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A complete guide to Virtual Production Studio

speakarch
12 Min Read

The film industry is going through a big change. No longer do you have to rely on physical sets and location scouting alone. With their cutting-edge technology, virtual production studios give filmmakers a powerful new way to make their ideas come to life. But let’s take a closer look at the exciting world of virtual production before you start installing one.

Virtual Production Studios explained

Virtual production mixes real filmmaking with computer-generated environments (CGE) in a way that doesn’t look like either is there. Imagine that while you’re filming a scene, your actors are standing in front of a green screen and seeing a beautiful alien landscape on a huge LED volume behind them. This is what makes virtual production so cool.


News television studio virtual studio with world map

Here is a list of the most important parts:

  • LED Wall or Volume: A big, high-resolution LED wall that shows the virtual world in real time is the main attraction. This lets the crew and actors react and interact with the setting as if it were real.
  • Real-time Rendering Engine: The virtual world is rendered by powerful software like Unreal Engine or Unity, which reacts instantly to changes in lighting and camera movement.
  • Tracking System: Optical tracking or inertial measurement units (IMUs) are some of the ways that cameras and actors are tracked. This information is sent to the rendering engine to make sure that the virtual parts match up perfectly with what’s happening in the real world.
  • Xsens Suits and Props: Sometimes, actors wear Xsens suits that have sensors built in to track their movements and show them to the virtual characters. In the same way, trackers can be added to props to make them fit in perfectly.

Pros and Cons: Is Virtual Production Right for You?

Virtual production studio has pros and cons, just like any other new technology. Before making the investment, it’s important to know these:

Virtual Production control room

Pros of Virtual Production:

  • Increased Creativity: Without the limits of physical sets, you can make huge landscapes, cities of the future, or impossible places.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Cut down on the costs of location scouting and don’t build as many sets. It’s easy to change and reuse virtual sets, which saves time and money.
  • Real-time feedback: Directors and actors can see right away how the scene will look in the end, which helps them make better decisions and changes on the set.
  • Better Control Over Lighting: Virtual environments let you precisely control lighting, so you don’t have to set up complicated lighting systems in real life.
  • Safety: You can film dangerous scenes with less risk by simulating them virtually.

Cons of Virtual Production:

  • High Initial Investment: A virtual production studio needs a lot of money up front to buy hardware, software, and skilled workers.
  • Technical Knowledge: Running a virtual production studio requires a skilled group of people who know how to do animation, real-time rendering, and virtual production workflows.
  • Very Little Physical Interaction: Virtual sets are very flexible, but scenes where actors and props interact physically a lot might not be possible.
  • Learning Curve: It takes some time and practice to get used to the new workflow and combine virtual and physical production.

What makes Virtual Production Studios stand out

Astrology Virtual Production studio

Here are some more reasons why virtual production studios are becoming more popular:

  • Faster Production Cycles: Because virtual sets can be made and changed quickly, turnaround times are shorter. Scenes don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for locations or building sets, which saves valuable production days.
  • Location-Agnostic Storytelling: When you use virtual environments, you’re not limited by where you are. You can film in space, at the bottom of the ocean, or in the middle of a busy city, all from your studio.
  • Better visual effects: Virtual production lets CG elements be added in real time, which makes the effects look more natural and seamless.
  • Better Performance by Actors: Actors can react and respond naturally to a virtual environment, which makes their performances more believable.

The Virtual Production Workflow: A Step-by-Step Guide

This virtual production process can be broken down into a few main steps:

Pre-Production:

  1. Script analysis to find scenes that can be made better with virtual production.
  2. Making storyboards and concept art can help you picture the virtual world.
  3. 3D modelling and making elements for the virtual world.
  4. Planning how the camera will move and how the lighting will work in the virtual world.

Production:

  1. Setting up the LED wall and tracking system.
  2. The scene is being filmed with actors interacting with the virtual world shown on the LED wall.
  3. The virtual world is rendered in real time as the camera moves and the lighting changes.
  4. The director and crew were watching the scene on high-resolution screens and making changes as needed.

Post-Production:

  1. Making the virtual world better and adding any extra CG elements that are needed.
  2. Colour grading and compositing to make the virtual and real parts look like they belong together.

Virtual production software

The motor that turns the whole process is the software that runs virtual production. Here are two well-known real-time rendering engines that are used a lot in virtual production studios:

Unreal Engine: Epic Games made Unreal Engine, a powerful and flexible real-time rendering engine that is used a lot in game development and is becoming more and more popular in virtual production. It has an easy-to-use interface, a huge library of assets, and advanced features like real-time ray tracing that make the graphics look amazing.

Unity: This programme is mostly used for making games, but it can also be used for virtual production. Its strong points are that it is simple to use and has a big community of developers. In addition, Unity can render in real time and works well with many animation and design programmes.

Which of these engines to use depends on your needs and the needs of the project. Some studios may choose virtual production software that is designed to help them see what’s happening on set and work with other production tools.

Examples of virtual production in movies

Virtual production is no longer a futuristic concept. Both big studios and small independent filmmakers use it to make visually stunning films. Here are some examples that stand out:

  • The Mandalorian: The Mandalorian is a Disney+ Star Wars show that shows how virtual production can change the way films are made. “The Volume,” a huge LED wall environment that showed virtual landscapes in real time, was used on the show. This let actors react naturally and cut down on the amount of green screen work that had to be done.
  • The Lion King: This live-action remake of the old Disney movie shows how powerful virtual production can be. Every part of the movie was shot in a virtual world, with actors moving around in computer-generated environments using camera rigs and drones.
  • Alita: Battle Angel: Performance capture technology, an important part of virtual production, was used a lot in Alita: Battle Angel, a sci-fi action movie. The movements of actress Rosa Salazar were recorded and sent to the computer to become Alita. This made the performance look very real and emotional.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Some scenes of this blockbuster were shot in a virtual world, but not all of them. Virtual set extensions and real-time rendering were especially helpful for the epic final battle scene with the digitally recreated Thanos.

Use Cases for Virtual Production

Virtual production can be used for more than just making films. Here are a few interesting ideas:

  • Live Events: Imagine concerts or plays where virtual sets make the audience’s experience dynamic and immersive.
  • Architecture and Design: Designers can use virtual environments to show clients their ideas in real time, which makes it easier to see what they’re working on and work together.
  • Product Design and Prototyping: Make and test virtual prototypes of your products before they are made in real life. This will save you time and money.
  • Education and Training: Involve students in virtual simulations to help them learn more about things like engineering or healthcare.

Reviews and personal experiences: A look into the real world

Even though virtual production has a lot of benefits, it’s still important to think about the problems and experiences that come up in the real world. Here’s a taste of what industry professionals are saying:

Being able to see how a scene will look in the end in real time is very helpful for making quick decisions on set.

Mike Potter

Virtual production is hard to get the hang of at first. To build and run a virtual studio, you need a team of skilled people with knowledge in many areas. But the long-term benefits are greater than the initial cost.

Carl Mccoy

Lydia Fischer, Director: “It has been very freeing to be able to film scenes in fantastical places without having to leave the soundstage.”

Making a Choice: Should You Use a Virtual Production Studio?

It’s important to give installing a virtual production studio a lot of thought. Here are some important things to think about:

  1. Project Requirements: Will your upcoming projects depend a lot on complex CG environments or would location flexibility be helpful?
  2. Budget: Can you pay for the hardware, software, and training for your staff up front?
  3. Team Expertise: Do you know enough about technology to run and take care of a virtual production studio?
  4. In the long term, do you plan to use virtual production in your work flow for future projects?

If you can say yes to these questions, then a virtual production studio could be the best thing you ever spend money on for your filmmaking. Because technology keeps getting better and cheaper, virtual production is going to be the standard way to make interesting visual experiences.

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