How to Make the Most out of Virtual Production

Tim Doubleday, Vicon VFX Product Manager

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Covid-19 has had a far-reaching impact on the film and television industry, from reduced budgets to delayed production. In fact, according to recent research, the global film industry has suffered a revenue loss of seven billion U.S. dollars as of March this year due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has forced the industry to rethink the whole production process. With strict measures now in place to ensure social distancing, it makes having a large production crew in the current climate a huge logistical challenge.

For many businesses, the use of technology has allowed them to continue operating as usual during the pandemic, so why can’t film and television follow suit? Virtual production could be the answer, and here’s how:

Combining the physical and digital worlds 

Simply put, virtual production is where the physical and digital worlds meet. Through a combination of immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as well as photo real game-engine technologies, directors on set can access real-time motion capture and VFX data in order to see what the fully rendered scene will look like while they are shooting.

Being able to capture realtime VFX in camera using game engines like Unreal, projected onto LED walls, is one of the main benefits of virtual production. Being able to scout or visualize the scene beforehand in VR is another advantage. It brings a lot of the work forward in the process – so it can be dealt with on set rather than in post-production.

Real-time iteration 

The process of getting there can also be very time-consuming which can mess with the creative process. However, through virtual production, filmmakers can see what they are working on in real-time, so they can quickly react and make changes as needed, rather than having to wait until post-production.

Reduce time on set  

Virtual production also offers several logistical benefits as it allows for more iterations of scenes or shots to be created with fewer people and in a shorter space of time — helping to reduce production costs.

The need for a reduced number of crew on set is one of the ways virtual production can help to overcome the challenges of the production process. Directors can be much more confident that they have captured the right shots, allowing them to put an increased focus into the planning process and minimize the ‘on set’ time required.

As lockdown measures begin to ease and filmmakers look to adapt the production process to continue operating in the ‘new normal’, we will continue to see an increase in production companies adopting virtual production.

Today, virtual production gives anyone the capability to be a filmmaker, not just successful production companies with large film crews and millions of dollars of budget. Virtual production is here to stay, and through companies including the likes of ILM, Framestore and DNEG, will continue to revolutionize the entertainment industry.