It’s not the plot of Ready Player Two – it’s real. Tye Sheridan, who played Wade Watts in Steven Spielberg’s bombastic Ready Player One adaptation, is sticking with digital worlds via Wonder Dynamics, a company he co-founded with visual-effects artist Nikola Todorovic. The company’s goal is to allow indie filmmakers to create huge, blockbuster-worthy VFX on a much lower budget.
The news of Wonder Dynamics comes from Variety, who report that Tye Sheridan and Nikola Todorovic have spent the last four years “quietly experimenting with using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create interactive video applications,” and that the duo is “gearing up to introduce a new AI production tool that they promise will let independent artists produce dazzling VFX and CGI animations for far less than is required today.”
The team has an impressive advisory board to back their work up: Sheridan’s Ready Player One director Steven Spielberg; filmmaker Joe Russo; Rhea Films’ Terry Dougas; Film Finances president Gregory Trattner; Joshua Baer, founder and CEO of Capital Factory; Angjoo Kanazawa, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley and Google research scientist; MIT professor Antonio Torralba, who is the head of AI and decision making; and private-equity investor Robert Schwab.
“[Wonder Dynamics] breaks down the barriers to achieving your wildest vision,” Sheridan said. “A lot of times people dream up this story but it’s not possible to make because it would cost $200 million. AI can democratize VFX.” Joe Russo added: “We are often reminded of all of the ways that AI and similar tech advancements will profoundly impact our lives, but I think we haven’t yet scratched the surface of its potential impact on the media industry. Wonder Dynamics is one of the early startups exploring this intersection, and I look forward to being part of this exciting journey with them.”
The company is offering two different products: Wallace Interactive, “a patented technology that lets viewers engage in AI-powered conversations with characters in a TV show or a movie,” and Wallace PROduction, which “will expedite and reduce the cost of creating visual effects.” Sheridan stressed that they weren’t trying to make current VFX artists and their techniques obsolete: “A lot of people are going to ask us, ‘Does this mean VFX artists are going to be out of jobs?’ The truth is, it will streamline [the process] — it will create a bunch of new jobs for artists and engineers.”
Over the years, advances in technology have allowed filmmakers to do some great work with minimal equipment. The best example of this might be Steven Soderbergh, who has already made multiple movies shot with an iPhone – as was Sean Baker’s excellent film Tangerine. Of course, it’s worth remembering that most tools are only as good as the people wielding them, so in the end, Wonder Dynamics’ products will live and die by the talent of the people employing them.