NAB: VFX Master Rob Legato Promises New 'Lion King' Will Take Virtual Production Even Further

“The ability to re-create anything and re-create it faithfully is the future of cinema," he says.
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Rob Legato

Underscoring just how fast filmmaking technology is advancing, three-time Oscar winning visual effects supervisor Rob Legato dazzled NAB attendees on Sunday with a look at the virtual production process on The Jungle Book, while adding that “this is so outdated from what we are doing on the next movie.”

While he never mentioned the title, Legato — who won Oscars for Titanic, Hugo and Jungle Book — is reteaming with Jungle Book director Jon Favreau on Disney’s live-action retelling of The Lion King, which will incorporate virtual production techniques.

During his Future of Cinema Summit keynote Sunday at NAB Show in Las Vegas, Legato talked about how these virtual production advances service the art of moviemaking. “The ability to re-create anything and re-create it faithfully is the future of cinema," he asserted. "You shouldn't be aware that we were using a computer to make the movie. You have to treat it like a camera, and do no more … or it distracts you from the story. I don’t want to make a visual effects extravaganza, I want to make a movie."

Legato has helped to pioneer this area, from his contributions to developing the virtual production process used on James Cameron's Avatar, which put viewers on Pandora," to The Jungle Book, which felt like a traditionally shot live-action movie, though it was filmed entirely on a bluescreen stage.

Speaking of his next use of virtual production, Legato said, "We are going to use a lot of virtual reality tools so it feels akin to what you are looking at [if you were on a real set]. You can walk around the set like a cameraman. You can make a ton of mistakes and no one has to see them,” he said. “[Wearing VR headsets] the actors can now walk into a scene and see the other actors and trees … and because you are in 3D, you get a realistic sense [of the environment]. That’s what we are incorporating in the next version of this.”

All of this, Legato believes, will eventually contribute to democratization and a bright future for filmmaking: “To me, the exciting thing is you democratize the opportunity and a young Mozart will emerge. ... There is something really thrilling about allowing the public to find the next John Ford or Mozart or Martin Scorsese."

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