Ontology-Driven Interactive Visualization of Film Production Complexity Using a Visual Language

Ontology-Driven Interactive Visualization of Film Production Complexity Using a Visual Language

Yannis Christodoulou (National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece), Angelos Yannopoulos (University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK), Effie J. Bountris (National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece) and Theodora Varvarigou (National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJSWIS.2016040105


Early, effective director-producer communication enables detection of resource-demanding film production requirements so that a workable production plan can be formed. Traditional communication tools are limited to articulating standard production elements as lists. Yet, production complexity can be affected by latent variables with indirect impact which remain unarticulated. An ontology-driven, interactive visualization system is proposed for exposing production complexity. The system is built upon a visual language for recording directorial choices, employed for system input. By exploiting Ontologies, the visual input is analyzed in real-time and semantic metadata are extracted representing production complexity with focus on latent variables. The metadata are transformed back into an aggregate visual form which combines with the visual input, creating useful synergies. In this way, the system creates a collaborative virtual workspace facilitating director-producer communications. A real-world deployment and an evaluation demonstrated the system's advantages over traditional tools.
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Every contemporary film production1 involves complex shootings, re-shoots, extensive on-set rehearsals, etc. These procedures are cost-demanding in that they are time-consuming, often requiring expensive technical equipment and human resources. Thus, a realistic budget and a feasible schedule are crucial for ensuring the sustainability of the production, and by extension, of the entire filmmaking project (Honthaner, 2010; Jones, 2003; Tomaric, 2008).

In order to arrive at a successful production plan2, effective communication of the director’s film planning3 choices to the producer4 during pre-production is essential, especially in cases where those choices impose resource-demanding production requirements (Tomaric, 2008). The director needs to convey his/her creative choices to the producer clearly and thoroughly so that the producer can determine production requirements for every scene, possibly negotiate simplifications with the director for the more challenging shots, and then translate those requirements into working hours, salaries, equipment rentals, anticipated shooting days, etc.

Current practices that serve director-producer communications in production preparation include non-visual and visual tools. Filmmakers use primarily non-visual aids, such as script-breakdown and shot-lists, in order to communicate the project planning and for organizing a shoot (Tomaric, 2008). A script-breakdown is a screenplay analysis in which production requirements are articulated as lists, used in budgeting and scheduling the production. Similarly, a shot-list is a description of each shot with a clear indication of the frame, the characters involved, actor and camera movement, as well as an indication of equipment necessary to achieve the desired result. Both techniques deal with standard production elements, such as technical equipment, cast, or crew, which are directly translated into production costs. However, neither explicitly addresses more latent production-related variables, which indirectly encumber the production by imposing additional complexity, entailing unanticipated costs and delays. Characteristically, Honthaner (2010) notes that a producer must learn to “read more than what is on the page and anticipate needs that aren’t [sic] specifically spelled out”.

Pre-visualization tools have been used widely by directors since the 1930’s, mainly storyboards and floorplans (Begleiter, 2001; Katz, 1991; Tumminello, 2005). Directors need visualization primarily to get a visual image of the film that initially exists only in their imagination, to better understand its structure, but they also use these tools to communicate their ideas to others, in particular to the producer, who identifies and assesses production requirements. Storyboards depict key elements of shot composition, and suggest actor placement, shot size, camera angle and lighting. Often storyboards include arrows to indicate actor movement across the frame. Floorplans depict the placement and movements of the camera and the actors. However, as both techniques produce static images, they inherently lack the ability to adequately represent motion, timing and camera-actor interactions, all fundamental filmic notions. Advances in CGI technologies lead to more advanced pre-visualization aids, namely animated storyboards and animatics. By employing animation, these tools overcome their predecessors’ inadequacies in depicting timing and motion. Nevertheless, they are expensive and time-consuming, and so they are used only in high-budget productions. More importantly, only a subset of the information presented by pre-visualization tools (whether traditional or digital, static or animated) is relevant to production planning, and this information is not presented by those tools in aggregate form; instead, it lies scattered and mostly in implicit form that needs to be uncovered by the producer (Honthaner, 2010). As such, pre-vis tools can be used for production planning only as auxiliary aids together with the non-visual tools.

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