June 25, 2007

Movies in Second Life - The Next Level

As virtual worlds, as epitomised by SecondLife and perhaps ActiveWorlds, comes closer and closer to real worlds, where is it that we will have first contact ? where is it that the borderline between these two worlds will get blurred if not dissolved first ?

The obvious answer in the domain of entertainment. But how ? Today's Business Standard carries an article that explains how game developers are planning to work with the Mumbai film industry ( painfully referred to as Bollywood !) to develop interactive games based on actual movies ... and possibly using the the names and images of well known film stars.

This is good but this has been done before with Angelina Jolie and some of her movies but the real challenge is to take it to the next level ...

Why not shoot real movies, that is movies that will be shown in real life, using settings and actors in virtual worlds ?

The movie 300 has been in the news recently because of the extensive use of digital technology for creating the sets but the actors have been real people, who have played out their roles in a bleak and empty aircraft hanger. Subsequently, their images were layered on to the digital sets using fairly advanced technology.

The next frontier is when the actors themselves will be represented by their avatars in the virtual world. Can this technology be used to create full length movies without ANY optical camera at all ? Certainly, if you consider the following ..

  • The Avatars can be made to look extremely realistic and lifelike. Today, most avatars have a doll-like look but that is a matter of choice not necessity. It is not at all difficult to create 'skins' that look like very real people, if not specific individuals, like Amitabh Bachchan or Madhuri Dixit.
Emotions is the next hurdle. Currently most avatars move around rather woodenly and while this may be fine with geeky gamers who are present in SecondLife, it may not be acceptable to regular movie goers. However even here there are two pieces of technology that can come to the rescue
  • Gestures and animations are already available and a clever use of these can be made to make avatars shake hands, dance and do many other human like activities.
  • More importantly, tools have emerged to display emotions like anger and smile. The Mystic HUD gizmo that I have recently bought for my avatar gives me a two key-press access to many of these emotions.
Using, or rather activating, gestures, animations and emotions can be a little tricky and need first knowledge of their existence and more importantly nimbleness of fingers to make them visible. I for one am not very good at this and in most cases, my smile (or frown ) appears much later after the dialogue that should have triggered. Which of course means that I am a 'bad actor' in Second Life ... but then I am a 'bad actor' in real life .. which is why here I am typing blogs and not being feature in movie hoardings !!

But going forward, we can anticipate the arrival of professional actors in Second Life. What are the characteristics that they must possess ?

  • Unlike Real Life, they need not look good but they should have either bought or developed excellent 'skins' that make them look as grand and magnificent as any real life actor or actress
  • Instead of going to the gym to keep their bodies muscular or otherwise attractive, they should be knowledgeable enough to 'edit' their avatars to achieve the right physique. In fact they can also hire professional 'avatar editors' in Second Life to edit their bodies ... just as we have professional hair dressers and make up men in real life
  • They should acquire a good inventory of gestures, animations and emotions and have these available in their inventory .. so that they can create a range of emotions as and when the situation demands.
  • Finally, these people should have the dexterity to quickly press the right keys so that the right emotions appear on their avatars in the right sequence. This is analogous of going to School of Acting or School of Dancing and learning the correct steps.

Going forward, we can envisage the entire movie industry getting metamorphosed into Second Life where we will have a full cast and crew of
  • Actors and actresses .. who will play out their roles using ONLY the keyboard. This will include not only the lead players but also the junior artists ( or extras)
  • Support crew like make up artists and set designers who will not work in real life but instead work through their avatars in second life to design dresses, hairstyles and the virtual sets where the action will take place
  • Photographers who will not use 'optical light' at all ! So they cannot really be called photographers. Instead they will use non-optical moving image capture devices like screen grabbers .. like they do today when they create machinimas
What will not change will be script-writers, directors and post production staff ... who will continue with whatever they are doing except that freed from the restrictions of physics and economics of movie making, they can give full reign to their imagination and skills.

And in the competition for the Oscar for the Best Actor and Best Actress, we will have nominations from people in Real Life as well as avatar's in SecondLife ...

And may the best candidate ( person or avatar ) win !!

1 comment:

Shrikantha said...

Prithwis Da,

Plan to visit MahaMaya sometimes during weekend.