Future of movies

Let’s imagine what movies could look like in the next years. I’m not going to talk about 3D without glasses or mega-super-HD, but some other new ideas realistically accessible with today’s technology.

Dawn of the Dead

We often say actors will be replaced by digital characters. I can assure you that today doing so costs a lot of money and that it will take time before these costs will be lower than fees of a not so famous actor. They won’t replace real actors, they will replace dead ones!
We saw movies with non-humans main characters (think about Jar Jar Binks or Golum). But today, technology is developed enough to be able to create virtual main human characters who do not fall in the “uncanny valley“.
But what about real actors who cannot act anymore ? Or what about dead movie legends ?
That’s why we may see some new epic Star Wars episodes with actors from the original trilogy. As an example, we recently saw Arnold Schwarzenegger acting in “Terminator Salvation”. He was entirely digital.
It raises some issues, can I decide to use Marilyn Monroe as a main character ? Who owns her image today ? Is this really ethical ? Can we credit with the real name of the dead actor ?
Portrait of Marilyn Monro
I bet Marilyn will be back in theatres

Dynamic content (i.e. better product placement)

Pixar constantly raises the quality of its movies. Recently I could see in “Up” that some shots were internationalized: For example, In the French version, French words were written on a crate. So I assume Pixar re-rendered this movie for every location.
Of course, this is something that can only be done using computer imagery. And what if this content wasn’t static ? What if it could be adjusted to the audience or the time dynamically?
From an artistic point of view that’s great, imagine a newspaper showing the headlines from today’s events, it improve the immersion of the spectator.
But this kind of innovation is rarely driven by art. On the contrary, advertisers will be able to do some localized product placement or advertising.
I think two actual factors will lead soon to streamed and localized content into movies:

Still of the Fifth Element movie
The best product placement I have in mind: "The Fifth element"

It’s you, in the movie.

Then we could go deeper and imagine customizing the movie: take two or three pictures of your head, fill in some morphological details and enjoy a movie where the main character is yourself.
This can easily be done with computer generated movies. But I think it’s also feasible to replace a face in a traditionnal movie with technologies involving advanced face detection, realistic face reconstruction and complex compositing to mix the two. Example (watch until the end please):


It’s not new, the customization of the content can already be seen in video games.
Cinema may blend with video games, the story may not be linear. You may choose at some point the next part of the script, choose to save someone’s life or to let him die for example. (Remember this awesome Tipex Youtube advertisement ?)
This is something I experimented with in 2003 using simply Adobe Flash (in this project), and this is something that starts to be seen online now (using Youtube annotations or more complex systems)

All these ideas lead us to think about the definition of the cinema. Is it still the artist’s vision if we can change elements from the movie ?

Update 2010-12: I found out today that Georges Lucas announced to be planning to use dead actors in a movie. I guess that’s why I really need to use Beansight.

Update 2011-01-24: Techcrunch spotted a German company doing custom product placement in video footage: Impossible Software – Is This What The Future Of Video Advertising Looks Like?.