How Virtual Reality Is Coming to the Movies

AMD's New Super-Fast Graphics Card Comes With Bullish Predictions

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It's possible to have a video game of "The Godfather" with a character that looks like Marlon Brando. And soon it will be just as possible for Marlon Brando to star in a new film.

Virtual Actor
Virtual actor rendered as a computer graphics image.
The prediction came compliments of Nigel Dessau, senior VP-chief marketing officer of Advanced Micro Devices, who said the worlds of film and video games are about to fuse. Hailing this new era as "Cinema 2.0" at New York nightlife spot Marquee yesterday at what was essentially a glorified press conference to introduce the company's new super-fast graphics card (the ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 X2), he said advances in technology will allow movies to be more interactive and video games to be increasingly lifelike. Playing a movie at home, users can change plots, interact with characters and even create new endings.

Video-game developers previously had to water down a film's art assets and could only make use of a more limited technology. But more powerful computing means they can now use art directly from the film.
Virtual Actor
Virtual actor rendered naturally.
In addition to photo-realistic games, directors can make use of the technology when setting up shots. They can make real-time changes in plot points -- by changing lighting, camera angles or moving assets. The technology can allow a director to envision his film in a highly realistic way -- even using virtual actors who can endlessly redo scenes with a variety of natural facial expressions.

Jules Urbach, founder of Otoy and LightStage, computer graphics and 3D rendering firms, respectively, said the new technology allows for highly detailed computer-graphics modeling. He described a complex process that allow 32,000 points per inch to realistically capture the way light falls, the drape of clothing and a fluidly accurate 360-degree movement.

Capturing these details is only one aspect of the technology. Mr. Urbach's third firm, "Jules World," is partnering with Image Metrics to develop high-quality visual animation. They are able to take a video of an actor and translate it into a virtual actor completely independent of any performance. Using this technology, he said it is possible to bring back actors from the past and realistically put them in new films. Or use virtual actors instead of real ones.
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