Research at Abertay University helped the blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, by bringing computer games technology into the film’s pre-production stage.
The film, which is released on DVD next week, was the biggest hit this summer at the UK box office.
Abertay Lecturer Matthew Bett has spent the last few years developing a new way of controlling ‘virtual cameras’.
Using affordable motion controllers designed for PC gaming, Matthew linked the power of a virtual camera – where a computer simulates what a film camera could see – to this affordable hardware, which was previously only intended for home gaming use.
The benefit for the pre-production stage of film production is allowing the use of these techniques, at a stage of production where they were previously unavailable due to prohibitive cost.
Film sets can be created in a game design package and freely explored by hand, switching between different camera lenses and saving individual viewpoints and ‘filming’ sections to discuss with a film’s creative team.
Matthew Bett, Computer Games Technology Lecturer at Abertay University, said: “It’s incredible that an Abertay University research project has helped pre-visualise Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a huge blockbuster film that reached millions of people around the world.
“Our project was initially inspired by amazing but prohibitively expensive developments in virtual camera technology, where filmmakers participate in real time with the computer generated worlds being created for feature films.
“What we did was adapt that exciting idea of a virtual camera to affordable games technology, allowing 3D worlds to be quickly built to test out film ideas – and with motion controllers, you can then wave your arm to test a tracking shot, or try out different angles.”
Matthew was awarded a Scottish Enterprise Fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2011 in recognition of the technical innovation of his research, and to support its further commercial development.
The research project was also supported by programmer Erin Michno, who went on to co-found award-winning game studio Quartic Llama after graduating from Abertay University.
Matthew Bett added: “When we started developing this virtual cinematography tool we had no idea it would reach the attention of world-leading filmmakers and technicians at Fox who would embrace what we were trying to achieve.
“Now we’re focused on developing the technology further, integrating it with virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, and exploring other ways we can apply this to animation and film production.”
The Abertay researchers built their system using the Razer Hydra motion controller, which uses electromagnetic sensors to capture the controller’s position and orientation to a precise single-millimetre accuracy. Unlike some other motion controllers this still works even when an object is in the way.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves and stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Enrique Murciano and Kirk Acevedo.