PART OF TARGET3D'S VIRTUAL PRODUCTION EXPLAINER SERIES The use of VP has accelerated at lightning speed, but what actually is it? Virtual Production is a catch-all term that’s relatively new and frequently only associated with LED production volumes. As such, it often causes confusion. Read on as we explore the "what’s and why’s" of VP, take a look at some of the benefits and uses of this phenomenon and explain two different methods of creating virtual production.
Virtual Production (VP) as a method that blends virtual worlds with real performers, real foreground sets and real objects to make everything appear as though it is in one space.
Traditionally, film-making has followed a natural timeline of Pre-production - Production - Post-Production. Individuals or teams stepped in at the right time - from the script writer to the creatives, then the film crew followed by the special effects teams. Virtual Production has blurred those defined lines; now the film world is created in a digital environment before anyone even steps foot on the physical set.
Virtual Production using green screen technology has been around the longest and still has the potential to make capturing a VP scene relatively simple. Essentially it involves pointing a camera at a green screen, composite that in live then remove the green and replace with a virtual background in post-production. There are products that make VP really quick and easy such as Vanishing Point, a tracked camera that you point at the green screen, which calculates the nodal offset for you. The live composite workflow using a green screen is chiefly used for previs in a commercial setting but has been adopted as a "final product" workflow by other creatives.
Another positive aspect of using a green screen for virtual production is that you have all the time in the world to go back and make it perfect afterwards, which isn’t the case when working with LED walls.
At the Virtual Production Test Stage, which we operate with Digital Catapult, we have been experimenting with Virtual Production using LED walls for more than a year.
To help understand how LED walls are used in VP, it first helps to understand how our brains process movement. Parallax is the effect where the foreground objects seem to move faster than background objects - for example, if you’re on a train looking at trees in the foreground and mountains in the background, the trees appear to move really quickly and the mountains appear to barely move at all. That’s how our brain processes how far away things are and is echoed when we track a film camera in front of an LED wall. For this workflow the environment runs in real time game engines with the images showing on the LED wall. The camera is tracked within this environment and the perspective is displayed relative to the wall so that the performer or object in the foreground appears to be moving in the real world.
There are more moving parts in an LED workflow, making it more complicated than green screen shooting, and what you shoot in camera is what you get for your finished piece (called the final pixel). The benefits of LED - being able to control the lighting in real time and the performer being fully immersed in the space - often outweigh these complications.
Who uses VP? We are noticing lots of car advertisements that have been shot using VP - put a shiny new car in front of an LED wall, get the lighting bang on and it can look even better than the real thing. Film producers are still leading the way, but TV broadcasters and the creatives behind music videos are embracing virtual production, as are the creatives behind music videos.
As the use of VP has accelerated at lightning speed, there is something of a skills shortage emerging. The more progressive universities and colleges have already created courses and degrees with this in mind and Target3D are supporting a number of them to teach virtual production skills by installing and providing training for VP technology on campuses.
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.