Jon Favreau discusses the use of VR tech in the making of THE LION KING live-action film

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One of the most impressive things about Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book was just how incredibly life-like all the animals looked despite all being computer generated. It was the result of some outstanding visual effects from the team but also, according to director Jon Favreau, the result of using some VR tech in the filming of the movie. And he plans to use a whole lot more of the technology in the live-action adaptation of The Lion King, which he is also directing.

Now it might seem strange that VR tech can play such a pivotal role in producing something that is not VR related, but Favreau in speaking with Coming Soon, got to explain a little bit more about how the tech was sued to create the realistic motion capture that we got to see in the final product of The Jungle Book:

A lot of the simulcam and motion capture technology that we use here, a lot of it was innovated around the making of ‘Avatar,’ and hasn’t really changed much, because there’s just not a lot of consumers. There are a lot of people who watch, but not a lot of people who use the technology. So we were finding ourselves building around technology that hadn’t changed a lot in the last 10 years. But now as we’re exploring what is being developed for VR, and game engine technology, a lot of that was used to some extent in ‘Jungle Book,’ but as I look forward to developing this process further, there’s a lot over overlap.

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Now, I’m someone who feels that most VR technology is a bit of gimmick and so am not overly excited about the technology and how it has been applied to games. But I’m glad that they are finding other uses for the technology as well that is helping to create more realistic motion capture.

Favreau then went on to say how he got into this technology after watching a project titled The Blue from a tech start-up company about a VR blue whale encounter:

I’d gone over at lunch just to see what the new VR technology was, and by the end of it, we were starting to try to figure out how to use VR in shot design. It’s kind of like if you have a person wearing the HMD, wearing the visor, [if it’s] is the audience member, you write code one way, but if that person is the camera, you’re using the same tools, but you’re kind of changing the work flow so that you’re using it to build the footage, as opposed to using the VR to observe the footage or experience the content. So what’s nice is that there’s so much innovation in this area, so much investment in these technologies, and they are really helpful.

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And in the end I guess it makes sense as VR technology is designed to produce a more 3D rendering of an object and how you interact with it and this technology can allow for the animators to create more immersive movie experiencing. So, even if you like me don’t really like the whole VR feeling and the nausea it creates, at least we can still get to enjoy the fruits of it in our movies.

However, with The Lion King pretty much featuring no human characters and requiring everything to be motion captured and render in computers, it makes sense that Favreau is planning on using the technology even more in making this movie:

Being able to scout–and some of this we were doing with ‘Jungle Book’ as well, but the ability to actually design an environment virtually, and then to walk around in it with your crew, doing a scout. And to be able set shots and to be able to choreograph movement, and move set pieces around before you do the heavy versions of it. Because there’s a lot of really light files, again, the processing is getting better and the coding is very specific to game engines now, so that the files remain light, so you can experience them in real time, so you can move assets around in real time, and start to rough in what you want to do as a filmmaker. And finally, when you deliver it to the point where you’re actually turning it over, and rendering the stuff in a very expensive, time-consuming way, you’ve already made all your creative decisions using technologies that are more geared towards gaming.

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And more specifically Favreau then went on to make mention of game engines like Unity Unreal:

If you want to look at things in real time, especially in 3D, the game engines offer you a lot of opportunities to build upon that engine.

I love the idea of gaming and movie tech coming together. With games and movies both costing fortunate to make, hopefully some of this sharing of technology can help to reduce the costs of the technology and allow for both industries to be more profitable and thrive. A win for everyone. Not that Adam Sandler needs any help in being profitable, something which I still don’t get…

I am really excited to see what Disney does with The Lion King film and how they can turn this most famous of Disney animated movies into a live action film. We will be seeing the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast on March 17, 2017 which is already looking incredible. The Lion King does not yet have a release date, but hopefully we’ll be able to see some results of all this VR technology sometime in 2018.

Last Updated: December 2, 2016

Craig Risi

A man of many talents, but no sense how to use them. I could be discovering the cure for aids or finding ways to achieve world peace, but I'd rather be watching movies and writing here instead.

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