Touch Taiwan 2022 took place from April 27 to 29; this year, AUO attended with the theme "New Future with Infinite Horizons" to showcase the diverse developments of smart LED displays by highlighting many cutting edge technologies, new product applications, and experiences. AUO partnered with Renovatio Pictures, Golden Horse Awards winner for Best Visual Effects, to build an LED smart virtual studio solution, introducing the latest international film technologies such as "Virtual Production" to Taiwan's film and TV industry. The booth recreated studio filming methods, and showed the "New Future with Infinite Horizons" sci-fi themed short film to highlight the refined imaging capabilities of AUO’s LED video walls. InCG Media conducted a special interview with Senior Director Andre Su of AUO's System Product Business Unit and film director Mango Chi to discuss how LED smart virtual studios will change the development of Taiwan's film and television industry!
Andre Su has previously worked at the IT and TV Product Design Development Department of AUO, Product R&D Department of TPV Technology, and has several years of entrepreneurial experience. He has rich experience in product technology development and product marketing, and is adept at integrating teams and orienting business unit development towards company strategies to launch products to the market.
Mango Chi is one of Taiwan's few all-rounded directors capable of filming in 2D and 3D; his work has been recognized by over 40 major international awards. He worked as a storyboard artist in Hollywood, with Marvel Studio, and was previously invited as Director of Visual Art for the Golden Horse Awards. He manages multiple teams spanning technology, animation, special effects, 3D, 2D, and new retail; at the same time, he is a film director and CEO of multiple companies— capable interdisciplinary film director and entrepreneur.
Major panel manufacturer AUO has been actively transitioning through a "dual-axis" transformation strategy - Go Premium and Go Vertical, in hopes of transitioning from a major manufacturer to a field solution supplier. Senior Director Andre Su of AUO's System Product Business Unit said, “Go Premium refers to the continuous accumulation of technological capabilities, developing industry- leading technological products. Go Vertical refers to engaging in economic development in various fields and joining with industry partners to launch one-stop integrated software/hardware solutions." In terms of technology, AUO is a leader in display technology through years of accumulated experiences and technological capabilities. The various advanced LCD display technologies on display at the event, such as the next gen Micro LED displays and the smart virtual studio's LED video wall, are evidence of AUO's efforts and investment. In terms of applications, AUO has partnered with various industries as showcased by the LED smart virtual studio, which attempts to transform "display manufacturing" towards "display applications," ultimately becoming a company that provides "image applications." Whether they’re smart studios, smart cockpits, or Micro LED with transparent displays, these products are technological platforms for virtual-reality integration as we move towards the metaverse.
LED smart virtual studios are a key aspect of "virtual production." Current Hollywood productions utilize smart virtual studios to replace blue or green screen filming; projects such as The Mandalorian, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and this year's The Batman are evidence of the convenience and benefits that virtual studios can offer the film and television industry. Renovatio Pictures director Mango Chi stated, “Virtual production blurs the borders between animation and on-site filming. Traditionally, we completed on-site filming and made adjustments in post-production; on the other hand, thanks to virtual production, we can complete the layout, special effects, and other CG content in advance and take these into the studio for film production. In essence, it's bringing the animation production process into the film production process.” Virtual production not only saves time and costs of post- production, it enables the rapid filming of multiple scenes. This is especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic has made international filming much more challenging. Virtual studios can reduce the risks and costs of moving production. Actors no longer have to travel long distances, they can simply show up at a studio and perform a CG scene, solving time and cost constraints in film and television production.
“Virtual production” is not only applicable to genres such as fantasy or sci-fi, but can also be utilized in scenes that are closer to life. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic makes it hard for production teams to rent out a hospital, so a virtual studio can be used as a replacement; additionally, virtual studios can be implemented into homes to capture images at various angles, breaking through limitations that prevent filming. However, while LED smart virtual studios may not replace on-site filming, they can be used as a powerful supplementary tool. Director Mango Chi explained, “The revolution in virtual production will drive all directors and production teams to more accurately plan their desired effects and methods of production during the pre-production phase. They must determine which scenes will utilize virtual production and which will require on-site filming. As such, it doesn't matter if they're a director, producer, photographer, or working in art, it's imperative that they understand virtual production. It's not something that only belongs to people working in special effects!"
Director Mango Chi further explained that aside from film or television, virtual production is a great boon for filming commercials and music videos, "These types of projects have short filming periods that could last a day or an entire week. If you prepare all of the content in advance, it's possible to rapidly complete a few scenes in the studio and utilize the "real-time display and interaction" function to immediately show clients the results, and make timely adjustments. This really speeds up the creative process and allows for more imagination.” The LED Smart Virtual Studio Solution, created through AUO's investment into LED display technology and the partnership with Renovatio Pictures, immediately creates the most optimal filming environment, standing out from thousands of virtual studios around the world.
The LED Smart Virtual Studio by AUO and Renovatio Pictures was presented at the event with an 8- meter wide, 4-meter tall curved LED display, professional video camera, camera tracker, Unreal Engine, and some on-site art installations to recreate a small-scale movie set. The highlight of the studio was AUO's LED display technology, as mentioned by Andre Su, “LED display walls are mainstream configurations for smart virtual studios, with their greatest feature being the display characteristics of LEDs, which are capable of high brightness, high resolution, multi-layered grayscales, high color saturation, and fine images. They are suitable for use as backgrounds in film and television production. As the LED studio is purposed for filming as opposed to a live audience, it's possible to achieve a low scan rate and ultra high refresh rate, making it possible to film extremely vivid and life-like scenes of an apocalypse or desert environment.” The main reason that display walls can be implemented seamlessly in any size is due to their modular design. For example, the LED wall on display at the event boasted ultra fine P1.25 pixel pitch which is far superior to P2 pixel pitch products in the current mainstream market. Additionally, AUO's exclusive image stitching processing technology and professional experience in installation allows display walls to accurately present the exquisite images desired by creators.
The partnership with Renovatio Pictures resulted in an exclusive filming platform that integrates camera tracking software and Unreal Engine to allow the LED display wall to be toggled for real-time filming or previews. Andre Su stated, “Camera tracking software utilizes tracking to link virtual scenes within Unreal Engine with camera movement to immediately adjust the background lighting, filming angle, or special effects. Creators can utilize an external display to immediately preview scenes that have just been filmed to reduce uncertainty during filming, improve image quality, and greatly save on the time and costs of post-production.”
Two highlights that created major buzz at Touch Taiwan this year included the premiere of a sci-fi film and on-site performances. First, AUO's original work "New Future with Infinite Horizons" sci-fi showcase video, which was directed by Mango Chi and produced by Renovatio Pictures, was officially unveiled. The film explored the concept of "pursuit" and depicted the protagonist’s mystical journey, who pursued an RGB sphere symbolizing the three primary colors. Scenarios such as mystical forests, alien sand dunes, and infinite space were showcased during the film. The sphere of light dissolved into countless meteors and ultimately gathered in space to form a giant tree of light. The protagonist approached the giant tree, which emitted a breathtaking light, before it transformed into AUO's latest technology applications and new products of the year. In addition to this year's theme, the film also symbolized the craftsmanship spirit of "making no compromises in the pursuit of perfection." All artists want to surpass themselves and release better works; this is similar to AUO's commitment to pursue technology and quality. Both compliment each other with shared principles and goals.
Director Mango Chi's path began in 2D, 3D animation, sci-fi films with real actors, new media entertainment, LED virtual production, and resulted in a wealth of experience in Hollywood, leading various teams. The short film showcases his creativity and production capabilities integrating on-site filming and special effects as well as his ability to take on the challenge of sci-fi themes with real actors, a feat rarely found in Taiwan. Each scene and storyboard was constructed with grand and majestic aesthetics; each fictional creature found in the mystical forests, alien sand dunes, and infinite space left memorable impressions. Mango Chi explained, “I wanted to create a magical world that was magnificent, refined, and luxurious without being tacky. The style is a fusion of Hayao Miyazaki and Avatar, creating a type of balance between organic life and machines. The key to original concepts is being unique and making sure that every single aesthetic detail is on point and done in good sense. Although all scenes seem really short, they allow us to peek into this vast world. For instance, the light emitting fish in the forest were presented with a semi-transparent glass material that reflected the environment as well as the colorful RGB streams; the giant mechanical creature in the desert contained highly complex mechanical structures for the turbine on its back and the joints on the tendrils. This was emphasized by a simple, pure outer shell made with white engraved materials. Balancing the space, color arrangement, and the use of composition are all elements that carry significant functions. The most important aspect is how this type of 'balance' can be created." As such, Director Chi personally arranged all storyboards and original designs including details such as actor's costumes, 3D Previs, dynamic adjustments, and camera movements. His fine control of every aspect allowed him to lead his team in completing this breathtaking sci-fi blockbuster-like film in such a short period of time.
Following the biggest attraction of the show, the sci-fi movie premiere, the LED virtual filming show took place. Director Chi meticulously designed the entire performance, enlisting a professional filming crew, gimbal camera mount, and even a sci-fi film headliner who is known as “Little Captain America.” The venue suddenly transformed into Universal Studios. A film making demonstration was provided using the latest LED virtual filming technology, which transported the audience through space, on spaceships, through the desert, rocky mountains, and snow plains. Virtual production's full display of immersion, color, and lighting adjustments were demonstrated; the film crew even utilized a fan during a desert scene to simulate wind for the actors, resulting in a humorous yet immersive experience. The director gave a lighthearted yet professional talk that had the audience engaged. During the six shows throughout the three day event, as word-of-mouth praise for the show spread, crowds grew larger each day, with many audience members recording the show on their smartphones. Several industry professionals praised the international magnitude of the performance, calling it the best part of this year's Touch Taiwan as well as fully showcasing amazing LED virtual production technologies in front of a live audience.
The LED Smart Virtual Studio by AUO and Renovatio Pictures offers the most cost effective filming solution for the film and television industry. In addition to providing hardware and software equipment, Renovatio also offers professional special effects technology consulting or one-stop post- production services. AUO also offers services to assist film and television companies in the implementation of smart studios. Looking forward, AUO hopes to expand LED applications, with Andre Su stating, “Aside from the film and television industry, LED display walls can also be implemented in art galleries, museums, theaters, and other entertainment or education venues. We're working with Renovatio Pictures to develop even more possibilities and interactive experiences that integrate the virtual and real worlds, so that education becomes a vivid, interesting activity that engages all senses as opposed to letters on a page.” Finally, Mango Chi also expressed his thoughts on partnering with AUO, “This collaboration was an experience of different perspectives. In reality, "hardware" and "storytelling" can supplement each other. In the past, creators simply completed their work and played it on platforms, but if there exists a better display technology that can process images in a more refined manner, such as intricate colors and details, great content can come to life and allow the audience to truly immerse themselves. This is a process where all parties must shine together to progress forward."