INDUS TRY. V IRTUA L PRODUCT I ON ROUND TABL E
MARINA PRAK: It’s the way it has shaken up film and (in its wake) the industry for commercials and broadcast. With virtual production, there is no limitation to creativity – anything you think of can be put on screen. Furthermore, travelling the earth to go to locations that fit the scenario is no longer needed. You can project everything here and now, and go from sunrise in Japan to sunset in Norway in a second. DAN HAMILL: The seemingly endless creative possibilities it affords filmmakers. They are free from the normal limitations of shooting on location – such as time of day, weather, etc. There is no need to wait for the rain to stop, or until it’s dark to shoot a night scene; these natural restrictions can be ‘fixed’ extremely quickly. Another big plus is sustainability – sending large cast and crew units around the world on planes, emitting huge amounts of CO2, can be kept to a minimum, as long as more studios offering VP as a service keep being developed globally. What advances are being made to speed up the process, and provide greater synchronicity between camera tracking, rendering and LED playback? PILBOROUGH-SKINNER: One of the main driving forces of virtual production adoption is the use of real-time game engines as our render medium. Using video plates and other techniques works well depending on the shot, but Unreal Engine – which is free to learn and run – has accelerated VP and democratised the process. This means it can be deployed across a range of productions, including
CHRISTIAN KAESTNER: The answer for me is actually a non-technical one. While it’s extremely exciting to witness the advancements in technology, real-time rendering and low-latency synchronisation, it’s really the creative aspect of virtual production that excites me the most. Virtual production enables us to become an even bigger artistic partner, and it dramatically expands our involvement very early on in the filmmaking process. In-camera visual effects (ICVFX) require close collaboration between filmmaker, DOP, production designer and the visual effects department – as the shoot is being planned, scripts are being written and stories are being told. Becoming part of this process is super exciting, and requires a refreshing way of thinking about what we do. JEREMY HOCHMAN: Our team has been working with LEDs on-camera for close to 20 years, so to see this become mainstream is incredibly exciting. In the past, we’ve relied on fragile systems with custom software and hand-crafted LED fixture arrays to do these things. To now have an entire industry embracing this type of workflow will benefit moviemakers and VFX companies, ultimately leading to more (and better) content for consumers. DAVID LEVY: The ability to have such a detailed level of control over your environment, without losing creative freedom. In fact, the types of shots you can achieve in-camera are amazing, and would certainly be otherwise impossible on location.
What gets you most excited about virtual production? MARK PILBOROUGH-SKINNER: The most exciting thing is the creative possibility it enables, allowing productions to go to locations that are either non-accessible, dangerous to film at, or simply don’t exist. VP also encourages early collaboration between departments that, in a traditional production process, would normally work in silos. Having your DOP, art director and VFX artists engaged in ongoing conversations prior to shooting means interesting solutions, more creativity, and collaboration can occur before even getting on-set. JONNY HUNT: We’ve been putting LED screens in front cameras for 15+ years, so now having the opportunity to use that experience to solve brand-new challenges every day is incredibly exciting! It has also taken us from being a primarily technical department, to being right in the middle of the creative process, while working with some of the world’s leading DOPs and VFX supervisors – and gaining a real understanding of their vision. We feel very lucky to have been there right from the beginning. “Latency is now being brought down to one frame. At the moment, nobody is able to drop below that figure”
MARK PILBOROUGH-SKINNER VP supervisor, Garden Studios
JONNY HUNT Technical director, VSS
CHRISTIAN KAESTNER VFX supervisor, Framestore
After graduating with a computer programming degree from SAE Institute London, Pilborough- Skinner was lead Unreal developer at Satore Tech for three years, before joining Garden Studios, which boasts a 4800 sq ft virtual production stage.
Hunt studied computer science, before applying his practical mind to the video market. He is now responsible for the management and delivery of every technical aspect of VSS’s project work in the UK, Europe and Middle East.
Kaestner is currently working as overall VFX supervisor on 1899 for Netflix – the newest project from the creators of Dark – which is the first show to make use of Dark Bay, the largest LED volume facility in Europe.
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