'Gravity' VFX Supervisor to Make Directorial Debut While Introducing New Filmmaking Tech

Tim Webber
Imeh Akpanudosen/FilmMagic

Tim Webber, the Oscar-winning VFX supervisor of Gravity and chief creative officer at VFX company Framestore, is making his directorial debut with a short produced by Framestore to demonstrate the potential of the studio's newly-developed VFX pipeline dubbed FUSE, an acronym for Framestore Unreal Shot Engine.

While he declined to revealed details of the story, Webber tells The Hollywood Reporter that it's scifi based on existing IP and adds that while Framestore isn't planning to get into developing its own content, an additional goal is to use this short as a pilot with an eye toward developing the material for a feature film.

"I've always wanted to direct," says Webber, who earned a second VFX Oscar nomination for The Dark Knight, won four VFX Emmys, and whose VFX feature credits also include Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "The initial point of this [short] is to prove out the technology but it's certainly something I've been wanting  to do, have a chance to develop this story."

FUSE, based on Epic Games’ real-time Unreal Engine, is conceived as a VFX workflow that could allow large numbers of artists to work simultaneously within the real-time engine, incorporating previsualization, virtual production, asset management and review and approvals, in addition to VFX shot production and including the ability to work remotely. "We're aiming to produce finished [shots], feature length and episodic content, hundreds of shots and [with] hundreds of artists, potentially, " VFX supervisor and project lead Theo Jones tells THR.

Of his short, which is in preproduction, Webber relates, "It's going to be predominantly CG generated, but it's going to be somewhere between CG animation and a live action movie." He adds that this will include use of performance capture to create mostly CG characters. "And we will at times be using LED panels, not in the way The Mandalorian used them, actually more like the way I used them on Gravity, where we would use LED panels to light an actor's face, for close ups."

Jones adds that the production will also incorporate virtual camera work enabling the director to work with VR headsets and an iPad. "A lot of the tools we'll be putting in place will be for facilitating that more easily," he says.

The capabilities of the new pipeline are being created in collaboration with Epic as well as through in-house work at Framestore. Plans include developing and stress-testing features that potentially could feed back into Epic’s Unreal Engine, according to Framestore. Jones says he hopes this work will help to create a "more efficient way of working, not just for us, but the whole industry. This is an endeavor that’s all about being able to scale across the entire business, not just niche divisions or use cases."

In late 2020, UK-headquartered Framestore--which in addition to features and TV develops immersive media and theme park content--completed the acquisition of Company 3 and Method.