You may or may not have heard about a recent preview, so to speak, of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, a movie due in cinemas at the end of this year. This has created some concern and confusion over the film. Now before I continue, the aim of this blog isn’t to go into depth about these concerns specifically, because to be honest there are many websites already talking about it and I simply want to suggest some of the potential repercussions.
To summarise, there was some confusion regarding Peter Jackson's new epic because it was being filmed using 48 frames per second (FPS) instead off the 'standard' 24 FPS. What this incurs for the actual viewer is that it makes the film appear much more surreal – where as the person watching may not feel like they’re watching a film in the usual visual context.
Now that’s the catch-up done, what I wanted to discuss on top of this was that all these changes, including VFX making the move from 2k to 4k and the growing appeal for 3D stereoscopic production, this presents a huge challenge for post-production studios out there. Why is this? Well it’s because all these extra changes and upgrades being requested by major studios will take longer and cost more to implement.
For example, if we were to convert the VFX of a movie from 2k resolution to 4k resolution (used typically in IMAX cinemas) you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s twice the data consumption, which would be bad enough. But it’s not! The increase in resolution is exponential. So instead of twice the data increase it’s actually 4 times the data increase and that means 4 times the amount of storage needed to store it all. This, as you can imagine, creates quite a problem in terms of networking solutions and storage within VFX houses, where many may need to consider upgrading.
Another good example of this was when ILM had to render out the extremely detailed scenes up to resolutions of 4k for Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, with the director Michael Bay revealing that the storage needed for all the CG assets in the movie amounted to a massive 140TB on ILM's servers. To put that into perspective that’s approximately the equivalent of a whopping 5,600 single layer blu-ray discs.
Now, advances are being made in the way of storage solutions to meet the demand studios like ILM require, such as super-fast data streaming, and using Solid State Drives (SSD's), but these are still a relatively new technology. And although the prices are falling rapidly they are nowhere near the kind of cost that traditional hard drives are at now (or were before the earthquake in Taiwan at least). So with the advances in processor fabrication and when this technology becomes more accessible to all post-production houses out there we should be able to expect a massive increase in productivity. As well as that we should also look forward to having the ability to create next-gen visuals. This in turn should make the whole industry in visual effects a lot more streamlined and as already mentioned, massively more productive for both artists and studios alike.