Virtual Production (VP) encompasses cutting-edge technology that enables In-Camera Visual Effects (ICVFX) in ways never before seen.
This revolutionary process blurs the lines between traditional physical production techniques – with actors performing within an existing location/environment or on a stage with practically – constructed sets/props – and synthesizes those approaches with what has previously been relegated to the realm of conventional visual effects processes such as blue/green screen, rear projection, translates and painted backings, as well as techniques such as car process, forced-perspective, set extensions, etc...
And while there’s been much fanfare over productions utilizing this approach, there is surprisingly very little practical information or assistance out there relating how to actually utilize VP for individual projects, especially those with shorter lead times like commercials, music videos, and other smaller-scale narrative formats.
THE VOLUME STAGE
& UNREAL ENGINE
We are at a moment where real-time visual effects and live-action photography are merging. As a film production paradigm, virtual production is still very much in its infancy and is largely being dictated by technology and less by artistry. However, at its core, VP is driven by a state-of-the-art soundstage that utilizes large wrap-around LED walls (and ideally a ceiling) to display various forms of motion backgrounds – such as virtual environments generated in real-time from 3D video game engines like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, filmed 2D live-action plates, or other forms of environment scans cued from media servers – that surround the live-action “foreground” elements to be filmed within a “volume” space.
& TALENT IMMERSION
The camera of your choice is then tracked within the volume and its movements are translated to the Engine to drive the virtual environment, enabling realistic full 3D parallax of objects and environments on the screens. This allows the actors, sets, vehicles, etc. to feel as if they coexist with and within those virtual setpieces. Unlike a tedious greenscreen setup, the talent doesn’t have to imagine that they are on another planet, they can see and feel the environment all around them. And it isn’t static… it’s animated, alive… It even provides the appropriate ambient lighting of that environment onto the sets and the actors.
WHY IS VP USEFUL OVER OTHER METHODS?
The technical aspects of Virtual Production can feel overwhelming… The terminology, confusing… The process, strange. But when it’s working to its ideal, filming on a VP stage should feel much the same way as shooting on a traditional location or set built on a stage… BUT without all the headache that comes along with such real world endeavors. On a VP LED stage, there’s no more weather days, no “chasing” the light… You can be on the summit of Mt. Everest, but have complete control of the shooting environment. Any world – no matter how small or epic – can be created.
This revolutionary process integrates multiple arenas of filmmaking – not just film and television, but also live broadcast, esports and immersive experiences – under one unique production umbrella. And by moving this mélange of disparate techniques to a VP stage, it enables the actors – and in some ways even more importantly, the filmmakers – to see and experience them in-camera, and thereby regain control of those elements, factor them in their compositions and then focus on what’s most important… capturing the performances.
It is this FINAL PIXEL guiding principle that drives the design and implementation of Synapse’s comprehensive VP offerings.