Want to know more? FAQ

1. General Virtual Production Questions

Virtual Production is modern content creation. It is an agile process characterized by starting VFX earlier and leveraging technology throughout the entire production life cycle to enhance the way content is created.

Virtual production is iterative and creative: Beginning VFX in preproduction makes digital assets available for planning and shooting, making it easier to continuously refine the final look and feel throughout the course of production. Virtual production is an expansion of the traditional filmmaking playbook, enabling studios to pursue greater experimentation while controlling the time and cost of production.

Traditional production is highly linear: Directors and cinematographers plan scenes using storyboards and shot lists; actors are filmed on sets, on locations, and against green screens; and editorial and VFX development starts and finishes after filming is complete.

This one-way procession through preproduction, production, and postproduction can encourage negative outcomes, such as a “fix-it-in- post” mentality, destructive or duplicative VFX labor, and expensive reshoots.

  • Visualization
  • Motion Capture (MOCAP)
  • Hybrid Camera (Simulcam, Green Screen Hybrid)
  • LED Live-Action

Using 3D VFX assets to visualize and plan a task. There are many types of visualization (for example, pitchvis, techvis, and postvis), but the preeminent form is previs: planning a scene in 3D before shooting.While experienced VFX professionals may say previs has been commoditized, only a handful of VFX studios have developed a reputation for providing visualization services.

Capturing the movements of people to animate VFX assets. Mocap systems have been used in film since the 1980s, but over time, hardware form factors have shrunk, and software has become increasingly automated.

Excellent motion capture is still technically and artistically challenging, but it can be critical for realistic animations of digital humans and creatures.

Compositing digital VFX with live-action camera footage in real time. Simulcam was originally developed and coined by Weta Digital and James Cameron for the first Avatar movie in 2009.

It is a direct improvement over shooting against green screens, because visualizing the digital and physical simultaneously with accurate parallax helps directors gain a better spatial understanding of the scene.11 Actors also benefit from seeing a preliminary view of the visual effects instead of acting against a green wall.

Replacing shooting against green screens with shooting against LED panels that display final- quality VFX. LED is a natural progression from the technique of 2D video screen projection, and LEDs’ ability to cast light for accurate reflections is a significant benefit to post-production.

2. Virtual Production Benefits Questions

Virtual production isn’t exactly new, and some use cases have already
seen significant adoption. However,a combination of industry, tech, and macroscopic developments is accelerating Hollywood’s interest in virtual production:

  • The popularity of VFX-heavy genres and recent virtual production breakthroughs.
  • Increasing accessibility and jockeying between game engines and studios.
  • Competition between streaming platforms and film studios.
  • COVID-19, physical production, and avoiding a “content desert”
  • Improving Storytelling: Visualization spans the entire production life cycle and is used to plan scenes and shots. This helps ensure that the storyline, captured footage, and VFX being produced accurately reflect the director’s vision.
  • Resolving Ambiguity: Historically, actors and directors shot against green and had to wait until post-production to see the output. Hybrid cameras and LED volumes allow creatives and talent to see what they’re interacting with and producing in real time.
  • Unlocking Possibilities: Photogrammetry and 3D scanning enable virtualization of real-world sets and environments. Inside game engines, filmmakers can reshape mountains, move the sun, and create a 12-hour-long sunset.

Visualization can help enhance planning, increasing shooting efficiency and reducing the occurrence of expensive reshoots.

Based on our research, reshoots are common with high budget films and can account for 5 to 20 percent (and sometimes more) of the final production cost.

Although not every story or director is a good fit for LED live-action production, virtualizing sets saves on travel, transportation, and location costs and reduces risks. VFX costs on a high-budget sci-fi/fantasy film can be as high as 20 percent of the total film budget; shooting against an LED wall significantly reduces postproduction VFX costs like compositing and rotoscoping and helps filmmakers get ready for test screening more quickly.

Virtual production may also have cost benefits further downstream from principal photography: LED volumes and virtual sets can be used by marketing teams to shoot commercials, and VFX assets can be reused for sequels, subsequent seasons, and other media. While reusing digital assets is not impossible today, it’s not the norm: most organizations have many digital versions of the same asset (such as the White House) that are not shared because each asset is tied to an individual show, and even within a given show, production and marketing budgets are siloed.

There’s a wide range of strategic questions for business leaders to consider:

  • Stakeholder Alignment: How do we develop a shared understanding of virtual production among VFX supervisors, directors, and film producers? What parts of the value proposition need to be clarified in greater detail?
  • Production Strategy: What are the technical strengths and limitations of virtual production? Based on those trade-offs, is it a good fit for the content we produce? Which virtual production techniques are most suitable for our portfolio?
  • Business Case Development: How do we justify an investment in virtual production or assess using it for a specific project? What are the costs to execute, and where can we expect cost savings? How long will it take to break even, and what’s my ROI?
  • Capability Building: Which capabilities should we build internally versus contract externally? What people, processes, and technology do we need in order to stand up a virtual production unit? What software, hardware, and services are necessary?
  • Organization Transformation: What organization-wide shifts would help us unlock the maximum value from an investment in virtual production? What departments or budgets could be merged to unlock synergies?