Modern feature films demand bigger and more impressive environments, even as the timescales and budgets shrink. Established tools are no longer up to the task of rapid iteration and interactive feedback, and new approaches are required to deliver the biggest scenes and most complex shots.
MPC Vancouver has been leveraging game engines for environment creation and layout since 2015, starting with Justice League and A Wrinkle in Time. Seeing the limitations of off-the-shelf tools, we have developed an artist-driven procedural layout tool called ‘Diorama’, which runs inside of Unity.
We’d like to present some of the tools we’ve developed, the workflow that uses them, and the shows that have benefited — including Detective Pikachu. The talk may be of interest to environments artists and layout TDs, technical artists and developers, as well as anyone interested in the convergence of film and games.
It will be followed by a discussion (with special guests) on the future of realtime tools and realtime rendering within the film industry, and will touch on virtual production, interactive movies, VR and the current state of both industries.
Both John and Alex gave a talk at SIGGRAPH last year on the use of game engines to accelerate the creation of photo-real VFX. This presentation goes further into some of the work that’s been done since then.
Head of Environments & Digital Matte Painting // MPC Vancouver
(Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Elysium, John Carter, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
Alex Jenyon is head of Environments and Digital Matte Painting at MPC Vancouver. He started his career as a freelance concept artist and matte painter in London, and has been with MPC in Vancouver since 2011. As well as managing the 35-person environments team, Alex has been developing the use of realtime tools for environment creation and rendering on some of MPC’s biggest shows.
Software Developer // MPC Vancouver
(Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Smurfs, Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
John Vanderbeck is a software developer, currently part of the team working on MPC’s ‘Genesis’ virtual production platform. Prior to this, he was a technical artist and department developer for the Environments department at MPC Vancouver. He has a background in compositing and computer science, and is the principle architect of MPC’s ‘Diorama’ environment creation and layout tools.
Head of Technology, Media & Entertainment Innovation Group // Unity Technologies
Mike is head of technology for the Media and Entertainment Innovation group at Unity — the division focused on realtime tools for film and TV. He helped found the ‘Made with Unity’ creation team, and worked with Oats Studios on the Adam realtime cinematics, as well as with Disney Television on Baymax Dreams.
Environment Supervisor // Image Engine Design
(The Mandalorian, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Spiderman: Far From Home, Godzilla: King of the Monsters)
Sepp Sonntag brings over 12 years of experience in creating digital environments for blockbuster feature films to his role as Environment and On-Set VFX Supervisor.
Hailing from Munich Germany, Sepp started his professional career as a Junior Matte Painter with Scanline VFX. His first international credits include Roland Emmerich’s 2012 and Ghost Writer.
In 2009, Sepp moved to London to take the next step in his career eventually rising through the ranks to become Matte Painting Lead for MPC.
In 2012, he was given the opportunity to transfer to MPC’s Vancouver studio where he became Environment Supervisor. Eventually he switched to Image Engine in September 2018.
With a long list of credits to his name, Sepp considers his career highlights to include working for Legendary Studios’ Godzilla: Kind of the Monsters as a VFX Plate Unit Director and supervising a photography unit in Hong Kong for Ghost in the Shell.