An Investigation Into the Creative Processes in Generating Believable Photorealistic Film Characters

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the benefits and challenges that digital Visual Effects have had on character believability. The advantages of Visual Effects are outlined through the improved quality of the cinematic experience, including the production of believable characters and world development. Believable characters are produced through the creative processes and collaborations across diverse disciplines in the film industry. These processes and collaborations involve many interconnected sub-projects or points of delivery, which need to resolve holistically to meet the requirements of the director. However, the challenges of digitisation for film production processes are the primary factor for an increased production pace featuring higher quality outputs produced in tighter schedules with limited budgets. The fast-paced nature of the Visual Effects industry has consequently introduced several communication difficulties and creative ambiguities in the creative process that rendered the consistency of the high-quality character output challenging to achieve.
The present research considers the perspectives of expert industry practitioners acquired through open-ended interviews to query about their respective creative processes. These were summarised through four key elements: narrative, design, technique, and communication. The interviews were analysed following a sequential mixed method approach designed to define the internal and external parameters that contribute to the production of believable characters for Visual Effects. The comparison of the participants’ quotes presents a ranking order of the participants’ competing and collaborative priorities within the creative process. Through the ranking of the four key elements, this research considers the evaluation of character believability by categorising characters according to their function in the film and its context in the broader industry.
Consequently, a new evaluation framework is proposed that visually presents character believability through patterns following the believability criteria extracted from the interviews. The framework offers potential as a tool for presenting character case studies that serve as ideal guiding examples for projects with similar requirements. This tool, which is referred to as the Melki Character Evaluator (MelCE), offers potential as a developed application to enhance tacit knowledge and communication between its users when designing for believability. By expanding and incorporating a character database into the model, this tool can enable and efficient production of believable characters.
Date of Award10 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorIan Montgomery (Supervisor) & Greg Maguire (Supervisor)

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