Thanks to GPUs, Every Movie’s Now a Remake

by Tony Kontzer

You probably already know that GPU technology helps filmmakers render objects, water and characters in increasingly fine three-dimensional detail.

But it’s also helping film makers put together quick digital mock-ups of entire movies so that they can be marketed to the studios, Tracy McSheery, CEO of San Leandro, Calif.-based motion capture firm PhaseSpace told an audience at our recent annual GPU Technology Conference.

Would-be movie makers are doing this by pre-visualizing scenes—seeing what the film will look like in real time by putting motion-capture suits on low-budget actors and filming them in stark warehouses.

“This used to be expensive,” said McSheery. “It used to be something only Spielberg and the like could do.”

But now GPUs equipped with thousands of shaders can render scenes in real time, enabling rudimentary pre-visualizations of an entire movie to be shot in a week or two. This lets them be shown to a select audience for additional ideas and suggestions, and then shot again the same way.

The ability to create such early versions of films quickly and cheaply is critical in an industry that wants to be shown, not told, what they’re being asked to bankroll.

“No one in Hollywood reads a script anymore,” said McSheery.

It’s not just studio bean counters who benefit. Moviemakers also are finding the technologies that are pushing the limits of pre-visualization are also streamlining production of green-lit films by giving them much more than a script from which to work.

“You know how the entire movie is going to work before you hire a cast and crew,” said McSheery.

What’s more, much of the work from the pre-visualization stage is reusable. These raw shots can sometimes be converted into final scenes by bringing in big-name actors to add voice work and facial expressions, while graphic artists can add hair, shadows, clothing and background details.

And pre-visualization promises to get easier—and more affordable—thanks to the new GPUs and architectures NVIDIA keeps cranking out.

Of course, that means McSheery and the rest of the PhaseSpace staff will have to keep pushing the limits of what they can do with the technology to remain competitive.

GPUs, after all, aren’t hard to find. “NVIDIA is not only selling video cards to PhaseSpace,” he said.

Image credit: Raphael Borges