Real Time Visualization of Film in Video Gaming

Cutscene Tool

Summary

In tough competition among 302 applicants, Bitsquid is one of approximately 30 companies that has received funding from Vinnova -- a Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. The money will be used to research and develop a tool for producing movies in the Bitsquid game engine. The tool will allow camera positioning, cutting, animation, lighting and other techniques typically used in high quality movie production.

Gaming technology differs from traditional computer movie making technology in that everything happens in real-time. With gaming technology, one second of movie takes one second to generate. You are actually watching the movie as it is being rendered. In contrast, with traditional computer generated film making, it can take hours or days to render one second of film.

The faster rendering allows movies to be made cheaper and in a more iterative and dynamic way, as cameras, lights and animations can be repositioned and tweaked without having to spend days or weeks to see the result. “This leads to huge cost savings for Bitsquid’s established customer base and also opens up new markets in the movie and architectural visualization industries” says Bitsquid CEO Johan Strömberg.

Background

Today, most computer games include one or several in-game movies (in the game development world, such movies are also known as cutscenes or in-game cinematics). Such movies can be used to set a mood, provide story background or to inform the player about her goals and the game mechanics.

Outsourcing the production of such movies to an external movie production studio is a complicated and costly procedure. First, the production cost for making a minute of live action or computer generated movie is very high. Second, the world of game development is dynamic and iterative. Often, last minute changes to a project are needed. When such changes occur, an entire movie may have to be re-shot which means that the old movie has to be scrapped and that the entire production cost will have to be paid again.

These costs can be avoided by using the game engine itself instead to create the movie. The game engine already includes a powerful renderer used to produce the game’s visuals. Unlike traditional software for producing computer-generated movies, the game engine is capable of generating the visuals in real-time, i. e., one second of visuals takes one second to generate. You are essentially watching the movie as it is being made. In contrast, generating one second of film using traditional tools for producing computer-generated movies can take hours or even days.

By using the faster real-time renderer, movies can be produced in shorter time and at a much lower cost. It also allows developers to reuse models and scenes created for the game in the production of the movies, thus eliminating the cost of developing movie specific scenery and props. In addition, since the movie is generated in real time, last minute changes can be made without incurring any extra costs. This allows the movie makers to adopt a more flexible and dynamic work-flow. The movie can even be made interactive -- i. e., made to change dynamically based on the player’s actions or the choices the player has made in the past.

In-order for this to be a viable option, the game engine needs suitable tools for in-engine movie production and playback. These tools should offer all the functionality needed for professional production of computer generated movies, such as tools for character animation, camera management, lighting, sound tracks, cutting, etc. The purpose of this project is to research how the tools and practices of movie production can be integrated in a real-time game engine, and to develop a tool that allows movies to be created and played in Bitsquid’s game engine using best practices and established work-flows from the movie industry.

A lot of segments that currently use traditional techniques for creating computer generated movies would benefit from the fast, iterative and dynamic work-flows that using a real-time game engine for movie generation would enable. Some examples of such potential new markets include architectural visualization and pre-visualization for traditional (not computer- generated) movies, in order to plan shots and camera angles.

The tool is planned to be released Q4 2013.

For more information please contact niklas.frykholm@bitsquid.se.