What is a camera? For a century of filmmaking, it was a mechanical apparatus used to capture light on film. But more and more, the camera is really just someone’s mouse in post production software, dragging, dropping, and changing the angle on a computer-generated 3D scene. So a big-budget film like The Avengers, with so much algorithmically smoothed compositing and pixelated invention, looks totally different than a perfectly flawed film like The Godfather, shot by a camera aimed by a human being.
But is there a way we could get the best of both worlds? Maybe. A new project called Make it Film! by the art director MuRo, featured on Prosthetic Knowledge, allows someone to direct a computer generated movie inside virtual reality. The scene is loaded in Unity–a major game and real-time animation engine–and its actors move about as they’ve been preprogrammed. Then, using the Oculus motion controllers and VR headset, MuRo moves his way through a space as the film’s director, and shoots it at 1:1 scale–just like if he was filming real actors.
Perhaps this all sounds like a gimmick, but one look at the footage he’s shot will leave you feeling otherwise. In one clip, he walks his way toward two, low-resolution models talking at a table. But because of this bipedal movement, the natural shake of the camera, and I think, the sheer empathetic responsiveness of any good camera operator framing a live performer, the scene is suddenly infused with emotion. For lack of a better term, it looks cinematic.
As for whether or not MuRo plans to market the software as anything more than an experiment, he has yet to decide. But I hope he does. Because The Godfather is a much better film than The Avengers.