The USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), Icon Imaging Studio, Lightstage LLC and House of Moves (HOM) recently collaborated to develop a new process of creating digital doubles for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, from New Line Cinema, Contrafilm Production and Warner Bros. Pictures.
The mysterious island is a place of stunning beauty, strange and threatening life forms, volcanoes and mountains of gold. To capture the full extent of the action, digital doubles were created for the film’s main actors – Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens and Luis Guzman.
“When you have many VFX studios working on a project and they are just getting raw data, you can get vast discrepancies in shots with digital doubles. This is time consuming and expensive to correct,” explained visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis. “For Journey 2, we wanted to create a single data set with high-res geometry, texturing and lighting as well as a skeleton with a fundamental range of motion for all our vendors to use for their characters. Working with ICT, Icon, Lightstage LLC and HOM, we were able to fuse their individual proprietary technologies to create a new process that was convenient for the actors with amazing results.”
ICT’s Light Stage 6 captured full body lighting scenarios simultaneous to the scanning of character topology by Icon Imaging. Lightstage LLC recorded the actors’ facial shapes and appearances at the level of pore detail and fine creases. HOM contributed character rigging and conducted mocap sessions. All facial and full body data, lighting and textures were captured in just a few hours resulting in the creation of high-quality digital doubles that were ready for the VFX vendors with minimal time required of the talent.
The collaboration represents the first commercial use of ICT’s Light Stage 6, a 26-foot diameter sphere outfitted with over 6,000 LEDs and multiple cameras that digitize full body texture and reflectance data. By devising a way to insert Icon Imaging’s 3D scanning system into the Light Stage 6 dome, lighting data and full body scanning could be derived simultaneously resulting in immediate photo-quality 3D textures and eliminating a lot of time consuming steps along the way. Taking data from two completely different systems and getting them to align posed a challenge to all teams involved, but they refined a custom process for lining up the geometric lighting information with Icon’s 3D scans using reference points.
“With this process, the VFX vendors on the show were able to start at the 50-yard line, so to speak, instead of working from scratch and laboring through the tedious R&D process of building digital doubles,” said Paul Debevec, who heads up the graphics lab at ICT and developed both the Light Stage 6 and the technology behind the facial scanning Light Stage used by Lightstage LLC. “With the physical proximity of ICT, Icon and House of Moves, talent was in and out having had their body scan, texture, lighting and mocap data all captured in under three hours.”
“Paul and I had designed equipment completely separately but with the same purpose in mind. We took it over to ICT’s LS6 and it was kismet that it all fit perfectly – that was the easy part,” said Domi Piturro, president, Icon Imaging Studio. “We had to do some technology wrangling to make our systems complement each other but conceptually they were meant to join and in the end this new digital double system saves a huge amount of time while providing the highest quality possible. Perfect models literally went straight into productions without even one call for revisions.”
Once scanning was complete, the 3D model data was sent to HOM. The actors walked across the street – literally – to the HOM stages. Full body motion capture was completed on HOM stage 2, which is equipped with Vicon T160 cameras, to stress test character movement. HOM then tracked and retargeted the data to package for the VFX vendors.
“This process is going to redefine how digital doubles are made for film,” said Brian Rausch, vice president of production, House of Moves. “Before this process, mocap could not be completed until the models came back from VFX studios. The pipeline deployed on this project not only expedites the process, but now production companies have complete control over all the different layers of a character, how the light reacts with the character and their range of movement – something they haven’t really had before.”
Many of the film’s wide sweeping shots, such as travel montages, exteriors and wide angles of the beach featured digital doubles.
“With this digital double pipeline, the models are the best quality I have worked with and we were able to get them into production with the VFX studios quickly,” Shermis said. “I definitely foresee using this process again on future projects.”