Is virtual production a magic wand, allowing producers access to unlimited creativity and cost savings, or is it inaccessible and leaving traditional filmmakers behind?
There has always been a huge technology angle in traditional filmmaking. As far back as the 1930s, rear projection screens would be used to create effects - with varying levels of realism. The technology then moved on to green screens. This newer technique brought a lot of positives, but there are drawbacks with green screens too; you don’t get the reflections of the actual scene hitting actor’s faces, instead there tends to be lots of green which needs to be slowly edited out in post-production.
Virtual production (VP) now enables traditional filmmakers to put people and props into a scene without having to travel to a location to create that environment.
In the automotive industry film production happens when manufacturers need to sell new cars. Traditionally this has meant travelling around the world - to the salt lakes, to the Alps, to hidden forests or winding coastal roads - and taking the crew and the cars with you. Virtual production can take all of that away. Four different scenes can be shot in one location with the ability to send the film for an advert in China and an advert in the Americas. This saves on petrol and flying costs, and saves on travel time but there are other benefits too…
Traditional filmmakers can be governed by the weather. A huge drawback is that the rain, the sun and the wind can ruin productions, or at least escalate budgets, when planned shots become unobtainable on the day. Being able to use a virtual production volume enables filmmakers to control this environment, making the case for creativity, sustainability and costs.
Virtual production allows filmmakers to be more creative, in a shorter time frame, than they would be able to be out on location with traditional methods.
What does this mean for traditional film crew, and how accessible is the technology? The skills of traditional crew are transferable to work with the VP method. The real difference is that the post-production team becomes the pre-production team as well. The ideology of filmmakers requires a shift, as the focus moves more to the creative pre-shoot and away from adding in all the special effects at the end of the process.
Whenever new technology emerges there is usually a barrier where it feels only accessible to those with huge budgets, then, as the technology becomes more adopted, gradually simpler, less expensive options come to market. This is exactly what is unfolding in the virtual production field. Although VP is usually thought of as an LED screen, it can also work with a less expensive green screen. It is possible for emerging filmmakers to use simpler tools to create their own films using virtual production with a tracked cam against a green screen or cheaper projection screen. In workshops we run with ScreenSkills we’re starting to see indie filmmakers who shoot using Unreal Engine and the techniques they learnt on the course to make animation films, so there is a lot of crossover with traditional filmmakers.
Emerging as an epicentre for VP stages, the UK is home to more than 40 large volume studios allowing filmmakers to experiment and get creative. At Target3D we have solutions ranging from the world-class set up of our Virtual Production Test Stage and Central London studio, through to really simple tools - we’re testing a HTC Vive tracker, for example, which is less than £1,000. With a headset and bass stations you can put that on your camera and start tracking yourself with a green screen shoot at home. As long as the story is there, it still holds up in certain genres and becomes more widely accessible.
No doubt there will always be traditional filmmakers who seek the glamour and lifestyle of travelling to far flung destinations to make movies but for reasons of sustainability, travel, control and cost it’s clear to see why the virtual production market is projected to grow from USD 2.6 billion in 2022 to USD 5.1 billion by 2027*. Farewell Himalayas, hello Hackney?
Photo credit: ARRI *Source: Marketsandmarkets, 2022.
Why trust Target3D for Virtual Production?
In a complex and confusing marketplace, Target3D offers full virtual production service work from consultancy to a turnkey solution. Working with all the leading VP suppliers, we are unbiased and recommend what's right for you, not what's right for us. Speak to the experts today.