The key role of virtual production technology in cinematography
Have you ever wondered what changed the way stories are told and visualized on the big screen? Yes, it’s virtual production, the technology that is increasing in popularity and making a big difference. Today, filmmakers are capable of creating complex and photo-realistic environments along with the characters in a virtual world, and they create the final product by integrating live-action footage seamlessly- virtual production technology is utilizing real-time technology and advanced computer graphics to make this possible.
What is virtual production all about?
In filmmaking, you can call virtual production a revolutionary technology that perfectly combines the latest advancements in the field of technology with traditional physical production techniques. Now, teams are capable of creating photorealistic virtual sets in real time with the help of 3D game engines and displaying them behind physical sets on large LED walls. What this technology has done is it has truly expanded the scope of cinematography and storytelling in many ways.
How does this amazing technology work?
Virtual production technology utilizes Unity or Real Engine, the real-time 3D engines to create photorealistic environments and virtual sets. Let’s have a look at the workflow of this technology.
Using this technology in the very beginning of film and TV production enables the creation of digital screens, and this helps in conveying the story as well as the tone of the project to all the studios, producers, and investors. At the time when the idea for the film or TV is visualized for the very first time, the process of pre-visualization is utilized during the initial phase.
Asset creation through the virtual art department
Now, it’s time for the virtual art department to create assets for the film, this includes all those characters that are going to be used in the virtual world and rough 3D to camera-ready prototypes. The team of virtual art department plays a pivotal role here by determining which should be physical props and set pieces, what elements of the production need to be created digitally, and which elements are going to need some extra VFX work during the post-production phase.
The role of real-time 3D artists begins here. With the help of game engines, they are expected to create digital imagery of bringing the vision of filmmakers for shots to life. This one is a highly important role of the virtual production process and filmmakers are well aware of this aspect. With the help of modeling software and a 3D engine, a virtual world is created when everything is done digitally in 3D. These 3D models make up the virtual world projected on LED screens, this includes everything from props and characters to sets. Mocap cameras are also in need of assets that should be superimposed over live-action footage as it helps the crew in framing and timing.
Let’s move to the next stage. When this stage of virtual production comes, this is where virtual worlds are projected on LED screens and they are surrounded by props, actors, and small set pieces in the foreground. Thanks to the volume’s LED screens, they reduce the requirement for some complex and extensive lighting setups while creating more realistic lighting and reflections.
Without a doubt, virtual production technology offers various kinds of visual effects during production and pre-production, but FX, compositing, and 3D models are still required. At the time of post-production, VFX artists including compositors, FX artists, and 3D modelers will create integrate and render all those elements that are originally represented by placeholders at the time of filming. For instance, all those stand-ins for digital creatures or animals in the final footage.
Once the tasks of all the team members are done, the final version of the film is processed and it is made available for the audience for viewing.
Virtual production glossary
The virtual production glossary was created with the help of some great support and contributions, you can count on Netflix, Epic Games, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Visual Effects Society, and more.
This one is never intended to establish roles or official terms but it needs to record the existing terms and roles. The intended audience here is the people who are interested in working in the domain or the ones who are diverse production members. Each term can be easily understood by individuals who belong to different disciplines, and technical backgrounds in virtual production.
Over the past few years, virtual production with the help of LED volumes has increased in popularity. Actors are expected to perform right in front of LED screens and they perform a physical set in the studio that displays images of computer-generated environments or images of the real world. This specific setup is no different than projected backgrounds that were used in filmmaking since the silent era, but now it has become more and more sophisticated.
Here, a multicamera studio comes along with game engines green screens, and camera tracking technology to place audience and presenters in realistic 3D sets the ones that can be manipulated in real-time. Live news and sports programs are the ones where virtual studios are utilized commonly. This helps in the creation of more imaginative sets that are environmentally friendly, the ones that can be set up quickly and easily as compared to real sets, and they save money on transportation and storage.
This is a combination of both virtual sets and traditional sets, from chairs and desks to staging and virtual background, this includes a wide range of physical components. Entertainment shows can make the physical sets look bigger and they provide more value for the budget.
From an object to a person or place, 3D scanning technology captures everything and gives premium quality 3D images as an output. This task is achieved with the help of various cameras the ones that are previously synchronized to click the particular subject from a wide range of angles. Once the video is recorded, it is processed with the help of reconstruction software giving a 3D avatar of the subject, it’s a solid moving model which can be seen from all different angles.
What is face motion capture? It is all about recording the physical movements of the face of a person and then converting it into a digital model. A head-mounted camera does all the recordings of facial expressions as well as dialogues so as to accurately capture the nuances of performance for the digital characters, this includes everything from smiles and blinks to frowns.
Users can navigate it freely, and this environment is a computer-generated 3D space created with the help of a headset. In general, such environments are created with the help of gaming software, and transport users to different locations, allowing them to connect with the virtual environments.
AR technology helps in improving production as it adds 3D computer-generated images, which mostly take place in the foreground of a virtual or physical set. This image can be anything from a representation of a politician or an actor, can be a premier league football table or scoreboard. Any studio setting can make use of AR technology, not necessarily the ones with green screens. The CGI elements of AR don’t really interact with their environments or surroundings, they do the job of enhancing them.
The bottom line
Thanks to virtual production technology, it has helped in creating experiences that were impossible at one point, and also extremely costly to produce, it has completely enhanced the scope of storytelling and cinematography.