FirstStage is an easy to use VR-based previs tool for exploring cinematic ideas and analysing production risks as a team. Its great fun too!
No longer the preserve of large studios and the highly technical, FirstStage is the first virtual production previs tool that can be used by any filmmaker, right now, from anywhere, at a truly affordable price.
Embrace the future and realise the benefits of virtual previs, now!
Why previs and why FirstStage?
Film production can often suffer from limited budget, and when very limited, previsualisation can be scarcely adopted to the potential detriment of the final production.
Typically, traditional filmmaking previs activities extend to location scouting, 2d storyboards or animatics, and/or some set design, with a view to preparing for the expensive production shoots. Though these are tried and tested activities that sit comfortably in traditional filmmaking workflows, they still have limitations:
They tend to be siloed, linear, costly and potentially wasteful activities, the results of which stand alone in the moment but are rarely directly built upon.
- They do not fully expose opportunities or limitations in a timely fashion, leading to creative compromise down the line.
- They do not allow for fast creative and iterative experimentation, let alone realtime.
- They only partially communicate their ideas to the team or customer, and do not go near providing role-specific virtual views of future production plans.
- Production and post-production voices tend to be missed, with development and pre-production access limited to a few to avoid linear process delays.
In this context FirstStage seeks to deliver an affordable, cohesive, efficient and collaborative way to prepare for production, where previs is accessible, iterative and real-time, and goes deeper, delivering more extensive value.
“FirstStage offers the opportunity to communicate the ideas of the director, the DOP, the lighting designer and the set designer, in a team or individually, in a clearly understandable way.“
CEO, Vogel Audiovision GmbH
Inclusive and accessible virtual platform for realtime or offline collaboration
How easy is it to use?
FirstStage has been developed on top of a four year European R&D project into natural user interfaces for previs
Interaction isn’t acheived via deep menus and complex timelines, it uses the visual benefits of 3d VR to deliver a natural user experience with virtual world enhancements.
- Natural movement
- Simple games controls
- Wristpad tablet
- Realtime 3d timeline
- Character posing
- Asset Library
- Handheld cameras
- Collaboration interactions
No matter what technical skill level, this is a tool for anyone to naturally use, and enjoy the benefits of a physically active software interface.
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What can you do and create?
Build and analyse your set
Times Square? Stonehenge? A sound stage? It doesn’t matter how difficult access is, you can soon be exploring your options in VR whenever, and for as long as you want.
Import LIDAR and photogrammetry scans, Google map data or simply sketch 3d sets in VR from reference photos and measurements, then analyse the space for supporting the scene’s action and shot needs.
Set design and staging
FirstStage offers a number of frictionless ways to explore set design opportunities and limitations that do not leave you waiting on others to provide the tools and materials.
You can choose from thousands of pre-supplied 3d assets and place them immediately on stage. But if what you really want is not there, either quickly 3d sketch a proxy of what you need in VR, or import 1st or 3rd party assets and scans into the Asset Library.
Scene quality can improve iteratively in the background too. Assets used on set are referenced from the Asset Repository, so at any time, they can be exported, updated and re-imported, or simply replaced with more high fidelity models at any time.
Block out the scene and create a more informed shot list
FirstStage offers a real-time workflow, such that you can experiment with blocking on your virtual set and confidently create a shot list from it to take on set.
So, whereas often a shot list will be established without the advantage of actually visiting the set and seeing the opportunities, in FirstStage once the set has been built, you get to virtually block out the scene as a team, in your own time. Then when in production, blocking as such is minimal, with confidence that the best action and shots have been discovered without the meter running and all eyes upon you.
Once the virtual set is freely available in FirstStage, any of the production team have unlimited access to experiment with scene choreography, camera placement and movement, and lighting.
Kit access and reverse angles can be tested, alongside shot composition. Even planned VFX can be previsualised within the scene.
Real-time and offline collaboration
The opportunity to jump onto the stage with your previs team and create, play, test and share in real-time, anytime you want, for as long as you want, is huge.
But its not just that. There is little point everyone being there watching one person do all the work, as happens with so many technically complex production tools, so FirstStage’s natural user interface allows all abilities to get creative and contribute in VR … but you can just use a screen to watch and instruct if you want.
The key here is that FirstStage manages the interactions so that you can work together and see the updates in the right order. So multiple people can contribute over any one thing, or they can operate in their standard team roles, as they would on set.
Export into your workflow
Ever commissioned a storyboard and thought the frames were not exactly what you pictured in your mind’s eye, so needed costly time-consuming revisions?
Rather than pay for bespoke hand drawn art to visualise scenes, build them in FirstStage and have the luxury of infinite change as you explore scene choreography and lighting, aspect ratios and the rule of thirds, camera shots and movement, capturing a timeline of keyframes that deliver a roadmap to your cinematic vision.
At a basic level, simply pose 3d characters, adjust lighting and position cameras on your set to create a set of storyboard frames that describe the scene action. But add in character animation and camera movement and you can explore timings, parameter settings and the feasibility of the action before you export your frames with all the supportive data you need.
Animatics are in essence an animated storyboard, and in FirstStage it is a natural progression to set static keyframes, then animate between them.
Animation can be layered up using mocap, game-style steering, or by setting keyframes, until you have what you want.
You can export a sequential timeline shots, or footage from specific cameras and edit them elsewhere. The key is that at any time, you can go back, make changes and update. Access to the set is always there, for you and your team to work as if on the real one.
Ultimately, keyframes can be exported as images alongside available scene data to insert into your preferred shot list format to share then take on set, confident in the knowledge that most composition and logistical thoughts have been tested, without impacting the budget.
Alongside frames, export positional and parameter data and timings to aide production, in the knowledge that the scene physically works.