Definition November 2021 - Web


Lights of fancy As physical production collides with the virtual, we look at how the quality of LED technology is evolving, on- and off-frame

WORDS. Phil Rhodes

I t’s traditional to keep the lights out of shot. But, just as LED lighting has started to really ramp up in power, LED video panels are sneaking into backgrounds, reinventing VFX techniques we’ve used for decades. How those things will coexist remains to be seen, but displaying the scene we want behind the actors isn’t a new idea. Surviving examples of people attempting to trompe-l’œil – literally deceive the eye – date back to 1585, when Vincenzo Scamozzi painted scenes with deep perspective for the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. Making those scenes move required the technology of the 20th century, though, and making

them interactive with camera position is an invention of the past few years. LED lighting has matured over the same period, growing to offer quality white light, more power, more colours – and now pixel effects. The two technologies have even begun to coincide in the form of ideas like Sumolight’s Sumosky. The company uses the phrase “reactive backdrop” to describe the system. It’s essentially a lightweight variation on a full video wall, using a series of horizontal light bars a few inches apart, each with several- dozen closely spaced emitters. It’s necessarily a lot lower in resolution than the conventional approach, relying on a textile

WALL-TO-WALL Sumolight is a pioneer – its Sumospace (below) set the standard other brands have followed

“LED lighting has matured, growing to offer quality white light, more power, more colours – and now pixel effects”

LED panels When a spacecraft crashes into rocks in James Cameron’s seminal Aliens , the actors are actually running away from a piece of 35mm film projected on a screen. It’s shockingly good for the time, but sharp eyes will spot grain, a shortfall in resolution, and the fact the projection screen is still white – it’s hard to keep blacks dark while adequately lighting the foreground. But the advantages are huge: flawless integration of smoke, hair, motion blur, camera movement and interactive lighting. Even the simplest LED video panel set-up can solve issues of resolution, contrast and brightness. The ability to track the camera position and render graphics in real time is more advanced, but there are an ever-growing number of stages offering just that. Setting them up is no small task, requiring calibration of the panels themselves, and integration with the 3D rendering software that draws the environment.

55. NOVEMBER 2021

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