A new software package from Wonder Dynamics, called Wonder Studio, aims to make adding CGI characters to real world scenes as easy as drag and drop.
Now, I know what you maybe thinking, that this sounds like one of those amateur apps for a phone, or a poor pasted effect like TikTok. However, you would be far wide of the mark for Wonder Studio, the software in question, is aimed at professional level use.
Wonder Studio is the brainchild of Nikola Todorovic and Tye Sheridan, and it is designed not to replace professional artists, but to assist them in getting more work done, more quickly. At the present time the CGI industry is currently rammed with bookings, and a tool that can help them take on more work is a positive thing. By the way, yes that is Tye Sheridan of Ready Player One fame.
So, what does Wonder Studio do? Well, you'll not be surprised to hear that it leverages the use of AI in order to place CGI characters within a scene, without the need for time consuming manual rotoscoping or motion capture.
Traditionally, placing a CGI character into a film scene would involve several significant processes. You'll need a well modelled character for one thing. You'll also need to motion capture its movement in a mocap studio. Then you'll need to complete the animation, and then finally, you'll need to match all the lighting with the real scene, along with any grain or noise that is present in the original footage. All of this takes a lot of time and a lot of expense. It's a process that doesn't present itself easily to independent filmmakers, not just because of complexity, but because of cost.
Easy CGI character animation
Wonder Studio promises to take the time and complexity out of the process by making it as easy as adding a filter within Resolve. Todorovic told Tech Crunch, “We built something that automates this whole process, animates it live, frame by frame, there’s no need for mocap. It automatically detects actors based on a single camera. It does camera motion, lighting, color, replaces the actor fully with CG.”
Three of the analysed elements, scene and camera movement, character skeletal motion, and lighting. Images: Wonder Dynamics.
The system is fully flexible to a professional's needs. When the software produces the result it doesn't just give you a final shot that you're stuck with. It will give you all the separate elements such as the raw animation and motion data, the shot without the actor or replacement, outlines of the characters frame by frame, and a 3D representation of the environment. You can take this data and use it within your favoured 3D animation software and fine tune it to your heart's content. Although Wonder Studio provides preset 3D characters, you can also select from characters made by the user community as well as uploading your own. The software will also cope with multiple characters, for instance if you want a scene with a real human interacting with a CGI robot.
It's quite staggering how detailed the analysis that the software performs is. It will fully track hand and finger movement, as well as transferring your actors facial performance onto the CGI replacement. The results from the initial demos look impressive, giving some potential hope to any independent out there who could see themselves wanting to make the next I, Robot.
Right now, Wonder Studio has entered a private beta, and users who want to get early access can try their luck at signing up on the company's website. With investors already on board such as Epic Games, Wonder Dynamics looks like a startup that is certainly worth keeping an eye on. We'll keep you updated with any developments. However, in the meantime, watch the company's demo below and let us know what you think in the comments.