The name Nobumichi Asai probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to you. But the CGI technology he has created — dubbed “Omote” —is set to revolutionize the way films will look, feel, and be created.
Nobumichi Asai, a producer and technical director, is able to manipulate a moving object in unbelievable ways in real-time. That’s right. Where contemporary CGI has always had to be added in after the actual filming has been completed, Omote allows filmmakers to create those same CGI effects during the actual filming.
It may be hard to believe, but after watching this video you’ll see it goes far beyond your wildest imagination:
The woman’s face changes subtly at first: a little makeup is applied, her cheekbones made more slender and her lipstick changes colors. Again, this is all real-time CGI. Very neat, even impressive, given that the model is moving her face the entire time the changes are occurring.
And then something beautiful and terrifying occurs. Her face morphs into liquid silver, like that of the T-1000 from Terminator 2. And then more changes occur. And more. And each one is more intricate than the last. Lines are drawn on her face and when she opens her eyes, they are a different color. To get the full impact, you really have to watch the video.
The CGI Leap
Which brings me back to how this will revolutionize movie making. These days, if a director wants to have King Kong scale a skyscraper or go ice-skating (in the recent remake, he does…don’t ask my why) the process they use to achieve that is called motion-capture. They use an actual human actor, attach small sensors all over his or her body, have them perform the movements of scaling a skyscraper, scan that performance into a computer, and digitally replace the human actor with a CGI version of King Kong. If a featured actor is supposed to be scared of King Kong, the filmmakers usually construct a pole with a tennis ball to represent where the CGI King Kong will go in order to give the actor a place to look and react.
Omote pretty much makes that entire process obsolete. By allowing real-time digital manipulation, there is no lag between performance and special effects. It also has the advantage of looking much more realistic. As for the actors, this technology must be extraordinarily liberating. By seeing the computer manipulation of their performances in real-time, they can adjust and react in a much more realistic way. If nothing else it’s a far sight better than that tennis ball attached to a pole.