Virtual Production Demo meets demands
Amsterdam – In advance 60 to 80 people were estimated to attend. In the week of February 24th-28th, the number of people interested was as high as 220.
For five days, guests from the world of cinematography, television, commercial, VFX and drama productions gained insight into the challenging possibilities of Faber Audiovisuals Virtual Production. Through an introductory workshop, one-on-one conversations with partners and two sets where concrete applications could be experienced live.
‘We are entering a relatively new field, that of the film industry,’ says Jasper Reijgers, Sr. Executive Streaming, TV & Film, explaining the initiative. In the recent past we’ve gained our first experiences with the production of Netflix’s Nightflyers series. The well-known green screen technique has been replaced by digital technique. These techniques have been extensively tested and fine-tuned in recent years.’ This radically changes the production process, because now physical objects (such as cars and actors) and camera movements can be merged into real-time computer-generated images using state of the art rendering solutions. ‘It will undoubtedly lead to a shift from post-production – in which all kinds of things had to be added to the footage shot for green screens afterwards – to pre-production. After all, a lot more preparation and creation will take place in advance’.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see what productive – and therefore financial – benefits can be achieved. Nils Pauwels, Sales manager solutions, invites the audience to ‘imagine that you have to shoot a scene somewhere in Amsterdam, outside as well as in a house. This requires location scouting in advance, arranging parking permits (which are very expensive in the capital by the way), clearing the street from other parkers, but also from tourists and annoying cyclists. In addition, you also have to drag many kilos of heavy equipment along steep wooden stairs to the first floor. Not to mention bad weather. To put it mildly: not ideal.’ With Virtual production all of that is a thing of the past. Because film production, partially thanks to the current possibilities with real-time rendering, includes everything from shooting to adjustments to the script and editing at the same time in a fully controlled environment: the studio. This relieves cinematographers, visual effects specialists, light and sound department, director and actors of many worries. It allows them to fully concentrate on the result.
Regarding actors, their performance will take on a whole new dimension in the virtual film set environment. After all, they interact directly with the environment: what the director sees is what he gets. By the way, that environment can change completely with a simple touch on an iPad: weather, light, colour temperature, you name it. Sightlines also move effortlessly with the chosen camera perspective. In the demo, Faber Audiovisuals built two sets together with its partners. Reijgers: ‘We present the workshop in front of two screens placed at right angles. During the presentation, we project the decor of a spaceship onto those screens. While Nils walks around the set during his explanation, you can see how his changing position effortlessly matches the viewing angle to the decor’. The second rig is one with a BMW. It is situated in front of and under an LED screen. On the driver’s side there is a third, smaller LED panel. The camera we use is on a dolly, so we can drive along the driver’s side of the car. The side panels either show a shopping street or a bridge, along which we drive. The roof panel provides reflections on things like the windscreen’. The composite image is astonishingly realistic; as if you are racing at full speed through a neon-lit shopping street or across a long suspension bridge.
It is exactly this aspect that appears to arouse the curiosity of directors and cameramen in particular. Camera operator Guido van Gennep, a visitor on February 25th, immediately sees the advantages: ‘I have never really seen it in action, he says. One of the most difficult scenes in films is always the one with moving cars. So much can go wrong with that’. He unreservedly predicts a great future for virtual production and is already seriously considering deploying it for the project he is currently working on. Mark van Aller, who signed on for the camera work of series such as Flying Dutchmen and Judas, also believes in the changes that are imminent thanks to contemporary digital techniques: ‘Although the photorealistic quality of the projections is still a point of concern to me. There are still steps to be taken. A fictitious spaceship is one thing, but an exact representation of reality is another. For light specialist Zen Bloot the matter was not new, he said: ‘But it’s good to see it in action, using the very latest techniques. I am convinced that they will radically change my field of expertise. It will require a new, differently trained generation of light technicians’.
The Virtual Production Demo was powered by Amsterdam Studio’s (accommodation), Stype (camera tracking), Brompton (LED screen processing), Disguise (video playout) and HighRes (digital lighting), By Lex and NEP Hilversum.