‘Wonder Buffalo’ filmmakers Receive ETC@USC Innovation Technology Award

Article: http://variety.com/2016/artisans/news/etcusc-wonder-buffalo-filmmakers-receive-etcusc-innovation-technology-award-1201886005/ 

Project epitomizes experimentation with new technology in film production

The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California has picked filmmakerChristine Berg and her writing partner Simon Shterenberg to receive its 2016 Innovative Technology award for their Cloud Project Initiative on behalf of “Wonder Buffalo,“ their film/alternate reality/virtual reality project.

The script for “Wonder Buffalo” was developed by the duo at the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Program, which pairs military veterans with WGA film and television writers.

A live-action coming of age story, “Wonder Buffalo” follows an overweight first-generation Thai American teen who dreads her duties as a daughter. She runs away from home to attend a local cosplay event at her favorite comic book store. Along the way, in her imagination she battles monsters, superheroes, and annoying school bullies, ultimately preparing her for a battle against her most powerful nemesis—her mother.

Supporters for the project include Disney/ABC Television Group, Warner Bros., NAGRA Kudelski Group, Technicolor, Equinix, Sony Electronics, Amazon Web Services, the Creative Visions Foundation, The World Building Institute, and USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The project leans on alternate reality, virtual reality, and various technology platforms – including the open-source Cinema Content Creation Cloud (C4) – to tell its story.

“[We are} excited take part in the production of ‘Wonder Buffalo,’ says André Kudelski, chairman and CEO, NAGRA Kudelski Group. “We look forward to the innovations in entertainment technology and security that will result from this project.”

“The ‘Wonder Buffalo’ project with ETC offers a unique opportunity to push the boundaries of how entertainment is created and consumed,” adds Sandra Carvalho, Technicolor’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We are looking forward to engaging with the creative technology community to further explore how HDR and immersive media can empower storytellers.”

Erik Weaver, executive producer, is project director of the Cloud Project and head of the cloud track at NAB. Drew Diamond, producer of “Wonder Buffalo,” produced the previous ETC film, “The Suitcase”.

Production designer and USC Professor Alex McDowell (“Fight Club”), in conjunction with the World Building Media Lab, will oversee the AR/VR and mixed media for the project. His VR experience, “The Leviathan Project,” premiered as an official selection at Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier exhibit earlier this year. Technical Director Joshua Kolden, visual effects artist for “Fight Club” and previs supervisor for “The Day After Tomorrow,” is leading the C4 efforts for the project.

Composer Robert Lydecker (“Sleepy Hollow”) will join the team to score. Jami Rudofsky (“Gilmore Girls”) will be casting director.

Says the project’s writer/director Christine Berg, “It’s quite an honor to be a part of this process, and to see my story come to life with such wonderful advocates.”

McDowell adds, “the production demands of new mixed reality media offer a timely opportunity to re-evaluate and stimulate our traditional production processes as they flow kicking and screaming into the 21st century. USC Cinematic Arts is uniquely positioned to revolutionize how productions can integrate shared-assets from linear narrative through immersive media, and to illustrate how stories can exist across multiple platforms.”

James Foley Says ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ VR Experience Has Changed How He Sees Filmmaking

Article: http://deadline.com/2016/10/fifty-shades-darker-virtual-reality-material-james-foley-1201835961/amp/

Director James Foley said that virtual reality technology is being used in the marketing materials for his upcoming Fifty Shades Darker and that it has led him to think in new ways about filmmaking, saying it provides the ultimate liberation for both actor and director in opening up a 360-degree space.



The VR Moment That Made Steven Spielberg Feel 'Like A Kid Again'

“Yeah, there’s marketing materials for behind-the scenes [of Fifty Shades Darker], where after we finished shooting for the day, the actors would stay over and VR people would re-create a facsimile of the scene,” Foley told an audience today at the VR on the Lot confab at Paramount.

“My own personal instinct is that cinema is going to move to VR because it’s an extension of the visual language,” he said. “For myself, watching the material they generated expanded my brain.”

Foley, whose recent credits include helming Netflix’s House Of Cardsand Fox’s Wayward Pines, is attached to the next two installments of the movie franchise — Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, with Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan back to reprise their roles in the adaption of E.L. James’ wildly successful book series. (The first pic, the Sam Taylor-Johnson directed Fifty Shades Of Grey, made $571 million worldwide). Universal releases Fifty Shades Darker on February 10, 2017 and Fifty Shades Freed in February 2018, but don’t expect VR in any scenes even by then.

“This all needs to be reinvented,” he said, referring to the transition from traditional cinema to VR that must take place as experts are brought in to consult with talent on both sides of the camera — something Foley said was akin to the transition between film and digital. But, he added, “the train is leaving the station, I think, and travelling really fast.”

Still, Foley said he will continue to pursue collaborators as he always has — on the basis of something less technical and more human. “My idea of collecting a crew has always been the same—you meet people that you know have the technical expertise, and then its just what’s in their heart and soul,” he said.

November 30th

I finally got my project stitched in stereo by jaunt on their cloud services through dozer!


The challenges I've been facing as of recent are those having to do with balancing projects. I have come to realize that once you take on more than one project, one or both of them suffer. I'm looking forward to buckling down next semester on animation for my project. 


However, I am waiting to hear back from Dome3D about a quote for a dome for the show in May. This knowledge wil be gained due to another project. 


I have distribution interest from Grab studios for my project. 


I will be putting one scene of the film through the pipeline for my faculty critique on December 10th 






October 26th

The shoot was last weekend and we have stitched all 7 takes in Autopano for a mono output.  I have emailed Cliff at Jaunt to request access to their Dozer software so I can do a stereo stitch.  Waiting to hear back from him.  For the near term i need to make an animatic and redo my schedule.  

October 19th

This weekend we constructed the first 360 green screen set up to film our dancers in for the Virtual Reality Headset. Check out this video of the dance (not on the Jaunt 360 camera, just on a Canon 5D For internet update purposes!)

October 12th

My thesis shoot is this weekend on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. Because nobody requested to book the stages this weekend before last Friday, the stage is securely ours. We went to safety seminars twice to be able to use the stage and have gotten all of our rental equiptment squared away from USC, Zemekis, and Keno. My DP and I are going to xRez on Thursday to pick up the Jaunt camera.  We are still getting grips on board.  

I met with chanel summers the sound mixer. and apparently i might not have to do interactive audio.  I may just be able to play the sound from the phone into speakers around the viewer in a dome pop up. This way it can still be used on a mobile phone and not streamed out through Unity for the final product. This makes the piece more mobile (literally).  

Challenges from this week: Coordinating and communicating with people to come to the shoot and making clear that they understand what they need to do.  Getting all the last minute loose ends cleared away.  


September 28th

This week I've been busy planning the virtual reality club's demo day event for the future distribution portion of my film, meeting with the dancers to workshop choreography, and ordering supplies for the production shoot coming up October 17th and 18th.

This week my Producer, Jen, and I have put in a request to rent Marley floor for the dancers on the day of the shoot so they will not have to dance on the concrete and so that there is not as much green screen spill coming from the ground.  

We also booked rehearsal times in the Pieter Dance studio for our dancers Rissi and Ejay.  They have also brought on board another choreographer, Neaz, to have a separate pair of eyes to supervise and collaborate on the choreography.  

We are attending a safety seminar this Friday at Zemekis to be able to shoot in their stages.  

I have also contacted SCA's stock footage librarian, Dino, about getting some stock footage for my film. I sent him the list of things that I need, and he has not responded for a week, so i'll email him again.  

I am also tossing around the idea in my head of using depth data cameras like kinects to record the depth data of the dancers on the shoot to make them into OBJs in post then re-texturing them.  I have emailed Mark Bolas about this possibility and am eagerly awaiting his response to discuss. 

As for tomorrow's presentation, I will be unleashing the immense amount of information that I have gathered from all my meetings. 


September 21st, 2015

This past week I have secured a camera from Jaunt with the help from my faculty adviser, Eric Hanson. We will be testing for the first few weeks on October, and then Shoot the dancers for the last two weekends in October! 

However, i'm looking into getting some sort of depth data camera to get supplemental to the jaunt and pairing that with a stereo rig of 8 Cannon 5Ds. Trying to overshoot and test a variety of things.  

This week, my funds from the Peter Morton Scholarship were dispursed and I will use this to pay for the mats that the dancers will dance on from Matsmatsmats.com! Unless anyone knows of a cheap place to rent mats for dancers. 

The challenges that I have faced this week in relation to my thesis is trying to get the most out of my shoot with the budget that I have collected thus far. I would love to experiment with more expensive cameras like the red, or depth data cameras, but this would make my budget go over what we have.  So I might apply for finishing funds. However, these would not come until I am in post-production mode which is not where I would need to be spending money. 

The clock is counting down to our shoot on October 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th. We have to get ready by then. I am meeting with my Dancers on Thursday for a progress check.  We will be doing a rehearsal in Zemekis stage E & D where the shoot is going to be with the dancers on October 15th and show them how much room they have to dance in.  We should probably take them over there sooner to show them. Or give them the mats we will order for them so they can get used to dancing on those! 

All very good progress. I have also secured a friend of mine who I used to work with at VT Production Design, VIckie, To help me stitch together my footage from the 5Ds and Jaunt Camera (she was trained last week for the jaunt camera wahoo!) 

September 14th, 2015 Thesis

Had a lot of extremely critical meetings this week.

Met with Alan from the Zemekis Center to do a tech scout and ask about what equiptment we can use for the shoot.

Met with Mike Fink who gave me a lot of advice on how to shoot on the production shoot day. He gave me and my DP, Griffin, a lof of food for thought in terms of how to set up and rig the greenscreen in Zemekis. Telling us about John and Kay Erland's greenscreens at composite components. As well as lighting advice. And got me thinking about using a point cloud to map the visuals to the dancers bodies instead of manually tracking them all by hand. This was an excellent suggestion that I will discuss the possibility of with my boss, Vangelis at the Mxr studio. #mocap. His friend also might have a 360 camera rig we could borrow. Stay tuned.

Met with my producer Jen to recalculate the budget with the measurements from zemekis for green screen, speedrail, camera options, and flooring for the dancers. 

Google Jump also sent out a notice that they will have their camera, which is now Gopro Odyssey, available in youtube spaces.However, to shoot in a youtube space, your youtube channel has to have more than 10,000 subscribers.. anyone know anyone who likes to collaborate? 

Met with Vickie this evening who is 360stitcher who has worked for VRSE. She had a TON of great advice on camera rigs. We pretty much decided that go pros are out of the question and inappropriate for this project due to the greenscreen. Mike fink agrees. I will need to discuss the potential of making a stereo 360 rig out of 8 cannon 5Ds with Eric Hanson this Wednesday. 

I am meeting with my dancers on thursday for a choreography progress check.  

A lot of good problems to solve. Baby steps and lots meetings for the sake of collaboration and art. 


September 7th, 2015

This week I have come to terms with the fact that I havn't allocated myself enough time for meetings during the day. Though I am only attending three of the five classes I am registered for, Balancing my Thesis project with the MxR Lab, classes, My Library work study job, relationships, keeping my living space clean, and being the president of USC's Virtual Reality club is proving to be to much. Somethings got to give. Unfortunately It looks like it will have to be my work study job. This will free up another 10 hours per week to dedicate to my thesis project. Priorities.  

This upcoming week I will be meeting with a myriad of different people to help me iron our more details of the production portion of my thesis: 

Mike Fink: how to set up a greenscreen for 360 shooting? Will a gopro be feasible to shoot with on a greenscreen? 

Vickie Huang (Stitching Pro): Which camera should I use for the highest quality composite with the greenscreen? Can she help me shoot/Stitch? 

Alan/Joe Wallenstein: confirming that I can shoot in Zemekis at the end of October. 

This week I met with my dancers and went over the story with them and explained to them why it is different that this project is in 360 degrees. we will have weekly check ins on thursdays for the next 6 weeks until the shoot day. but I have reserved zemekis for rehearsal days to ensure that they will have practice time in Zemekis. I will also have to order white mats for them to dance on in zemekis. Unfortunately, Rissi, the female dancer got sick over the weekend however, so this might put us a week behind in Choreography.  This is alright because the shoot isn't till the end of October.  

Challenges & Accomplishments this week

I've been facing some challenges in production this week. 

If i'm tracking 2D visuals on stereo images, will it flatten the image anyways? therefore, do i need to shoot stereo? or can it be mono? If it can be mono, I can use a simpler camera rig like the 360 Hero rig.  Would love some pro tips or feedback on mono vs. stereo in vr. 

Accomplishments for the week: Getting closer to being able to rent a sound stage at the Zemekis sound stage. only a few more meetings! I hope we get the dates that we want, i hear the stages get booked pretty quickly at the beginning of the semester. Fingers crossed. 

Thesis Project: Motion Tracked Dance Video in Virtual Reality about the Myth of the Soulmates

I'm entering into the last year of my animation education at the University of Southern California and therefore I get the opportunity to dive into a year long project of my choosing. They tell us to make the project we want to make, not the one we think we 'should' make. I look at my past experience with motion tracking projected visuals with a kinect on dancers live and decide to push it one step further. Instead of tracking visuals live, we can prerender motion tracked visuals onto dancers to tell a linear abstract narrative inspired by Plato's Soulmate myth. All of this happening around you in 360 degrees. #immersive 

Starting VRSC: USC's Virtual Reality

Jake Green approached me last semester with an Idea to start a Virtual reality club at US, but because he was graduating, he passed the torch onto me and a few other students to fully launch the VR club at USC. This semester we plan to centralize the vr community at usc and educate students about virtual reality and prepare them with the skills to develop content in VR. Should be a good semester :) 

Mxr Lab Project: Madame Marascino Mansion of Murder and Mystery

Christine Barron and I are directing a stop motion haunted mansion experience in VR this summer in accordance with a virtual reality research lab on caps at USC. It will incorporate 3D scanning, 3D printing, silicone molded puppets, an original turntable programmed precisely to record the data of an animated stop motion puppet to come to life in 360 degrees, horror and comedy. Stay tuned for updates!