Series Explores Sight and Sound

Still from Fox Innovation Labs' VR "Martian" Experience

The Creative Master Series offers attendees a unique opportunity to hear and learn from some of the entertainment industry’s most innovative, creative and technical minds, those pushing boundaries in the production of film, television and virtual reality (VR) content. These sessions offer audiences access to the perspectives and strategies of industry talents, technicians and trendsetters.

Today’s Creative Master Series opens with an interview presented by the American Society of Cinematographers, offering an in-depth discussion between American Cinematographer magazine contributor David Heuring and James Neihouse, ASC, about shooting for large-format projection on the new Imax documentary from Walt Disney Studios, “A Beautiful Planet.”

The following session is a much-anticipated series keynote panel, “Virtual Reality, Immersive Storytelling Meets Interactive Technology.” VR has reached some major milestones since the 2015 NAB Show, jumping from an exciting concept to an actual business with seemingly limitless potential. Ted Schilowitz, who holds the titles “Futurist for 20th Century Fox” and “CinemaVangelist” for Barco, will moderate a panel of some of the foremost experts in the VR space: Rob Bredow, CTO, LucasFilm and Robert Stromberg, founder/CCO and director at The Virtual Reality Co. (VRC).

“These are some of the most interesting people in VR,” Schilowitz said. “I’m looking forward to talking about projects they’re working on and delving into their thinking about where they believe VR is going and defining what this new medium allows. I want to know what they see as the near-term and longer-term goals and who they expect to emerge as leaders in the space.”

Schilowitz said that access to VR content is expanding rapidly with major corporate moves such as Samsung’s recent giveaway of a huge number of Gear VR headsets to Galaxy S7 and S7 edge customers. “Those numbers are very large,” he said, “and that creates an instant market. There are three major, tethered platform systems all coming to market very close together: Oculus, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. The discussion since this time last year has come from, ‘I wonder if people are going to have these products in their homes’ to, ‘People are going to have these products in their homes in significant numbers.’”

Now, Schilowitz emphasized, is the perfect time to hear what all these leaders in the space have to say. “I always try to bring candor to this type of event. I want to get people’s real opinions, not the party line. I try to stir up controversy. ‘What do you really think and what are your concerns?’ It should be fun!”

The last session of the day, a discussion presented by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), “Awaken to the Power Behind the Force — The Making of ‘Star Wars,’” will bring together the film’s supervising sound editor Matthew Wood of Skywalker Sound, and Pat Tubach, visual effects supervisor for Industrial Light and Magic. Each will share his unique experiences working on “Star Wars” movies over decades, first with George Lucas and as recently as “The Force Awakens” under the direction of J.J. Abrams.

From the beginning, the “Star Wars” series broke barriers in the areas both of sound and visual effects, and Lucas always encouraged the tandem development of both to create a fully realized world. Wood, who worked on all the “prequels,” recalls that Lucas, “instilled in us the idea that sound [design] should start very early in the process. As soon as the script was done, we would start acquiring sound effects that we thought would be a good representation of what is described.”

Abrams, Wood said, adopted the same philosophy. For example, as the robot droid BB-8 and the character of Kylo Ren took shape visually, he said, the sound team was also experimenting with ideas, building and shaping audio.

The two will also detail their experiences using the newest tools on “The Force Awakens,” such as the Dolby Atmos sound mix, to help create both the astounding visuals and incredible audio the film.