BY FABIENNE KOCH
A man steps out of the dark, staggers onto the ramp of the Toni-Areal, where a car brakes, its tires screeching. Suddenly the car is torn off the ground as if by an invisible hand and disappears. “Once more,” mutters Norbert Kottmann, a research associate at the Department of Performing Arts and Film, moving a plastic object across the table. On the screen next to him, the car resembles the plastic object.
What recalls a digital Lego game is in reality virtual film-making at the previsualisation table. “Master’s and Bachelor’s students can previsualise technically complex film projects before shooting,” explains Kottmann, who is involved in further developing the previsualisation table at ZHdK’s Immersive Arts Space. Not yet existing on the market, the table is part of a joint research project between ZHdK, Stockholm University of the Arts and Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology.
In order to accurately reproduce the shooting location on the previsualisation table, it is scanned in advance. The Reality Capture software used for this purpose creates a three-dimensional image of the location from hundreds of photos. The figures and props are represented by plastic objects with reflecting spheres attached to them. Moving the spheres enables six infrared cameras to capture their position and their virtual images move in real time on the screen.
Yet the actual centrepiece is the virtual camera. It, too, lies on the table as a plastic object. “The camera crew can imagine in advance what is possible on location and what is not,” says Kottmann. This is a huge step forward compared to the days when footage could be viewed only several days after shooting. Even before shooting, the film crew can set up lights, place objects and even pre-edit scenes. Nevertheless, the film still needs to be realised.