Virtual Production example

if there’s a buzz word right now in filmmaking and visual effects, it is probably 

If you are making a live-action film (vfx production) with characters. Traditionally what you would need is a camera, actors, and a location. With virtual production, the camera, actors, and location. It is completely synthetic but the result. Thanks to many recent technological developments. We can still largely follow the ‘rules’ of live-action filmmaking.

glimpse of virtual production where character is acting in front of the camera

Virtual production tends to be used to help visualize complex scenes or scenes that simply cannot be filmed for real.

In general, though, virtual production can refer to any techniques that allow filmmakers to plan, imagine, or complete some kind of film element. Typically with the aid of digital tools. Previs, techs, postvis, motion capture, VR, ar, simul-cams.

Live-Action Virtual Production

Virtual production tools in live-action tend to relate mostly around the capturing of action with simul-cams or virtual cameras. These effective screen acting as virtual cameras that can be tracked just like motion-captured actors are tracked so that someone looking at the screen – a director – can see an almost-finished composed image of what the final shot may look like. The whole idea is to simply replicate what you might do with a live-action camera, but that you can’t do with such a camera because you might be crafting a synthetic world or synthetic characters that cannot be filmed for real.

But it’s not just about being able to visualize these synthetic worlds, it’s also about being able to change them quickly, if necessary. Which is why real-time rendering and game engines have become a big part of virtual production, and why real-time rendering and live-action filmmaking and visual effects have started to merge.

Virtual production in TV

If you’ve seen a weather presenter or newsreader interact with broadcast graphics during a television broadcast, then you’ve already seen one of the other major uses of virtual production. Such broadcasts are now incredibly common – they also came to the further attention of many audiences recently when The Weather Channel produced a visualization of a possible storm surge impact from Hurricane Florence. That work, in particular, relied on Unreal Engine.

Broadcast producers make use of virtual production. They can control the environment being filmed. Typically a greenscreen studio with fixed lighting and cameras. It is easily tracked. Several systems allow for real-time graphics to be ‘overlaid’ over presenters and interact with them (Ncam is also a major player in this area).

Broadcast producers make use of virtual production often because they can control the environment being filmed in – typically a greenscreen studio with fixed lighting and cameras that can be easily tracked. Several systems allow for real-time graphics that ‘overlaid’ over presenters. It interacts with them (Ncam is also a major player in this area).

The future of virtual production, and your project

Virtual production is something the big films and the big television shows are using. But is it something that smaller, independent filmmakers can take advantage of?

Blur Studio director Kevin Margo is among several filmmakers who present a useful working example. He recently released his fully-CG Construct short which utilized virtual production techniques to tell a story of repressed robot construction workers. The short was Margo’s exploration into virtual production, as well as GPU rendering options, including with Chaos Group’s V-Ray. Many of the filming techniques used had also been regularly relied upon for Margo’s game cinematics work at Blur. The video below showcases some of his virtual cameras approaches.

The two major game engine producers, Unreal and Unity, are certainly pushing virtual production. It’s their engines that are the backbone of many real-time rendering and virtual set production environments.

So, where can you look for further information on getting into virtual production? Here are a few starting points:

  • Unreal has just launched a dedicated hub for virtual production
  • Unity has a dedicated page on its website for filmmaking aspects of its game engine
  • Dutch startup Deepspace is concentrating on delivering virtual production services mostly for previs
  • Markerless motion capture suit maker Rokoko has a virtual production kit available, that incorporates its Smart suit Pro, a SteamVR tracking system, and other hardware and software to help realize scenes virtually