Block out scenes in VR as a team, with no time or cost pressure, and use in your virtual production volume.
No longer the preserve of large studios and the highly technical, FirstStage is truly democratising virtual production techniques to provide any filmmaker, right now, from anywhere, the opportunity to plan their virtual production.
Grab the opportunity now to benefit from virtual preproduction.
Why previs virtual production in FirstStage?
Moviestorm has been supporting the ‘democratisation’ of filmmaking through developing digital filmmaking software since 2005. To us that means making tools that are accessible and affordable to anyone.
With virtual production service and volume hire so expensive, FirstStage has been developed so that anyone can utilise those tools and techniques from anywhere, either as a low cost virtual production software replacement, or to pre-prepare and reduce virtual production session costs.
Virtual production services allow filmmakers to resolve creative decisions about shots and sequences earlier in production and reduce post-production headaches, but it is not as early or as extensive as it could be due to some limitations:
- Volume hire cost can limit the luxury of time to explore and test shot and sequence ideas.
- Just like for traditional filmmaking where blocking is done on set with the crew observing, blocking in virtual production is an equally exposed environment for the film creatives infront of the volume crew, which can inhibit experimentation and the making of valuable mistakes.
- The team invited to be in the volume is likely to be the critical few, rather than anyone in the production team with a creative or technical interest in what is being planned.
As Matt Workman confirms in the Future of Film ‘Virtual Production for Independent Filmmakers‘ podcast, filmmakers should make as many of the decisions and initial mistakes ahead of time to maximise every hour, as volumes cost by the hour for everything, making it very expensive to be on the actual stage. What is needed is a previs tool that anyone can afford to use and is available whenever they need it, that allows previs teams to build, explore, test and share ideas in order to make creative decisions in a non-pressurised collaborative environment, and the rest of the team to contribute via tablets and other practical means, so that when the meter starts ticking in the volume, you have a solid plan and can optimise the time spent in the volume to deliver the best possible results.
In this context FirstStage seeks to deliver a virtual preproduction tool to creatively experiment, make mistakes and test ideas alone, or collaboratively with your team. An affordable process that ultimately outputs valuable data that can reduce virtual production time and cost, and improve the vision.
“Previs has traditionally been created via animation software optimized for premium image quality at the cost of long render times. The process involves artists painstakingly creating versions of scenes with neither optimal image quality nor real-time malleability. As a result, the filmmakers can feel decoupled from what should be a hands-on and collaborative development process, and the true talents of department heads are not being fully leveraged.“
Inclusive, accessible and real-time collaborative scene construction and blocking for your team
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 previsInteraction 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.
What can you do and create?
Build and analyse your set
It doesn’t matter how difficult access is to a location, you can explore your virtual production options in VR whenever you want, and for as long as you want.
Import LIDAR and photogrammetry scans, Google map data or simply sketch 3d sets in VR from aerial and reference photos and measurements, then analyse the space:
- Distances can be checked with virtual measurement tools to ensure equipment access.
- Sight lines analysed for potential camera positions, shot composition and reverse angles tested, so you only add detail to your set where it is needed.
- Build a template shape of your target volume and volume walls and keep it in your Asset Library to move around locations in order to select the best position and orientation to recreate the location in the volume.
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.
- Choose from hundreds of pre-supplied 3d assets and place them immediately on stage.
- If what you want is not in the Asset Library, quickly 3d sketch a proxy of what you need in VR
- Alternatively, import existing 3d assets and scans into the Asset Library using our import guides. There are loads of low cost high quality models in 3rd party asset stores, such as Unity’s.
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 higher detail models at any time
Block out the scene beforehand to reduce costs
Enjoy limitless time to experiment with blocking on your virtual set, then export the scene into your virtual production session to save volume hire time and cost.
Spend as much time as you need planning production on your virtual stage, so that when in production, time to experiment and make mistakes has been had without the meter running and all eyes upon you. Once a virtual stage is freely available in FirstStage, any of the production team have unlimited access to experiment with scene choreography, camera placement and movement, lighting, etc., so everyone gets full opportunity to contribute from the start. Even planned VFX can be previsualised within the scene.
Real-time and offline collaboration
The opportunity to jump onto the stage with your 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, tool use needs to be intuitive. 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 unison in VR.
FirstStage manages the stack of object interactions, so multiple people can work however they want to on the same stage at the same time. For example, everyone could pitch in with staging the set to speed up that process, or some can start choreographing actors alongside others placing cameras, while the set continues to be updated by the set designer. So, objects can be passed about in real time, or locked so that others cannot accidentally change them.
FirstStage also allows you to manage time, such that you can be ‘Master’ of the timeline, and anyone who is set to ‘Follow’ will see what you see when you scrub or playback time. If you’re busy doing something else however, you can be ‘Independent’.
FirstStage also supports offline collaboration. You can leave scribbled notes, take reference photos and leave audio files to request changes. When selected to be viewed by others, FirstStage will take them not just to the communication, but also to the time and viewpoint of the person when they created it.
Collaboratingin realtime VR is brilliant, but it will not always be the case that everyone has access to a VR set up, so further democratisation of the tool comes from communicating and contributing via other interfaces.
- The FirstStage VR feed is displayed in a window on your desktop, that can be added as a shared screen in video conference calls. As many people as you wish can then be given a tour of the set and watch the action played back live and request changes.
- The scene can also be viewed via a smart phone or tablet, allowing the viewer to negotiate the set, talk to people on set, and even leave notes.
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 of 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.