Ways of expression: the impact of VFX technology on modern storytelling in film and interactive media production

Rafal Hanzl, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, The Norwegian Film School

My project aims to the creative and artistic potential of new filmmaking technologies. The field of research is modern storytelling in feature film production.

Through experiments based on various ideas and concepts I’m going to investigate new creative methods for a new key creative profession in the film industry: Digital Visual Designer. This artist works alongside the Cinematographer and Production Designer as a visual storyteller working to bring to life the director’s vision. An analogy would be to say that just like Cinematographers have the camera as their most important tool, the Digital Visual Designers have the computer as theirs. And just like the Cinematographer they use their tool to bring the story to life.

Implementation of visual communication should encourage storytelling and emphasis should be placed in the appropriate places. CGI effects are just such a creative instrument of communication with the audience. I would like to achieve this by my collaboration as Digital Visual Designer in the process of film pre-production, production and post-production during a feature film project realization. I will try to move digital VFX activities to the very beginning of filmmaking and test the role of modern pre-visualization in the process of storytelling and creating a particular visual style.

Cinema has elaborated complex techniques of montage between different images replacing each other in time; but the possibility of what can be called “spatial montage” between simultaneously co-exiting images was not explored. Sequential narrative replaced all other modes of narration with an assembly line of shots that appear on the screen one at a time. In contrast to cinema’s screen, which primarily functioned as a record of perception, computer screen functions as a record of memory. I want to evaluate the potential use of such “spatial montage” during the process of creation.

I will use for film realization tools from different areas of digital art. For instance, game engines as well as augmented reality are useful implements for testing camera angles and shot strategies. The new technologies will be used to support the process of visualization for the film production and VFX effects planning.

During creative process I would like to explore connection between created world and photographic equivalent. New computer image editing capabilities unify all visual techniques to the common basic element, which is the pixel. For the viewer does not matter how the pixel was made which actually equates real with computer-created world. I will try to find out how could Digital Visual Designer contribute to the creation of the visual universe of the film and how does this impact on film reception.

My artistic work consists of classical painting, photography, sculpting, film-making, computer graphics, animation and live performance for concerts and multimedia shows. I have 16 years’ experience in academic teaching of animation and special effects.

Although my research is targeted to the film industry, it may also be applicable to other branches of the visual arts.