Jon Favreau to Use VR Tech for Live-Action Lion King

Jon Favreau to use VR tech for live-action Lion King

Director Jon Favreau and his production team blew audiences away with the special effects used in Disney‘s live-action version of The Jungle Book. It was recently revealed that Favreau will not only be doing a sequel to the film, but he will take the helm on a live-action version of the 1994 animated film The Lion King as well. We just spoke to Favreau about both films and he revealed that he not only used some virtual reality technology for The Jungle Book, but that he’ll be using it a lot more in the live-action Lion King movie.

Favreau told us about how virtual reality tech is being developed faster than other effects tech because it’s a consumer-grade product. “A lot of the simulcam and motion capture technology that we use here, a lot of it was innovated around the making of ‘Avatar,’ and hasn’t really changed much, because there’s just not a lot of consumers,” he said. “There are a lot of people who watch, but not a lot of people who use the technology. So we were finding ourselves building around technology that hadn’t changed a lot in the last 10 years. But now as we’re exploring what is being developed for VR, and game engine technology, a lot of that was used to some extent in ‘Jungle Book,’ but as I look forward to developing this process further, there’s a lot over overlap.”

He explained that he got into this technology because he was working on a VR project called Gnomes and Goblins, which lead him to a tech startup where he watched The Blue; a virtual-reality blue whale encounter. He said, “I’d gone over at lunch just to see what the new VR technology was, and by the end of it, we were starting to try to figure out how to use VR in shot design. It’s kind of like if you have a person wearing the HMD, wearing the visor, [if it’s] is the audience member, you write code one way, but if that person is the camera, you’re using the same tools, but you’re kind of changing the work flow so that you’re using it to build the footage, as opposed to using the VR to observe the footage or experience the content. So what’s nice is that there’s so much innovation in this area, so much investment in these technologies, and they are really helpful.”

He mentioned how cool it was that there will be a ton of audience experiences with VR, but said there would be a lot of opportunities for a filmmaker, “even for traditional live-action theatrical work.”

We asked Favreau about how the tech would be used in the live-action Lion King. He said, “Being able to scout–and some of this we were doing with ‘Jungle Book’ as well, but the ability to actually design an environment virtually, and then to walk around in it with your crew, doing a scout. And to be able set shots and to be able to choreograph movement, and move set pieces around before you do the heavy versions of it. Because there’s a lot of really light files, again, the processing is getting better and the coding is very specific to game engines now, so that the files remain light, so you can experience them in real time, so you can move assets around in real time, and start to rough in what you want to do as a filmmaker. And finally, when you deliver it to the point where you’re actually turning it over, and rendering the stuff in a very expensive, time-consuming way, you’ve already made all your creative decisions using technologies that are more geared towards gaming.”

Favreau mentioned using game engines like Unity and Unreal. He said, “If you want to look at things in real time, especially in 3D, the game engines offer you a lot of opportunities to build upon that engine.”

The Jungle Book is available on Blu-ray and DVD right now. The Lion King live-action film has yet to get a release date. The next live-action version of a Disney animated film is Beauty and the Beast, which will be released on March 17, 2017. Stay tuned for more from our interview with Favreau about The Jungle Book.