2019's The Lion King is changing cinema with VR
2019's The Lion King is changing cinema with VR. Image courtesy Disney.

Disney’s remake of animated masterpiece The Lion King is fast approaching its release and it’s about to revolutionizing the future of cinema with VR.

What do we mean by that? Well, as reported in an intriguing article written by Wired, the new Lion King is not just a CGI / live-action remake of the original. The upcoming Lion King was filmed completely in virtual reality. The movie’s director, Jon Favreau, and his crew shot the movie like they would any other film. They used dollies, cranes, and other tools to get the right angles. There were also lights and cameras too. They just weren’t in real life, but in VR.

Every location isn’t just a file in a computer or a practically built set. The sets are built as a 360-degree virtual environment that is full of digital animals. What is most amazing is Favreau and his crew can actually walk around in the set like they would if it were a real place.

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The world is in their fingertips

Just imagine the power that this gives Favreau and his crew. If anything isn’t to their liking, for instance, lighting, Favreau or visual effects supervisor Rob Legato can adjust the environment’s lighting to their liking.

Favreau and his crew could enter every single set in the film after putting on their VR headsets
Favreau and his crew could enter every single set in the film after putting on their VR headsets. Image courtesy Wired.

In the 3D world, the crew has set up dolly tracks or cranes, but not cameras. Instead, they use viewfinders that are about the same size and weight of a camera. When ready to block out a scene, the filmmakers would put on their headsets and figure out exactly where the cameras and lights would go. After that is all figured out, real-world camera operators would shoot the virtual environment by moving their tracked real-world viewfinders around.

The VR cinema movement never died

In the middle and later half of the 2000s, VR was hailed as the next big thing that would spark a film revolution. Many believed that people would be watching all their movies in VR and would never want to go back to a flat screen again. However, that didn’t happen and many assumed that this was the end of the VR cinema revolution. They were wrong.

The film's actors facial expression were used to help create the animals' expressions
The film’s actors facial expression were used to help create the animals’ expressions. Image courtesy Disney.

While the VR cinema revolution didn’t pan out as many thought it would, it didn’t die. The revolution did happen. It just happened in a different way. FIlmmakers now can use VR to create film-able sets in VR and capture their actors acting in the environments, later using their movements and expressions in their character models. It’s a new kind of filmmaking and when The Lion King releases July 19, we’ll see what the technology is capable of.

Image courtesy Disney and Wired