer software. CGI is also called 3D imaging or 3D Rendering. CGI usually refers to the 3D computer graphics used to create characters, scenes, and other special effects in movies, television, and games. (Source: NFI).
The Uncanny Valley phenomenon is when you feel eerie or unsettled due to interacting with not-quite-human figures like humanoid robots and lifelike computer-generated characters. Thank Paul Melman, for the thoughtful discussion we had on the topic.
Read: Seymour, M., Yuan, L. I., Dennis, A., & Riemer, K. (2021). Have We Crossed the Uncanny Valley? Understanding Affinity, Trustworthiness, and Preference for Realistic Digital Humans in Immersive Environments. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 22(3), 9.
Ratajczyk, D. (2019). Uncanny Valley in Video Games: An Overview. Homo Ludens, (1 (12)), 135-148.