How the new ‘Ted’ series highlights Seth MacFarlane’s AR filming tech
Seth MacFarlane’s new series Ted marks the first time that an animated lead character was filmed in real time alongside other actors, according to MacFarlane’s production company Fuzzy Door.
The series, a prequel to the Ted movies debuting Thursday on Peacock, harnesses an augmented reality tool called ViewScreen Studio, developed by Fuzzy Door Tech, the production company’s technology unit. It allows the film crew to see digital assets, like the title animated teddy bear from Ted, in real time as human actors interact with them, making it easier to accurately frame shots around the digital elements and speeding up production.
“We not only make them visible, we allow the camera operators to see the scene through their viewfinders,” Faith Sedlin, president of Fuzzy Door Tech, tells Fast Company.
The technology even allowed MacFarlane, who directs the series and plays Ted, to act in the series without needing to leave his workstation or don special motion capture equipment. ViewScreen was able to capture MacFarlane’s facial expressions, animating them onto the bear, without him needing the cumbersome suit, while crew members separately controlled Ted’s virtual body with a video game controller.
“We did the motion capture work in real time on set, which we did on the films as well, but it’s now a lot easier with ViewScreen Studio,” MacFarlane says in a statement. “You can do motion capture work without having to wear a large MoCap (motion capture) suit all day, which can be distracting and inhibiting when you’re also trying to act and direct. In the space of just 10 years, it made it a significantly different experience when shooting the show.”
And naturally, Sedlin explains, the version initially captured with the technology doesn’t have to be the final edition. Visual effects teams can continue to work on the scenes after the fact, just as they would if characters like Ted were initially absent or represented by a stand-in.
Fuzzy Door Tech first unveiled its ViewScreen technology last month, including the ViewScreen Studio real-time visual effects tool and an app called ViewScreen Scout. Scout lets filmmakers use an ordinary iOS device to see how digital assets from props to virtual set extensions will look at a filming location or set.
“We can do any kind of digital assets,” Sedlin says. “We can do planes, trains, and automobiles.”
ViewScreen Scout was used in planning out effects-driven scenes like shuttle landings for The Orville: New Horizons, MacFarlane’s sci-fi comedy series now airing on Hulu. The technology meant MacFarlane could quickly approve iPhone images showing how visual effects would look on set even when he wasn’t physically there, Sedlin says.
The ViewScreen technology is also available for use by other production companies, and the company is in “active discussions” with multiple potential users, she says.
Fuzzy Door first unveiled its tech division in April 2023, when it announced the unit would be led by Sedlin, who previously served as chief marketing officer at companies including microlending platform Kiva, print-on-demand marketplace Redbubble, and virtual assistant maker Siri prior to its acquisition by Apple.