Hollywood technologist James Cameron’s latest masterpiece “Avatar: Way of Water” has excited many “card fans”. Thirteen years ago, “Avatar 1” used advanced film and television production technologies such as “performance capture”, “virtual production” and “real-time rendering” for the first time to create a shocking Pandora planet for the audience, making it a classic in the history of film . According to reports, the production cost of “Avatar 2” is more than 450 million US dollars. If the film is 192 minutes long, the production cost per minute is as high as 2.33 million US dollars. Such a high investment also means that the visual effects of “Avatar 2” will once again refresh the audience’s perception of 3D movies.
With its rich imagination and the parallel world created by cool special effects, “Avatar” has always been considered a very high-quality film and television version of the Metaverse. Virtual digital technologies such as motion capture, CG special effects, and 3D cameras used in the film are also key technologies applied in the Metaverse industry. Of course, creating a metaverse is far more difficult than making a movie with great audio-visual effects. The production of sci-fi movies is like a preview of the application of metaverse technology. As the development technology gradually matures, the metaverse is slowly approaching us.
How does Avatar 2 show off its skills?
The groundbreaking of “Avatar 1” lies in the use of high-end 3D technology and visual design to bring the film’s visual effects to an unprecedented height, making it a revolutionary historical node in the history of film. Since then, world movies have officially entered the era of live-action 3D from 2D. The digital technology used in the post-production of the film is also rapidly popularized, and has been applied in many later film and television works.
After a lapse of 13 years, Cameron brought “Avatar 2” to refresh the screen again. This is also the 13th year of relevant digital technology development iterations. The application of technologies such as motion capture, facial expression capture, CG special effects, and 3D camera technology has enabled “Avatar 2” to not only present a very realistic environment simulation, but also a qualitative leap in the expressiveness of character movements and expressions.
The motion capture technology is to extract the real motion data of the actors from the live performance, transmit it to the computer and fill it into the virtual character, so that the virtual character generated in this way can achieve the effect of a real performance. The process requires actors to don custom-made costumes covered with tracking points made of LED lights that emit infrared light, allowing the camera to transmit captured motion data to a computer for the final effect.
Another technology worthy of attention is the CG modeling design of characters and scenes. The well-structured environment and various creatures within reach in Avatar are all based on this technology. In addition, the film also uses technologies such as image rendering, real-scene 3D photography system, virtual photography system and collaborative work photography system.
Motion capture, CG special effects, 3D cameras, etc. are also key technologies involved in the current fiery Metaverse industry. They are used in the Metaverse to produce digital virtual humans, virtual spaces, and digital assets. The concept of the Metaverse will be popular all over the world in 2021, and virtual digital humans will also blossom everywhere in 2022, becoming the most intuitive connection between the Metaverse industry and other industries, taking the lead in interacting with people’s lives. From Liu Yexi, Luo Tianyi to Hua Zhibing, many virtual digital people frequently left the circle. The production of virtual digital humans covers artificial intelligence technology, real-time rendering technology, 3D modeling technology and motion capture technology.
In addition, in the various metaverse games that are currently considered as the entrance to the metaverse, a number of related technologies need to be applied to provide realistic effects and create a sense of immersion. Among them, “3D modeling” is the technical support for high-speed and high-quality construction of various materials in the metaverse space; “real-time rendering” also enables the realistic display of various digital scenes in the metaverse space.
Attack on Virtual Digital Technology
In fact, the virtual digital technology involved in the production of “Avatar” has long been the focus of scientific and business circles. In addition to the field of film and television production, these technologies are also widely used in game production and smart city construction.
In the past 20 years, “MIT Technology Review” has made predictions on the development trends of a number of digital technologies related to the construction of virtual worlds, focusing on “mixed reality/3D virtual reality” (2015), Technologies such as “Oculus Rift head-mounted display device” (2014) and “brain-computer interface” (2001).
Among them, the “Mixed Reality/3D Virtual Reality” technology proposed by the American start-up company Magic Leap in 2015 was selected as one of the “Top Ten Breakthrough Technologies in the World” by MIT Technology Review. What Magic Leap has to do is to present characters such as monsters in the game and the surrounding real things together in the player’s field of vision. To achieve this effect, Magic Leap must use a different stereoscopic 3D technology than before.
Previous stereoscopic 3D technology essentially “tricked” the eyes to achieve the goal, that is, by showing each eye a separate image of the same object at different angles to create a sense of depth. However, this approach forces users to simultaneously stare at a distant flat screen and a moving image in front of them, leading to dizziness, headaches and nausea, all of which are key factors holding back the development of virtual reality devices.
The 3D stereoscopic technology adopted by Magic Leap will not change the way people see things with their eyes. The product will use a micro-projector to project light onto a transparent lens, and then refract it to the retina, where the light will perfectly blend with the natural light entering the user’s eyes. In this way, virtual things and real things appear to be one and the same.
The new 3D stereoscopic technology is full of expectations, so even though Magic Leap’s products were not yet formed at the time, MIT Technology Review still decisively included the mixed reality/3D virtual reality technology represented by Magic Leap in the list of the year The market reaction is also consistent with the judgment of MIT Technology Review. As early as October 2014, Google invested USD 542 million in Magic Leap; in early 2016, companies including Alibaba, Google and Warner Bros. raised Magic Leap’s C round of financing totaling approximately USD 800 million.
Before Magic Leap, Oculus Rift (head-mounted display) was selected as one of the “Top Ten Breakthrough Technologies in the World” by MIT Technology Review in 2014, although there was no sign of the metaverse boom at that time.
In fact, technical equipment such as VR and AR are closely related to the development of the metaverse. Neil Stephenson, a science fiction writer who proposed the concept of the metaverse, once said: the metaverse is actually another way of saying VR. It can be said that without the invention of VR technology and corresponding equipment, the development of the metaverse will be much slower than expected now.
The potential of VR was foreseen as far back as 2014 when Facebook (now Meta) acquired virtual reality headset maker Oculus for $2 billion. Accompanied by the development of VR, AR and MR, as technologies for people to interact with the virtual world, have also been further developed and applied to fields such as games and social interaction.
From Avatar to the Metaverse
It is true that the Avatar series has achieved a high level of special effects in film and television, but the film only creates a parallel world from the perspective of audio and video, which is actually different from the real metaverse. With the global popularity of “Avatar 2”, related technologies will also be popularized in industries such as film and television production, and market attention will also promote the accelerated evolution of technology. With human society approaching the metaverse step by step.
Since March 2021, when Roblox, the world’s largest multiplayer online creative sandbox game platform, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in March 2021, the wind of the metaverse has swept the world, and the corresponding metaverse economy also developed rapidly. Industries including VR, AR, and brain-computer interfaces have ushered in a new inflection point of development.
Among them, VR and AR, which once made capital crazy in 2015 and 2016, have also returned to the spotlight. VR/AR equipment is regarded as an interface connecting the Metaverse world. As shown in the movie “Ready Player One”, the protagonist can enter another world by wearing the corresponding equipment. Although the Metaverse is still a world far away from us, the application scenarios of VR/AR devices are becoming more and more abundant. From movies, games to social networking, VR/AR devices are rapidly popularizing in our lives.
According to IDC data, the global AR/VR head-mounted display shipments will reach 11.23 million units in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 92.1%. Among them, the shipments of VR head-mounted displays reached 10.95 million units, breaking through the important industry turning point of annual shipments of 10 million units. In terms of market financing, there will be 340 financing mergers and acquisitions in 2021, with a scale of 55.6 billion yuan. In the first half of 2022, the total scale of financing mergers and acquisitions in the global VR/AR industry was 31.26 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 37% from the first half of 2021; the number of financing mergers and acquisitions was 172, an increase of 17% from 2021.
At present, most of the technologies related to the metaverse industry are in the stage of exploration, research and development, and perfection, but it is certain that they will be integrated into our lives in the near future, although some of the “pioneers” will die because they are too advanced . Regardless of the outcome, these cutting-edge technologies represent the latest achievements of mankind in continuously expanding the boundaries of science and technology.