Definition - The Virtual Frontier

Providing an ever-growing arsenal of tools and limitless creative opportunities, VP is far more than just a flashy trend – it’s reshaping the very fabric of our industry. In recognition of this, we’re thrilled to present Definition: The Virtual Frontier, a special supplement exploring the impact and potential of VP, as well as celebrating the individuals and companies at the vanguard.


Introducing the inaugural VP Excellence Awards! WINNING STREAK





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EDITORIAL Editor in chief Nicola Foley

Senior staff writer Katie Kasperson Chief sub editor Matthew Winney Sub editor Minhaj Zia Junior sub editor Molly Constanti Contributors Marcus B Brodersen & Carl Noble ADVERTISING Sales director Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 Sales manager Emma Stevens 01223 499462 | +447376665779 DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Magazine design manager Lucy Woolcomb Ad production Holly May PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck

W elcome to The Virtual Frontier , Definition ’s deep dive into the dynamic world of virtual production. With the VP market projected to skyrocket to $7.13 billion by 2029, this revolutionary technique is maturing and moving decisively into the mainstream – no longer the reserve of major studios or elaborate, top-end productions. The learning curve can be steep for newcomers, but thanks to the efforts of some incredible training hubs around the world, it’s becoming more accessible than ever. We round up the best over on page 24: an essential read if you’re looking to upskill for a career in VP. Inside this issue, we also hear from industry leaders including Pixotope CEO Marcus B Brodersen; Christina Nowak, co-founder of Women in Virtual Production; and Scan Pro Graphics’ Carl Noble – each of whom share their insights into how VP is evolving and where we’re headed. There’s a look behind the virtual scenes on productions including No Way Up and heist drama Berlin too, plus we explore some of the world’s most impressive VP facilities over on page 4. Excitingly, this supplement also sees the launch of the inaugural Definition Virtual Production Excellence Awards, a celebration of the visionaries shaping the future of filmmaking. Enjoy! READY FOR THE VIRTUAL FRONTIER?

Definition: The Virtual Frontier, produced by Bright Publishing Ltd in 2024, presents information provided by companies and writers in good faith. Bright assumes no liability for errors or omissions.

04 STUDIO SPOTLIGHTS We take a look around some of the world’s most incredible VP facilities – join us! 10 AWARDS The first Definition Virtual Production Excellence Awards have arrived. See who came out on top 18 NO WAY UP Dimension Studio and DNEG team up on a gripping VP plane crash scene. We find out more 20 A TRANSFORMATIVE TOOL Marcus B Brodersen from Pixotope looks at the radical power of VP in weaving narratives

24 SPEAKING VOLUMES Looking to boost your skills and thrive in VP? Check out our guide to the leading training hubs 28 SWEET SUCCESS Ivan Gradinarov, CEO of Ten Dots, discusses his studio’s work on a shoot for Pastiglie Leone 33 SYNCHRONISED RENDERING Carl Noble, manager of Scan Pro Graphics, talks bespoke rendering solutions for VP 37 WOMEN IN VP Christina Nowak, co-founder of WiVP, tells us about her new initiative – and why it’s so essential

ON THE COVER On set for

Chemical Brothers’ Live Again promo at ARRI Stage London. © Will Case, Creative Technology




We round up a few of the industry’s most impressive VP spaces, from China’s largest LED volume to facilities in Munich and London

ARRI STAGE LONDON Offering an enticing combination of ARRI’s filmmaking heritage and Creative Technology’s live production expertise, ARRI Stage London is one of Europe’s most impressive fixed virtual production facilities. It’s also one of the largest, with a 708 sq m space merging a state-of- the-art LED volume with creative software platforms, camera-tracking systems and powerful media servers to enable real-time virtual productions. Led by an experienced team, it’s provided ICVFX for a host of top productions, from feature films to commercial projects. “The volume offers a highly integrated environment with studio design, rigging solutions, high-quality hardware and signal distribution carefully considered

for an efficient and flexible shooting experience,” comments David Levy, director of business development at ARRI Solutions. “This is complemented by video walls, playback systems and powerful control solutions. Customers benefit from ARRI colour management for LED volumes, offering consistency and creative control; they can implement tools such as digital twins to streamline the pipeline.” Handily located on the same site as ARRI Rental, the Stage also provides filmmakers easy access to high-quality shooting packages. The team are proud to offer specialist support for all projects, available from pre-production advice to creative production services – technical support can even extend to a full script-to-screen service. “The

team takes an honest and pragmatic approach with clients, advising when VP is – and importantly isn’t – an appropriate method,” explains Levy. Notable recent projects include Uber One’s Best Friends campaign – starring Robert De Niro and Asa Butterfield – as well as Amazon Business’ Bloom advert. One particularly exciting recent outing for the equipment came courtesy of the Chemical Brothers – a duo always keen to innovate with cutting-edge technology in their work. In the promo for their track Live Again , they wanted to employ VP to capture a narrative in a way not possible in the real world. A dance-based piece produced by Outsider, the film follows its protagonist as she emerges from a trailer into a series of different environments – dancing across the surface of Mars, through a mystical woodland, and swinging from a crane overhanging a highway. Deploying Unreal Engine’s sequencer tools, a trio comprising the ARRI Stage team, Creative Technology and Lux Machina provided the production with full 3D control over each environment in an animated sequence built by





HYPERBOWL Hyperbowl is one of the largest and most prolific VP studios in Europe, having played a key role in over 150 productions. The facility boasts a seamless 270° LED stage, with a 260 sq m LED ceiling and 240 sq m LED wall. The space is large enough to drive a bus inside with ease, while the closed ceiling configuration of the LED wall gives filmmakers seamless transitions between horizon and sky. The Penzing Studios location, near Munich, is a collaborate environment with easy access to all you need for a shoot – from set design to film tech and crew. The facility is well-served with the advanced VP studio and plenty of large ancillary spaces.

PUSHING BOUNDS ARRI Stage London has employed its virtual technology on quality projects including the Live Again music video from the Chemical Brothers

WUXI STUDIOS Wuxi Studios is a digital film industrial park that combines a commercial film studio and leisure destination. A recent addition to ‘Chinawood’ was the VP lab, featuring China’s largest LED volume. Powered by Brompton Technology LED processing, the wall is semi-circular in shape, measuring a huge 44m in width, 10m in height and 23m in diameter – constructed using 1760 ROE Visual Black Pearl BP2V2 LED panels. The team chose Brompton Technology’s 4K Tessera SX40 LED processors with an additional 36 Tessera XD 10G data distribution units – a combination delivering stunning visuals with a flexible and advanced single-box solution.

Untold Studios. On-point coordination proved essential in order to capture the lighting sequencing, transitions, camera movement, set dressing and atmospheric elements – all choreographed and rehearsed down to the tiniest detail. For directors DOM&NIC, the Stage provided a chance to learn, experiment and break the rules. “Being immersed by ARRI Stage London and its walls of screens for the first time was extremely impressive. You start wondering how to use the space and the technology to create a narrative that couldn’t be shot in any other way,”

comment the pair. “The Stage’s wrap- around design with real-time camera tracking and lighting is a great leap forward from traditional green screen; no edges or spill and perfect reflections. “The biggest factor for successfully integrating CGI and real world is image- based lighting – ARRI Stage London’s process to utilise this for our actors, highly reflective set, props and wardrobe is by far the biggest advance,” they continue. “The fact that foregrounds and backgrounds are shot in-camera without compositing later is the icing on the cake!”




BRIDGING WORLDS Broadley’s VP capabilities make it a versatile and dynamic space for a wide range of projects

For four decades, Broadley Studio has served the production needs of both London and beyond. We explore what makes this studio stand out – and how it’s expanded its offerings to include VP STUDIO SPOTLIGHT FUTURE READY

O ne of the few independent offer green-screen multicamera VP – Broadley Studio is an ideal spot for an array of projects. Housed in Red Bus Records’ original building, Broadley boasts two full-service studios equipped to cater to the needs of film, television, broadcast, streaming, corporate communications, content creation and post-production. Its virtual studio is powered by DMX- controlled LED lighting rigs and a green screen – as opposed to an LED volume – reducing its energy consumption and minimising environmental impact. As an organisation, Broadley is also committed to the United Nations’ Global Goals virtual production sites in central London – and the only one to

initiative, pledging to create a more equitable world by 2030. Broadley’s VP studio features a robust multicam set-up, which feeds Sony 4K cameras into render engines and records keyed pictures straight to EditShare. This allows editors to work – either on-site or remotely – as content comes in. Pair that with Brainstorm’s InfinitySet compositing software and Aston, a 2D/3D motion graphics solution allowing seamless integration of subjects into any virtual world imaginable. Brainstorm has decades of experience in creating content for broadcasters, production houses and more. InfinitySet is Brainstorm’s flagship VP product, sitting at the heart of Broadley’s facility and acting as a hub for other technologies. Renowned for its versatility, InfinitySet can create photorealistic background scenes and interact with any broadcast or production workflow – from advanced chroma keying and camera tracking to data-driven graphics and more. Integrated with Unreal Engine, InfinitySet captures motion via the Mo- Sys StarTracker Max – which can render and record in real time. The studio can

even support remote callers and feeds, connecting in-house presenters with people across the world and levelling up news broadcast or corporate live stream. Broadley’s work ranges from brand films to music videos and social content, demonstrating the studio’s versatility. Recent highlights include a variety of VP- based projects, production support for the NHS’ suicide prevention training films and a live stream to celebrate last year’s International Women’s Day. The studio is currently experimenting with animation and other uses of motion capture. “Our future is exciting; the possibilities are endless,” says producer and managing director Richard Landy. Overseen by Landy, the Broadley team comes with 28 years of experience, ready to support clients with impartial advice in a relaxed atmosphere. They’ll even help produce on-location projects, utilising an international network of studios. While supplied primarily by Brainstorm, Broadley’s VP studio includes a range of kit from Blackmagic Design, Sony and Vizrt, a selection of dollies and jibs, an MRMC slider and more. For a comprehensive list of tech specs or a virtual studio tour, head to




WORDS Katie Kasperson

Housed on the lot at Space Studios in Manchester, Recode XR Studio is a premier destination for virtual production with an aligned approach L ocated in the heart of Manchester on a 17-acre site, Space Studios is a ‘one-stop shop for all

recounts Sinacola. “As impressive as the tech was, we were also impressed by Paul and Gareth’s refreshing, honest approach,” he says of the studio’s co- founders. “They can push a production from great to outstanding without blowing the budget.” Formed in 2020 by Paul McHugh and Gareth Turner, Recode combines McHugh’s VFX and game-engine expertise with Turner’s skills in LED technology and infrastructure. A few short years later, Recode is opening its dedicated on-site VP studio at Space Studios this spring. “We have planned for an open-door approach with our permanent facility on-site,” explains McHugh. “We intend to welcome and work with productions involving real-world shoots in some of the region’s amazing locations, and we can offer add-on services for pick-up scenes, scenes that require controlled weather and lighting and vehicle scenes,” he enthuses.

production needs’, says stage manager Dean Sinacola. Launched ten years ago, Space Studios responded to demand and expanded to create what is now a purpose-built facility for film, high-end TV and commercial production. The lot boasts six acoustically treated stages, including the 30,000 sq ft Space 06, as well as prop storage, workshops, offices, makeup rooms, dressing rooms, parking, catering and ancillary support. Committed to building a sense of community, Space Studios encourages productions to employ locally through its list of trusted suppliers: manufacturers, sellers and specialists from north-west England. The list includes Recode XR Studio, an innovative virtual production studio now based on the lot at Space. “Keen to expand our on-the-lot facilities, we went for a tour of the original operation Recode had over in Trafford,”

Recode “can seamlessly incorporate VP into ongoing production schedules in any of the other stages as needed,” explains Turner, enabling the XR Studio to aid in projects of all sizes. The decision to relocate to Space Studios is a strategic move, aimed at bolstering Recode and Space as the premier facility for VP in the north-west. “Geographically, we sit centrally, meaning productions can go from stage floor to forest or beach within an hour,” explains Sinacola, noting Manchester’s transport links to Liverpool and Leeds. “Everyone benefits from having a large studio in the heart of the city. “When the opportunity came up for Recode to join us, it was an obvious fit,” he continues. “We can now offer something new, plus it helps us understand where VP stands in the future landscape,” notes Sinacola. “Having Recode on-site strengthens our on-the-lot offering tenfold,” he adds, “providing a unique and valuable service to prospective productions looking to use Space.” VP technology is undoubtedly on the rise, with Recode’s own clients including ITV’s Coronation Street and Sky’s Brassic . “Working with such rapidly growing technology, we are consistently watching the market’s movements,” tells McHugh. Recode creates custom-build LED volumes depending on the diverse needs of various productions. “Moving into 2024, we see that being agile is vital, and being at Space gives us all we need and more to do it,” McHugh concludes.

OUT OF THIS WORLD Space 06 is the largest stage on the lot at an impressive 30,000 sq ft



I ntroducing the inaugural Definition Virtual Production Excellence Awards: our celebration of the innovators, creators and educators leading the way in the VP revolution. From sustainability champions to noteworthy newcomers; lighting leaders to camera- tracking gurus, join us as we unveil the victors – each and every one of which has been setting new standards and redefining possibilities in the VP space. Dive into our coverage to discover the extraordinary contributions and groundbreaking achievements of our amazing winners!




studio's welcomed talent such as David Attenborough and Ellie Goulding through its doors. MARS’ diverse production applications, state-of-the-art equipment and MARS Academy training programme make it a critical player in today’s virtual production field.

Making Waves award (best newcomer): Distortion

New to the game and the winner of our Making Waves award, Distortion Studio is Bristol’s first permanent VP facility. Opening this month, the full- scale studio boasts premium in-house equipment – including contributions in part by ROE Visual, Blackmagic and Brompton Technology. It is overseen by a seasoned team of award-winning creatives who call themselves ‘masters in Unreal Engine’, among other things. Conveniently situated in south-west England, Distortion helps reduce travel for regional productions including films, TV series, commercials, corporate events and more – serving as a hub for projects outside London. A perfect blend of real- time content creation, the latest tech and the greatest talent, the studio has spent the last four years fine-tuning its offerings, seamlessly blurring the line between fantasy and reality and standing out among a crowd of newcomers. Educational Impact award: NFTS We present our award for Educational Impact to the National Film and Television School (NFTS), an institution playing a pivotal role in educating the next generation of filmmakers. The NFTS is bridging the virtual production skills gap with its six-month training course, introducing students to the technical and creative expertise required of any project. It touches on LED stages, Unreal Engine, VFX, colour science, camera tracking and more, serving as a solid foundation for a successful career in virtual production. Besides its array of expert-led modules, the NFTS ensures virtual production education is accessible to everyone, offering scholarships – subsidised by Screen Scotland and Dimension Studio – to 12 students in total.

Sustainability Champion: Garden Studios Garden Studios has been honoured with our Sustainability Champion award for the team’s unwavering commitment to eco-friendly practices. As the sole large-scale film studio in central London, the company shines with its impressive 3186 sq ft virtual production facility. Its expansive LED volume and advanced technology provide filmmakers with limitless creative possibilities – but beyond technical prowess, this certified B Corp company stands out for a consistent prioritisation of sustainability across its business activities. From slashing energy consumption to eliminating single-use plastic, engaging in community programmes, waste management and creating a sustainable supplier database, Garden Studios is leading the eco charge. Actively participating in the BAFTA albert Studio Sustainability Standard and diligently committed to calculating and reducing its carbon footprint, the organisation exemplifies a green-conscious outlook and provides a positive example for the industry to follow. Training Impact award: Disguise VP Accelerator For all the dazzling creative opportunities it opens up, the complexity of workflows and key technologies in VP also present

challenges for the industry. A lot of hard work is being done to plug the skills gap – with new initiatives and education programmes emerging all the time – but we’re giving a special shout out to the Disguise VP Accelerator. This highly regarded hub makes it easier than ever to upskill yourself for a career in virtual production, confidently operating platforms like Disguise and content engines like Unreal. The VP Accelerator strikes a balance between teaching essential technical skills and practical hands-on time, turning out students able to confidently leverage virtual production tech to create great content. The Volume Innovation award goes to MARS Volume, a London-based virtual production environment – created by Bild Studios – with versatility at its core. Capable of handling projects of all sizes, budgets and scopes, MARS blends camera tracking, LED screens, graphics servers and game engines for an all- in-one, on-site production package – resulting in shoots that would otherwise be impractical or impossible. The volume itself boasts a 220° curved LED wall and 176 sq m ceiling, with processing provided by Brompton Technology and tracking by Stype. With a client list including Sky, Disney, Netflix and the BBC, the Volume Innovation: MARS Volume




Rising Star:

Cameron Bishop, MARS Volume

We’re delighted to name MARS Volume’s Cameron Bishop as our Rising Star award recipient. Currently the lead Unreal Engine operator and virtual production supervisor at MARS Volume/ Bild Studios, Bishop’s journey into virtual production began with Unreal Engine, crafting virtual environments before moving into a support role on Masters of the Air . From there he rose through the ranks, bringing a variety of projects to life, with credits including Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough , Gangs of London and Culprits .

As virtual production supervisor, Bishop oversees 2D and 3D shoots which require camera tracking and LED lighting systems, employing a creative approach to problem-solving to ensure success every time. He also serves as MARS Academy’s Unreal Engine lead tutor, sharing his expertise and designing curriculum for eager-to-learn students. “He has proven himself as a clear and considerate communicator who generously shares his knowledge,” expresses MARS Volume’s co-founder and director Rowan Pitts. “In feedback

forms, Cameron comes out time and time again as a student favourite.” Congratulations, Cameron!


Excellence in LED technology: ROE Visual A luminary in the world of lighting, ROE Visual has earned its reputation as the industry gold standard for state-of-the- art LED products. In virtual production, it continues to light the way – standing out as a beacon of innovation and excellence. ROE’s LED panels have proven themselves an ideal partner in creating immersive, dynamic settings thanks to the team’s relentless testing, tweaking and pursuit of perfection. The panels blend top-end components and state-of-the-art driver ICs, which make all the difference for the on-camera performance. From the Black Pearl (famously used on The Mandalorian ) to the Diamond – a lightweight, affordable solution – all meet the company’s exacting standards, displaying visuals in either 10-bit or 12-bit HDR and reaching more than 90% of the colour gamut on a Rec. 2020 target. They are also capable of working in higher frame rates of up to 144 per second. Excellence in LED processing: Brompton Technology A pioneer in the world of LED processing, Brompton Technology is renowned for




Lights up Kino Flo’s MIMIK LED panel ensures colour accuracy, boasting bright-as-the-sun illumination while seamlessly fitting into any virtual production environment A few years ago, when virtual production (VP) was in its infancy, LED volumes generated enough light to illuminate foreground subjects. However, due to limited

PANEL SHOW Kino Flo’s MIMIK extends spectral bandwidth and provides precise colour accuracy for lighting in LED volume set-ups

spectrums, the colours often proved inaccurate. To address this issue, DMX lighting was introduced, synchronising the LED walls with additional fixtures. But engineers and light designers searched for a more efficient method: “Instead of DMX, what about direct control from the video processor?” raises Frieder Hochheim, Kino Flo’s founder. Consequently, Kino Flo’s MIMIK – a 2x4ft image-based lighting tile – was born. The panel mirrors video content while applying an extended spectral bandwidth, offering RGBWW rather than the traditional RGB to ensure the utmost colour accuracy. With 7200 pixels, the MIMIK can also produce 10,000 nits of illumination at 400W. Though the MIMIK itself is supported by Megapixel VR’s HELIOS processor, it’s ‘designed to be agnostic’, according to Hochheim, working alongside any LED volume’s video processor.

Despite its increasing popularity, VP is still in its early days, with the related technology evolving on a regular basis. “The MIMIK fixture takes advantage of these developments,” shares Hochheim. One example is subframes, or frame remapping, “a technology from Megapixel in which a frame at 30fps can be sliced into as many as 30 subframes,” adds Hochheim. ”Each subframe can be assigned an image or colour, or left blank.” The MIMIK, he claims, is the only fixture that can sync to a subframe. “It also finds a place in blue- and green-screen compositing,” Hochheim states. “If the content is ready at the time of production, MIMIKs can be mapped accordingly – the composite result viewed on the previs monitors. This process is increasingly being used as a cost-saving approach to VP.” The MIMIKs have been used on a variety of recent projects, including a music video shot by Rob McLachlan, ASC, CSC ( Game of Thrones , Westworld ) at Fuse Technical Group in Glendale, California. “A wall of eight MIMIKs

was created as a soft key light, while additional MIMIKs surrounded the stage area,” recalls Hochheim. The dynamic environment reflected off the main character’s wardrobe and heightened the sense of movement.” Sam Nicholson, ASC (VP supervisor on The Idol and The Lincoln Lawyer ) also used the MIMIKs on a shoot which combined LED walls with green screens. “The shots called for many stunts and pyrotechnics,” says Hochheim. “Not wanting to damage the LED walls with flying debris, he combined the MIMIKs with both; explosions all appeared in front of green screens, and other action within the same shot in front of the LED wall. “Lighting beyond DMX is the next phase of motion-picture lighting,” he argues. In the future, Hochheim expects video tech to become the origin source, either replacing or working alongside traditional control desks. “It requires a willingness to embrace new ways of thinking about what motivates a light and how to control it. The future looks bright and inviting.”



its exceptional colour quality innovation, reliable products, deep expertise and next-level customer support. The company’s Tessera system has been a true game changer, serving as the backbone of global world tours and playing a pivotal role in pioneering virtual production and XR studios. And we’re not the only ones who think they’re great; the organisation picked up an Emmy award for outstanding achievement in engineering, science & technology for the Tessera SX40 last year. The award recognised the processor’s crucial role in the widespread adoption of LED for virtual production, and its success in elevating the storytelling process. Delivering the gold standard of on-camera visual performance and colour accuracy, the SX40 has been utilised in some of the biggest shows and films of recent times, from Barbie to The Mandalorian . Excellence in workflows: ARRI Solutions A company needing no introduction in the world of film technology, ARRI has been recognised in our awards for its contribution to the advancement of virtual production workflows through ARRI Solutions. Drawing on its legacy in digital camera systems and LED lighting, ARRI empowers studio owners, operators and content producers to harness virtual production’s full potential through streamlining on-set

processes and delivering best-in-class results. The company’s deep knowledge in camera and lighting integration, metadata and colour management has proved a rock-solid foundation for an intuitive set of workflow tools, ensuring precision and incredible quality in virtual production environments. Particular areas of excellence include ARRI colour management for LED volumes, its digital twins and networked sets – which make complex set-ups a piece of cake with real-time set management tools. Mo-Sys is the deserving recipient of our excellence in camera tracking award for its StarTracker solution, designed specifically to address the demands of in-studio virtual production tracking. Described as a ‘wonder product’ and ‘rock solid’ by its users, StarTracker utilises an intuitive technology to read retro-reflective stars (stickers applied to the studio ceiling or lighting grid), creating a map which reports the camera’s position and orientation in real time. The system moves freely – no technician required, except briefly for installation and calibration – without restricting studio lighting. With less to worry about, it allows creatives to focus on what matters most: the process of storytelling itself. We think that’s something worth celebrating. Excellence in camera tracking: Mo-Sys

Kino Flo Kino Flo’s MIMIK 120 – winner of NAB Show 2023’s product of the year and Euro Cine Expo 2023’s best of show – is an image- based LED tile that’s a key contributor to colour-accurate lighting on virtual sets. Thanks to Kino Flo’s patented tech, the panel converts RGB signals into RGBWW and synchronises with a volume’s video content, ensuring foreground lighting is as true-to-life as possible. OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION AWARDS

VP Visionary: Carlos Perez, Disguise The winner of our inaugural VP Visionary award, Disguise’s Carlos Perez is a standout candidate for his leadership across several aspects of virtual production. Perez’s career with Disguise started 18 months ago, joining as a VP specialist and bringing his background in architecture and VFX – creating visually impressive environments in Unreal Engine. “Carlos’ impact extends beyond his role,” according to marketing manager Carin Mazaira, referring to his ‘pivotal involvement in the Disguise VP Accelerator programme’. Launched by Perez himself, it awards others the chance to learn a skill that will only grow in demand, with Perez serving as the lead instructor. He is the go-to guy for all of Disguise’s virtual production projects, having contributed to short films High and Space Ryder . Congratulations, Carlos!




Sony Sony is diving head-first into VP, offering an all-encompassing system that includes its VENICE and BURANO cine cameras, VERONA Crystal LED panels and Virtual Production Tool Set plug-in. Unveiled at last year’s IBC, the VERONA Crystal LED series delivers colourful virtual backdrops that dazzle users and audiences alike. Available for demo at Pinewood Studios, the all-in-one solution serves as testament to Sony’s investment in VP tech.

and ample training opportunities, allowing creatives to future-proof their skill sets. The company operates LED volumes in New York and London, but can build bespoke stages to meet the needs of international clients. Plus, its WorldBuilders – an award-winning virtual art department – are experts in Unreal Engine, creating custom virtual environments to match any brief. Zero Density Zero Density leads the way in virtual production and interactive graphics, specialising in both AR and XR. Its solutions seamlessly blur the line between actual and unreal, with

graphics – controlled by its Reality Hub system – becoming intertwined with the environment and adaptable in real time, giving filmmakers creative freedom. Aputure Aputure’s LED lights are loved by DOPs and lighting technicians all over the world – and the brand continues to evolve and innovate at impressive speed to meet the needs of the industry. Its range of linear LED lights includes the INFINIBAR and Amaran series, which add a touch of realism to virtual environments thanks to their RGBWW outputs. An extensive line- up of lighting solutions promises plenty of choice to any production.

Final Pixel We’ve selected Final Pixel for its best- in-class virtual production facilities




Lighting the way Adrian Jeakins, director of engineering at Brompton Technology, explores the evolution of virtual production – highlighting its challenges and advancements L ike most new ideas, virtual production (VP) began as an innovation demanding a lot too excited about it being the future of production overall. Now, we’re seeing a bit of maturity; people have been on a VP stage at some point so it is no longer a complete mystery.” That early complexity was linked to

from its users. Over time, advancements in techniques have made the technology more user-friendly. However, for director of engineering at Brompton Technology Adrian Jeakins, the interface between giant video displays and the world of cinematography still provokes a fair amount of hard thinking. As a supplier of processors designed to interface LED video wall panels to video sources, Brompton’s technology has a huge influence over the capabilities of a VP stage. Jeakins’ own background includes R&D work at VFX house DNEG, experience which he says provided some understanding of how the film industry in general operates. ”When people started getting into VP, they got a bit

some massive names, Jeakins reflects. “When it started – with Disney doing The Mandalorian and ILM probably being the leading VFX house in the world – that was the brains you needed to make this tech work. It is now a bit easier than that and the barrier to entry is a bit lower, which is great. As everyone has been taking technology not designed for VP and using it for that purpose, we’ve been trying to make our part of it as accessible and well-optimised as we can.” Part of that optimisation has involved controlling exactly how an image looks when displayed on an LED video wall – a

Brompton Technology is a recipient of a Definition Virtual Production Excellence award, in recognition of its game-changing, market-leading LED processing products, which continue to reach new heights of quality, innovation and reliability. Find out more at



TECHNOLOGICAL TRIUMPH Chris Deighton, Richard Mead, Adrian Jeakins and Evangelos Apostolopoulos win an Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy award for the Tessera SX40 LED processor, a key player in VP

and live events work, something which can create very visible colour quality problems when the light from LED walls is allowed to fall on the foreground scene. Given that interactive lighting is a large part of the attraction of VP in the first place, panels incorporating a white emitter alongside the red, green and blue have been introduced – requiring some very new thinking from both panel manufacturers and Brompton, coming in the form of its TrueLight technology. “For a camera department going into an LED volume – if you’re not prepared for it – getting your actors on-set will give you a bad surprise when they all look like lobsters,” Jeakins warns. “You almost have to wash it out with conventional fixtures. Once you’ve seen it, you see it everywhere; you walk into a volume and the colours all look wrong.” Initially, TrueLight-compatible panels are designed mainly to create light without appearing on camera, although Jeakins predicts that finer-pitched video panels suitable for in-vision work should begin to appear later in the year. In a field which involves such vast cooperative technology, that collaboration is – as Jeakins concludes – crucial to initiatives just like TrueLight. “The partnership aspect is an extremely important contributing factor… once you have seen it fixed, you never want to go back. That’s what TrueLight is all about. “We have some new products coming, including a new processor on the way later this year. And we’re sure TrueLight will revolutionise workflows for crews on LED volumes.”

display mostly designed for viewing by eye. Correctly displaying a camera- specific log encoding on a monitor involves very much the same concern. But in VP, colour and brightness issues might affect both appearance on camera and matching with other lighting. An ad-hoc, project-specific approach has often been used – involving careful eyeballing and manual adjustment. Jeakins describes some encouraging progress toward standardisation. “The standards to do this are all in place,” he reports. “There’s a SMPTE standard for a great output transform, PQ, which is perfectly suited to LED walls. PQ gives you absolute luminance values in nits, assuming everything is set up correctly. You should get the brightness you expect from a given pixel, no matter which stage you are on. [And] if you have a system

like Brompton, which respects the colour space of your incoming video, you will get the colours you expect. Adoption of those standards will be very important.” Part of Brompton’s solution to standardisation in a field involving so many vendors is simply to engineer compatibility with various third-party hardware – a brute-force solution to an otherwise intractable problem. “We work with a variety of panel manufacturers, so there are a wide range of offerings at different price points,” Jeakins points out. ”We try as much as possible to keep our features agnostic to the panel manufacturer it’s being implemented in. You may be moving between volumes, but so long as it’s Brompton you should see the same thing.” A lot of VP technology is based closely on the displays built for advertising




WORDS Katie Kasperson IMAGES Kevin Baker

A plane crashes into shark-infested waters and teeters on the edge of a trench; the passengers must find their way back to the surface before being pulled into the ocean’s abyss. This is the ambitious, adrenaline-pumping plot of survival film No Way Up , made possible partly by virtual production (VP). With Claudio Fäh as director and produced by both Annalise Davis and Steve Jelley, also the co-founder/co- CEO of Dimension Studio, No Way Up combines practical filmmaking with VP and VFX in a way that hasn’t quite been done before – or since. The movie was mainly shot inside a model aeroplane, which was then lowered into a water tank. “A plane crashing underwater, plus escape – that’s quite a huge challenge creatively and practically, so it was a massive collaboration,” states Davis. COMING UP FOR AIR Having teamed up with Dimension Studio and DNEG previously, Davis was keen

to work with them again on No Way Up – a project employing VP for its final sequence. “There was an ending in No Way Up which required us to shoot our lead actress (Sophie McIntosh) as she swam from the depths to the surface for a long time,” describes Jelley. “That’s something we realised we couldn’t shoot in the tank.” Due to physical limitations, paired with wanting an uninterrupted performance, Davis and Jelley opted for dry for wet, a filming technique which replicates the look and feel of being underwater. To do this, they used ROE Visual Black Pearl 2V2 on an LED volume. DOP Andrew Rodger shot the entire film on an ARRI ALEXA LF and Mini LF, with Caldwell Chameleon full-frame anamorphic primes. “We had an Unreal-based pipeline with a high-resolution plane model,” explains Jelley. “You can quickly get a sense of the lighting and dimensions of the trench, as well as much of the mechanics,” he adds, although the technology has drastically improved

Survival thriller No Way Up puts a twist on the traditional flight disaster film. Virtual production – handled by Dimension Studio and DNEG – plays an essential role in the gripping final sequence




PEOPLE OFTEN WRITE FOR THE limitations of technology ”

“It was a combination of practical and VFX – probably a lot more practical than you’d think when watching it,” continues Davis. “It’s very well done, but if we did it now, it would be a different conversation.” PRODUCTION PERKS One of Davis’ responsibilities was to preserve the creative vision. “What’s great about VP is [the heads of each department] can feed into that – they’re part of that process. The actors can see what’s on screen,” she describes. “That’s something powerful about VP; it helps everybody to make things smoother, more collaborative and cohesive.” Jelley also notes VP’s capability to spark creative continuity, speeding up the schedule and making an actor’s job easier. “A good VP on a controllable sound stage results in fewer interruptions. You’re in a controlled environment where all you need to do is act and perform.” VP introduces new opportunities – both for story and scope. “People write for the limitations of technology; often, they self-edit,” Jelley describes. “They don’t try to write stuff you can’t shoot. We’re at this interesting juncture now where using a volume opens up crazy possibilities.” This is especially pertinent for low- budget indie films. “Can we take all of

this technology that we know works for Hollywood and put it in service of independent filmmakers who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to use it?” wonders Jelley. DO IT FOR THE PLOT Despite VP’s many advantages, its use requires good reason. “As a producer, you always think about the story first and foremost,” states Davis. “Does it serve the story? If it does, then that’s what you want to do.” That said, many filmmakers are still sceptical about VP. “Is it going to work? Is it cheaper? Am I going to have to do it all again in visual effects?” Jelley asks. “These are all entirely valid questions to have before committing.” VP is on track to slowly replace backdrops like blue and green screens, which make it ‘impossible to match the lighting on the subjects’, according to Jelley. “No amount of VFX budget can replicate that. You can do a reasonably good job, but if you can actually capture all of that in-camera, then it’s going to look better,” he argues. No Way Up is one of a growing band of films which undoubtedly benefits from the rise of VP, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.


Given the growth of VP, audiences can expect to see more ambitious, creative shots

since No Way Up was created. “Unreal Engine now has some features we would have liked at the time, such as physically based lighting – rays of light going through the scene.” According to Davis, the plane crash scene relied on projections instead of LED panels. “If I did that now, I’d put a virtual screen outside the windows, no question,” she admits. “It’s a perfect VP film.




A TRANSFORMATIVE STORYTELLING TOOL Marcus B Brodersen, CEO at Pixotope, chronicles the impact of VP

V isual media is in the midst of a technology-driven revolution that is reshaping the way stories are told and experiences are created. Central to this transformation is the advent of virtual production – a confluence of artistry, technology and innovative thinking that paves the way for all creators to produce exciting content with a high-end impact. VP is more than just a flashy industry buzzword. There are different interpretations, but essentially it represents a set of cutting-edge tools and techniques used to create fully immersive experiences that blend real-

time virtual elements with live video. It encompasses a spectrum of disciplines such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), in-camera visual effects and the use of LED volumes to create extended reality (XR). VP isn’t just enhancing the visual narrative: it’s revolutionising it. This technology gives creators more freedom and control over the creative process, while also offering cost efficiencies and the ability to collaborate and edit in real time. One of the benefits is the ability to create vast, intricate settings without the need for extensive physical sets or locations. This reduces logistical costs

and also opens up a world of previously unthinkable creative possibilities. With the ongoing fight to retain viewers, VP brings immersive, experiential storytelling to live broadcasting. Viewers today are not content with being mere spectators; they want to be engaged by content that blends live, photorealistic graphics and the physical world. Events such as news broadcasts, sports events and live entertainment shows can now integrate real-time data visualisations, immersive environments and interactive graphics directly into the live stream. Even the Super Bowl saw the addition of AR graphics to enrich viewer experience,




PIXEL PERFECT The Pixotope team work their magic on VP sets

transforming passive observation into an engaging, dynamic interaction. Additionally, for news and sports broadcasters, the use of virtual sets and augmented reality elements can provide viewers with more in-depth analysis and an immersive storytelling experience. Complex information is made accessible and digestible through visually engaging content, making the broadcast both informative and entertaining. THE NEXT GENERATION VP also creates new opportunities for advertising revenue streams. Instead of traditional commercial breaks, clever VP-powered advertising seamlessly flows through programming without a jarring interruption. In a crowded and competitive media landscape, this enables broadcasters to capture and grow their audience market by providing audiences with what they want most – high-end cinematic visuals and effects. However, the adoption of these technologies isn’t without challenges. The platforms are technically complex,

initial investments can be high and there is a significant learning curve for those used to traditional production methods. A significant hurdle is the shortage of talent proficient in the nuances of VP technology. This gap between demand and supply can slow down the innovation process: the learning curve is steep and the technology relatively new. Many traditional filmmakers and production crew members find themselves having to upskill or reskill to stay relevant in this shifting landscape. Addressing the talent shortage begins with education and training. Academic institutions, in collaboration with industry leaders, can develop specialised courses that equip future creatives with the skills needed to effectively work in a VP set- up. By integrating these programmes into traditional film and media studies, we can create a talent pipeline that is well-versed in both the art and the science of this revolutionary technology. Furthermore, by creating more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, VP software companies and technology providers can help lower the barrier to entry for

individuals and studios who are looking to explore this field further. Looking forward, it’s not a question of if VP will become the standard, but when. The democratisation of high- performance computing and inherent scalability of software-based solutions are paving the way for creators of all kinds to harness this technology within their productions. VP is not just a trend, it’s a seminal shift in how we conceive and execute visual storytelling. if VP becomes the standard, BUT when ” IT’S NOT A QUESTION OF




Revolutionising cinematic lighting

Aputure’s principal engineer Tim Kang explores the art and science of image-based lighting

L ighting effects based on where photos of a location could be used to match real-world lighting in a computer-generated scene. Doing that for live-action scenes became more common with the advent of virtual production (VP) – though even when there isn’t a giant video screen behind the action, image-based lighting can still find use where a scene might benefit from a complex, subtle play of light. Tim Kang is principal engineer for imaging applications at Aputure, and points out that VP represents a revolution in a field which goes back to the rear photographic images originally came from computer rendering, projection effects of films like Aliens – but the associated lighting techniques have wider application. “The thing to learn for the craft, in the normal ways that we work, is about using the world as a light source that’s not just a blank white

fixture. We’re recreating the dispersion patterns, the colour shifts, the differences real-world light has in our light source.” To date, image-based lighting has often involved a stack of technology that risked being a time sink, though advances in both technology and technique are starting to make things easier. Kang found an opportunity to put that into practice at a recent shoot for the University of Southern California. “The university had an Entertainment Technology Centre, shooting a short film every two years to demo technology. They sponsor a filmmaker with all the gear and support to do it. This year, they were in the Sony Studios lot, Stage 7, with their volume for all of February.” The set-up involved a sci-fi setting, which Kang calls ’an ice cave on Jupiter’s moon, Europa’. He elaborates: “They had a lighting environment simulating water: caustics and extending the effect of a

pool of water which did not exist on the set. Lights we used to simulate reflections of the actual environment, using the living environment that talked and was diegetically motivated for the story.” It was a spectacular testbed. “Steve Mangurten, chief lighting technician THE VIDEO LANGUAGE IS clearly defined WITH varying flavours ”



NEW HORIZONS Ensuring believable lighting and colour was a balancing act for the team in creating a living, breathing world

and programmer, balanced control of fixtures between his media server and lighting console; Aputure provided support on how to do that. We knew both the colour model of our lights plus video colour space, establishing the settings in Assimilate Live FX and on the fixtures. Everything was talking the same colour language: it became a fully transparent artistic process for the DOP.” Terms like colour space are more familiar in discussions of monitoring than lighting; most people are familiar with the idea of telling a monitor what sort of camera is in use so a log image will look as it should. Controlling lights with video images engages very similar issues, and it’s crucial everything understands which shades of red, green and blue are being used as primary colours. Adopting techniques used in video signals, Kang suggests, keeps everything simple. Still, the most common

standards for high-definition video – which is encompassed in the ITU’s recommendation BT.709 – might not give modern lighting devices as much room to operate as they could use. “Video language is very clearly defined, and there are varying flavours of these languages called colour spaces which are employable to control lighting data. They started with Rec. 709 but that’s only one dialect.” More recent standards such as Rec. 2020, which was developed for HDR television, describe a wider range of colours. “We are coming out with video profiles which will take out this complication, so anyone can use a console with standard Rec. 709 files – or encode a Rec. 2020 file and have our fixtures work with it.” Away from esoteric worlds of talking alien planets, Kang has found ways for image-based lighting to bring the

subtlety of the real world to much more conventional set-ups, without requiring too much complexity. “We had what we call a FLEX (film lighting experience) event in January, in LA. I had ten one- foot INFINIBARs constructed to become a window. I attached a show card – that way, I could pixel map anything to the ten lights and any window image, so it was a window to the world. The reflections looked like windows and it was all wireless; I had it all on CRMX. “Now, it doesn’t have to be a science experiment,” Kang reflects. “The technology is here. You’ve got the spectrum and the colorimetry you need, and cameras with the ability to capture the world and stitch it all together. Just as long as the colour management workflow is figured out, the creative activity of image-based lighting – using image to light the world – becomes its own real craft.”



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