Replicas used game-development tools to bring its sci-fi world to life
Wednesday February 6, 2019. 12:45 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / In Replicas, Keanu Reeves plays William Foster, a scientist attempting to transfer a human mind into an android. (credit: Entertainment Studios)
The new science fiction film, Replicas, starring Keanu Reeves, achieved some pretty impressive visual effects, given its relatively modest $30 million budget. The secret: using a suite of game-development animation tools for modeling and motion capture. Replicas may have struggled at the box office, but it just might portend the future of filmmaking, creating a space where smaller projects have the ability to create cutting-edge special effects at a fraction of the cost typically paid by major studios.
The most popular industry tool for CGI rendering is Maya, a 3D computer graphics/computer modeling program that owes its popularity in part to the fact that it's designed to be open to third-party software. That means users can adapt the suite into their own customized versions. (Large movie studios in particular tend to write piles of custom code for their productions.) Maya offers a wide range of special tools to realistically emulate the dynamic properties of complicated things like steam, blowing leaves, tornadoes, hair, fur, smoke, clouds, explosions, and clothing and other fabrics—just about anything Hollywood can dream up.
But Maya is expensive and can quickly eat up a production budget just in the design and pre-visualization stages. A single four-minute pre-viz sequence can cost $350,000 or more. That's why Replicas Executive Producer James Dodson brought in a cheaper alternative for those early stages: iClone, a suite of animation software tools frequently used by game developers.
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