The workplace landscape has drastically changed in the past few years, and the world of video production is no exception. Some people don’t go to the office anymore, and video production teams no longer need to go on location.
Why set up a massive production on a frigid, windy mountaintop when you can bring the snowy, windy mountaintop to your comfortably air-conditioned studio? Barbie, Star Trek Strange New Worlds, and HBO’s House of Dragons are notable films and TV shows using virtual production.
This technique is being used increasingly for all types of film, television, and video game projects. Below is everything you need to get started on your virtual production journey (that hopefully won’t end on a frigid, windy mountaintop).
What Is Virtual Production?
Virtual production is a filmmaking technique combining traditional live-action shooting with real-time computer-generated elements running on massive LED screens. It integrates physical sets and actors with virtual environments, special effects, and real-time computer-generated imagery (CGI) during filming.
This approach allows filmmakers to visualize and interact with virtual elements while shooting, providing more control, creativity, and efficiency in the production process.
It has revolutionized how filmmakers approach storytelling and opened up new creative possibilities for bringing fictional worlds to life on the big screen.
Benefits Of Virtual Production
Virtual production offers many advantages, which is why it is becoming a common technique – especially as technology keeps evolving.
Take heed to the following 8 key benefits of virtual production.
1. Cost efficiency
Virtual production can significantly reduce production costs by minimizing the need for physical sets, locations, and post-production work. It streamlines the process and shortens the overall production timeline.
2. Real-time visualization
Virtual production allows filmmakers to see virtual sets, characters, and visual effects in real time while shooting, enabling better decision-making, collaboration, and adjustments on the fly.
Plus, virtual production provides instant visual feedback, reducing the time needed for post-production, and offers as many visual effects that can be captured and finalized during filming.
3. Flexibility and creativity
Virtual production offers creative freedom, allowing filmmakers to experiment with different sets, lighting conditions, and visual effects without being constrained by real-world limitations.
It also aids in pre-visualization, allowing filmmakers to plan shots, camera angles, and compositions more accurately before entering the production phase.
4. Enhanced performance
Virtual production revolutionizes how actors work by enabling them to perform within fully immersive virtual environments, eliminating the need for green screens. This innovative approach enhances the authenticity of performances, allowing actors to react and respond to their digital surroundings in real-time.
Moreover, actors now have the ability to interact with physical objects that are strategically placed in front of the screens, creating a multi-layered experience.
From the camera to the physical foreground objects like plants, to the actors themselves, and further physical elements, all seamlessly merge together to create a cohesive environment displayed on the screens.
This advanced technique truly sells the virtual world and enhances the overall cinematic experience.
5. Consistency in lighting and cinematography
Virtual production enables consistent lighting and cinematography throughout the production, reducing discrepancies between different shots and ensuring a more cohesive visual style.
And when shooting reflective surfaces like a car or a motorcycle helmet, you can capture those in-screen reflections right in the camera.
6. Set Transitions
Since the sets are digital, you can more easily transition to a new set. This allows you to shoot multiple scenes in multiple locations with a much quicker turnaround.
Also, because these locations or sets are virtual, you never have to worry about the weather, time of day, or any other elements that may typically interrupt a traditional shoot on location.
7. Convenient Collaboration
Because you are working with virtual digital worlds, you can collaborate with teams of specialists from around the real world, no matter their location.
Different virtual production teams now have technical team members connected to the set remotely, saving money on travel and ensuring you have the best people working on your production, regardless of their location or travel needs.
8. Helping The Environment
Because you are creating digital sets and props instead of physical ones, you are creating less waste and pollution, which of course, helps the environment in a big way. Not to mention less travel in planes or cars. No more “red eye” flights? I’m sold.
Tools and Software
Virtual production involves using advanced tools such as LED screens, motion capture systems, and powerful rendering engines. By combining these technologies, filmmakers can create immersive virtual environments, characters, and visual effects on the set while actors perform their roles.
This approach can replace or enhance traditional green screen techniques and pre-visualization methods. It emphasizes creative work in pre-production versus the traditional post-production workflow.
Some integral tools and software include:
1. LED Screens
These screens or walls display real-time CGI backdrops, environments, or visual effects. These backdrops create realistic and immersive virtual environments, replacing traditional physical sets or green screens. They are capable of real-time rendering, which means they can display dynamic content in sync with the camera’s movements.
2. Realtime 3D engines / Game engines
3D engines like Unreal Engine create virtual sets and worlds that can be explored and traversed like a video game. They can generate real-time CGI imagery, allowing filmmakers to see the final result immediately during filming.
3. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs)
Without powerful GPUs to drive them, even the most robust game engines in the world become ineffective. The quality of your computer’s GPUs directly impacts the detail achievable on vast LED screens.
4. Motion Trackers
These camera tracking systems follow the movement of people or objects in front of LED screens. The precise tracking technology allows the camera to accurately track the subject’s movement to move the objects and environments in the virtual world accordingly to create a perfectly accurate parallax for any camera movement.
The Virtual Production Workflow
While every production has unique needs, here is a typical workflow used in virtual production.
During this phase, the filmmakers work with visual effects artists and technical experts to design virtual elements, such as digital sets, props, and visual effects. They also plan the camera setups and movements to align with the virtual elements.
This is when principal photography occurs with actors on set, and virtual worlds will be projected onto the massive LED screens. Production includes:
Camera Tracking: The physical camera used for filming and the studio is equipped with tracking markers or sensors. This tracking data is sent to the real-time rendering engine, enabling it to precisely match the virtual elements’ perspective and movements with the live-action footage.
Real-time Rendering from engines: This rendering process allows filmmakers to see the digital components integrated with the live-action footage while on set.
While much of the visual effects work is done in real-time during shooting, some final touches or additional effects might still be added during post-production to enhance the overall quality.
The Virtual Verdict
Helpful? As you can see, there are tremendous benefits of virtual productions. And with the way technology constantly advances, it will only become more beneficial and commonplace over time.
Whether you are a seasoned commercial director, graphic designer, film student, or anything else, there is a whole new world to explore with virtual production.
We expect to see more innovative content being delivered year after year on screens of all sizes, which is something to be excited about.
We’d love to help you develop the perfect video project for your brand. To learn more about Bottle Rocket Media’s video production services and other services like motion graphics services, connect with us to start your video project.