Alex Topaller and Dan Shapiro, directors and founders at Aggressive, choose five excellent examples of boundary-pushing innovation in XR
Coming from a mixed background of film, design, visual effects and experiential, we have been extremely excited about XR and virtual production, embracing it early on, and sticking LED panels into as many of our projects as possible. It seems that we get a call when things are truly complex, so we had the opportunity to really push the XR medium, trying new - and unorthodox - things along the way, from building a custom 60-foot-long LED Fisher light for our Acura project, to mapping a live camera-feed of the 50-yard line of SoFi Stadium onto an XR stage for Verizon. But nothing is done in a vacuum - we are constantly amazed by our fellow filmmakers’ work, who are doing incredible things and pushing the frontier. Below are five notable examples of XR technology; some we chose for artistic achievement, some for historic significance, some for technological trailblazing...
Katy Perry x American Idol - '2020 Finale: Daisies'
Production: XR Studios x Silent Partners Studio
This performance was one of the first mainstream demonstrations of XR, showing its incredible potential: a live, in-camera broadcast performance on LED stage to an audience of millions in the midst of a pandemic - set in a dynamic and visually stylised animated environment. It was also one of the first uses of real-time in-camera set-extensions, allowing the CG environment and camera moves to go beyond the confines of the physical set.
'Joker' - Subway Scene
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures x DC Films x Village Roadshow Pictures
For this iconic scene of Joker's first crime, a full-size subway car set was boxed in by LED walls outside the windows. It wasn’t the first time LEDs have been used in this manner, but what makes this exciting is the application of realtime control over the content to work hand-in-hand with the spontaneity of the actors’ performances. By animating and triggering the passing subway tunnels, lights and platforms in real-time, Lawrence Sher ASC and the team crafted a dynamic and interactive lighting environment that was modulated with the ups and downs of the characters.
'2020 World Championship Finals'
Production: Riot Games x Lux Machina
This is a great example of a large-scale live broadcast that combines multiple cameras, exciting XR and AR effects, and places numerous talent inside an ambitious and dynamic game world for a seamless viewer experience, bringing the game world to life.
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures x DC Entertainment x 6th & Idaho Productions x Dylan Clark Productions
As with ground-breaking productions like 'The Mandalorian' before it, it’s incredibly exciting to see worlds come alive through the use of XR and LED technology, and 'The Batman' pushes that benchmark further. Matt Reeves, Greg Fraser and teams wrapped the characters and storyline within a living, breathing and totally immersive representation of Gotham - for one of the first times crafting a realistic urban cinematic environment with its own distinctive visual personality, architecture, lighting feel and gritty tactile quality.
OnePlus - 'Nord 2 5G'
Production: The Sweetshop Shanghai x Aggressive x OTO Film x TigreLab
Post: Heckler Singapore
Sound: MassiveMusic Tokyo
As we were looking for a more conventional advertising example, we decided to shamelessly plug our own project for OnePlus. What made this spot particularly fun for us, is that we embraced a truly mixed-media approach to our scenes and environments, trying to figure unconventional ways of executing our shots and transitions, combining practical foreground sets and LED backdrops. From Unreal Engine forests sped up in time, to collage landscapes mixed with miniatures and puppetry, to hyper-colour motion-graphics tunnels, to travelling through a first person video-game world - each shot was a puzzle to figure out and solve with the magic of virtual production.