Virtual production is one of the biggest recent trends to shape content production, providing the opportunity for greater creative freedom and flexibility, writes Erin Dusseault of AWS.
In almost any industry, watershed moments define a path forward, and over the past twenty-five years, these have inevitably been linked to technological evolution. This rings true in content production, which has enjoyed a steadily growing creative arsenal, from the introduction of digital filmmaking to the advent of and maturation of CGI tools.
Despite the challenges of 2020, with physical production halted at times, the future of content production is coming more into focus as studios capitalize on the convergence of modern technologies. These developments are laying the foundation for more efficient and iterative ways to realize stories on-screen.
One of the biggest trends of the last year is virtual production, with the latest incarnation of the technology featuring sizable LED panel-equipped volumes that are popping up in major production and VFX hubs around the globe.
When properly implemented, virtual production allows filmmakers to capture stunning visuals in-camera. This leads to more informed creative decisions, enhanced actor performances, and shorter post production timelines.
The early success of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian provides a real-world example of how transformative virtual production technology can be and has proven to be a tipping point for others to follow suit.
“Fix it in post” is a notoriously familiar concept in VFX and doesn’t always bode well for the final result as artists are often limited by footage acquired on set.
A more front-loaded approach, also known as “fix it in prep,” has steadily been gaining traction. Now, with the rise of virtual production, such a holistic approach to filmmaking is essential. One of the benefits to considering almost all aspects of a production at the outset is that it brings together departments and creatives that would not typically collaborate directly, providing a more comprehensive vision for the end result, and a more iterative real-time creative process.
Under the hood, virtual production today is powered by a combination of technologies. Real-time game engines provide the interactivity and responsiveness needed to drive the display of imagery on LED panels as they change in relation to the camera’s position in the volume. Integrating cloud-based tools, like virtual workstations or storage, into virtual production workflows can help augment techniques, from accelerating the creation of images for LED display to enabling collaboration.
Team members that aren’t on set can be incorporated into the review process, and changes to the digital environments can be made remotely and immediately with the cloud, leading to a more iterative, creative process. The cloud also makes it easier to work on a global scale since assets are centrally located on the cloud, enabling studios to enlist the ideal talent for each project, regardless of location.
Like any emerging technology, education and training are key to success with virtual production. As filmmakers adjust to making more decisions up front, blurring the lines between pre and post, directors, cinematographers, and other key creatives will begin to realize how virtual production gives them the ability to create with a much more realistic view of what the final result will look like on screen.
With that level of freedom and flexibility in the right hands, audiences are sure to be delighted by the interesting stories to come.
Erin Dusseault is a Principal Product Manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS), and helps shape the development of creative tools that are powerful and intuitive, including Amazon Nimble Studio. She joined AWS from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), where she spent more than 16 years in VFX production, serving as VFX Producer for “Rogue One” and “Solo,” among other projects, and most recently as VFX Executive Producer for upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series and “The Batman.” Her full list of credits can be found here.
- On Wednesday August 11, 2021 at 10am PST (6pm BST) during SIGGRAPH 2021, Erin will moderate a panel on real-time production featuring participants from Epic Games, Preymaker and Amazon Studios. For details and free registration, visit: https://pages.awscloud.com/siggraph2021
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