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Why You Should Be Very Excited About What Matt Workman Is Up To

Todd Blankenship

What if pre-visualizing your camera and lighting setups was as easy and fun as playing a video game? Matt Workman is working toward making that a reality.

Top Image via Cinematography Database.

If you’re not familiar, Matt Workman is a cinematographer who has been making tons of great resources and lessons available to filmmakers. His work through Cinematography Database is available via youtube and a fantastic podcast as well as a great tool called Cine Designer.

Cine Designer is a subscription based pre-visualization plugin for Cinema 4D. It includes hundred of models of film/photo gear you can add to your virtual scene with the click of a button. With a little bit of Cinema 4D knowhow you can pre-plan your lighting and camera set-ups and see a pretty realistic rendering of what your setups will look like. It’s a fantastic tool.

The only setback is that in order to use Cine Designer you need to know how to use Cinema 4D, which is quite daunting for some. However, recently he’s been discussing and posting some really exciting stuff about a new endeavor. He’s calling it Cinegame and it’s a new approach to pre-viz that he’s building inside of Unreal Engine 4.

What does this mean? Well, if you watch some of his devlog videos (featured below), you’ll get a pretty good idea of what he’s working towards. It’s pre-viz that you can do with an xbox controller. A pre-viz video game, if you will. By his own estimation, possibly Rock Band for DPs.

Now if thats not exciting then I don’t know what is.

With a system built in Unreal Engine, you can get really realistic lighting, shadows, and depth of field. Notably it’s all realtime. This sort of resource has never even somewhat available, and it’s really a completely genius idea.

In Cinegame, you control a virtual easy-rig donning camera man (who can shoot with a handheld look if needed). You can use him to quickly run around and jump and crouch and find your perfect angles. Workman’s even added a Small HD reference monitor in-game and mentioned the possible use of LUTs inside of the virtual monitor.

So far there are a lot of really exciting features built into what he’s doing. I’m assuming that he’ll add his already vast library of models of lighting and film gear to this as well. I’m not sure the full extent that he’s going to push this or how it will be available to users. But, I’m personally getting very hype about the features he’s already built into it.

Storyboard Workflow

In the above video, Workman describes the storyboard workflow that he’s added. It allows you to take screenshots of your monitor view and build your sequences sequentially and provides image files from within the game.

It appears that the controls for setting your angles is very intuitive, and that you’ll be able to set your angles very quickly.

Real Time DOF and Exposure

This is just fantastic and something that I really wouldn’t have expected. It appears that the in-game camera has realtime depth-of-field that is also responsive to the iris of the camera as well. So, if you stop down on your virtual lens you’ll have a narrower depth of field in realtime. It also looks like you can virtually pull focus and create rack focus shots in the game as well.

Angle Options

In this devlog, Workman shows off the game’s abilities to set different angles. I think the main thing that could create a drawback in Cinegame is if limits your ability to create specific angles. It could feel restrictive to try and get the look that you want.

However, it appears that Workman has made it all possible and intuitive. You can go with a dutch angle, change your focal length, and even sit on an exploding apple box.

AI and In-Game Character Animations

So far this aspect seems a bit more experimental, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless.

Here Workman demonstrates a possible workflow for crafting and pre-visualizing sequences with moving subjects. At the moment all that’s public is this warehouse setup with a band (of virtual Matt Workmans) performing. I’m curious to see how many different character animations and poses will be possible in the future.

More than anything, the prospect of what this would make available to filmmakers is pretty exciting. It appears that in a very short period of time Workman has been able to add an impressive amount of functionality to Cinegame. I’m really excited to see the features he adds over the coming months.

Pre-visualizing shoots and storyboarding is one of the hardest parts of filmmaking for me personally. But, it’s easily one of the most necessary parts of being a filmmaker. If Workman is able to create a platform for storyboarding and practicing your craft, and make it as fun and easy as this appears, I for one will be a happy filmmaker.