Virtual Production: Key things to know before you shoot
Due in large part to two catalysts: The pandemic, and The Mandalorian, virtual productions making use of LED volumes have increased in popularity. Because of the tools that helped in the creation and the white-hot popularity of these shows, it’s being adopted at a rapid pace, as it offers the opportunity to explore more creativity, it has become more and more popular among filmmakers. Virtual production plays a crucial role and it is sure to be the next big thing, which means you are more likely to come across these tools in the near future, and it’s time to pick up the pace.
So, those who are making use of LED volume need to keep reading as we’re going to talk about 10 pro tips to obtain the best results.
A look back…
Have you seen The Mandalorian? If yes, then you have already seen the magic of in-camera visual effects that make use of LED volumes as well as virtual production. Let’s keep it simple, the technique is the combination of real-time game engine animation that uses the unreal engine, tracked camera, and LED screens, and ultimately, it delivers shots live and in-camera. Here, actors don’t need to perform in real locations or in front of a green screen, they perform in from of huge LED panels that also have animated backgrounds, they respond to the movements of the camera with the right parallax. What’s the output? Well, it is perfect visual effects shots that perfectly match the camera movements and lighting.
It is possible that actors can respond to what they see in reality and on the other hand, cinematographers can frame and light with ease, this is what it means when you have the entire crew see what the shot is going to look like instead of making an educated guess on a green screen. Your team can be able to have a look at the final shot on the day of production and they won’t need to wait for months to see it in the post-production phase, especially when reshooting is not an option you may have.
So, now that you are aware of how LED volumes came about and also the reasons why they have become incredibly popular, let’s have a look at those 10 tips that will help you make the most out of shooting.
Try to fix it in Pre, not in the post
Well, perfection is not always the goal, and production time is sometimes short and expensive. Fixing things in the post can be the only option at times. This is where in-camera virtual production is completely different when it is associated with fixing it in pre.
Once you make use of post-rendered animation, you can come up with a shot love on the day that is sure to look as good as the final shot. It will also help in reducing the time and cost associated with projects during post-production. Hence, all your major creative decisions need to be made and the final quality imagery should be achieved during pre-production instead of leaving it completely in the post-production stage.
Some filmmakers may not be too comfortable fixing things in the very beginning as they find the process counterintuitive.
All your models, characters, and environments need to be ready before the production begins.
The key role of the virtual art department and virtual production supervisor
They play key responsibilities, during the pre-production, they take a close look at the virtual art department, and when it comes to production, they supervise the LED volume. You need to connect with a virtual production supervisor if you are looking forward to creating some magic on the LED volume. And, where all these elements completely wind up on the LED walls and they are designed and created, VAD is that point. The area has more focus on digital assets, and it also has a traditional art department.
Moving props, 3D prototyping, and LED volumes between on-screen virtual objects and real-world physical objects is possible, thanks to the power of LED volumes.
Photogrammetry, now you can create photorealistic environments
In general, this is exactly when the LED environment doesn’t seem believable to the camera, it looks more like a video game in place of a photorealistic background.
You would want it to look like a real set or location and surely, you would like to avoid such things at all costs.
This is what makes photogrammetry an important aspect for filmmakers, ILM uses the same to create most of the incredible environments.
Know about the GPU power
Leveraging the incredible power of graphics processing units or modern GPUs is where the Unreal Engine’s visual mojo comes from.
You are more likely to have greater levels of detail in environments once you have a more powerful GPU to work with.
When we talk about the latest version of the Unreal engine, it has a lot of virtual production support to offer for various GPUs in the same system. Unreal Engine is a cross-platform that can the capability to create games for mobile devices, PCs, and Macs.
Do you know the pixel pitch of your LED panel?
Whether you are working on a rental soundstage or you are creating your own LED wall, the pixel pitch of an LED wall is something you need to be well aware of. It is measured in millimeters, and it is generally the distance between individual LED lights on the wall.
As you are photographing the screen, pixel pitch relates directly to how the image is going to look like. You may figure out that the image is in low resolution, and in the worst case, you may see a moiré pattern.
Know your needs
If you are building from scratch, the larger the volume, the more expensive it is going to be. You need to be well aware of how much LED volume you need. Yes, surely there are some full-service LED wall providers who can customize it as per your specific needs. Your chosen volume size and form is going to have a significant impact on emitted light.
Change the game with DMX lighting
With this, you can control the light and other equipment on the stage. DMX is around for more than a decade and you can also find some compatible gear, and there are various utilities for virtual production. DMX light is used to turn multicolor movie lights into effects.
Directly in Unreal Engine or via a lighting board, you can enjoy the freedom of programming specific lighting cues and colors with the help of DMX lighting.
It’s all about the science of color. If you want to achieve accurate and realistic images, then you must be aware of the color science of the camera, and the display technology. Regardless of the situation you are working on, color science is an important aspect.
Not all the shots will be captured in-camera
You may think that LED volume is all about the final shot, of course, it can be true for many shots, but not for all. Fixing issues us easier while working with LED volumes, a lot of visual effects supervisors have accepted the same.
Change is the only constant
Technology changes rapidly and you need to be aware of the latest technological changes. Some changes can be minor while others can have a massive impact.