Image of a person in front of a screen filming a scene for virtual production.
September 22, 2021

What Is Virtual Production? What You Need to Make it a Reality

Digital Asset Management
Design

As the world became remote, industries needed to adapt. For film and television, this meant diving into new tools for virtual production.Read this blog to learn more about:

What Is Virtual Production?

Virtual production uses a suite of software tools to allow studios to combine live-action footage and computer graphics in real-time. Contributors across multiple locations can create and render digital environments, while cast members are physically working on set.

With virtual production, visual effects are no longer just in post-production. Now, they are worked on and iterated throughout pre-production (known as previs). The old mantra of “fix it in post” is now moving to “fix it in pre.” But there are a lot of advantages for studios looking to capitalize on virtual production.

Virtual Production Advantages: Remote Revolution

For many, the recent push to virtual production is partially due to the pandemic. The sudden shift to remote meant coming up with a different way to get work done fast. It required teams to work with new tools and adjust their creative workflows and pipelines.

But virtual production is about more than just connecting virtually. It has uncovered several advantages that allow studios to build bigger, innovate more, and deliver high-quality results earlier in the process. 

Time and Cost Savings

For studios, virtual production saves time and money. Virtual scouting can eliminate travel time and additional expenses. Making creative decisions and revisions earlier in the process ensures that the right decisions can be made while actors are on set. This leads to cleaner takes and less rework.

Idea Iteration

Virtual production allows creatives to develop their vision earlier. This opens room for exploration by visualizing shots and environments before anyone steps foot on set. Iterating on their vision helps studios bring people together to create something out of this world.

Enhanced Visibility

Historically, filmmaking has been siloed. It wasn’t until the final release many saw the CGI graphics and re-edited storylines. But with virtual production, everyone can have a more complete understanding, from previs to post.

Virtual cameras and green screen live compositing act as a window into virtual worlds so contributors can see exactly what they are capturing. LED walls show filmmakers and actors what the set they are on looks like both through their eyes and in-camera.

Quick On-Set Transitions

Using a virtual environment, teams can transition from one scene to the next without interrupting shooting. All of it is happening at one location! Digital assets can be changed up quickly, allowing filmmakers to shoot several scenes with the same actors.

Also, in a virtual location, the filmmaker has full control over the weather, time of day, lighting, object position, and more. These conditions can be recreated at any time and are immediately available.

Library of Assets

Virtual assets can utilize pre-built assets from existing libraries. They can quickly be customized to meet the needs of any production, without having to build from scratch. These virtual assets are stored electronically, reducing the cost of physical storage, transportation, and labor.

Global Collaboration

Virtual content can now be created by decentralized teams around the globe without delays. Now filmmakers can build up their teams with creatives and technical specialists no matter where they are located. The possibilities widen without increasing the cost.

How to Build a Virtual Production Studio

Transitioning to a virtual production workflow requires a different way of thinking about the production process. It is less linear and involves new tools — like game engines.

The flexibility and interactivity of virtual worlds within the game engine, combined with the ability to visualize content earlier on in the production process, uncovers new possibilities for studios to realize and refine their vision.

Films out today — like Lion KingRipple Effect, and Mandalorian— were made using made using game development technology. Because just like planning a game, filmmaking requires a high level of orchestration. To figure out dimensions (spatial reference) of characters, where assets should be placed, and how the camera angles and lenses will be set, you need a lot.

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New user? Veteran filmmaker? Sign up for Perforce U College of Virtual Production to master this method. 

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What VFX Studios Need for a Virtual Production Pipeline…

How can you set up your virtual production pipeline? What do you need to get started? Review some the basic tools and learn how to get started.

Cloud Data Management

When people were working on lots of large files, they need instant access. Moving to the cloud lets more people collaborate wherever they are located.

Moving to a hybrid or cloud model can help teams access the virtual production assets they need quickly. Cloud data centers are available everywhere and can quickly be spun up based on where teams are located. They get faster throughput and lower latency. This avoids the WAN wait that can quickly delay your film. Then you can give people permissions to these files and track how they evolve.

Digital Asset Management

Cloud can help you access files, but you need a data management solution to manage everything. It makes the process easier for pulling everything into a game engine. The days of putting files into Dropbox or carrying around physical drives is just not sustainable, or fast. Data management solutions, like 5th kind, help businesses secure assets and collaborate easier.

But what about storing your library? Tracking how files evolve? You need a version control solution that scales. Developers have been using these tools for years, but it is relatively new within the film industry.

Version control makes it easier for teams to catalog assets and know what the most recent version is. Contributors can compare current and past versions to see what has changed and find out where it has been used in your film.

Set up like the pros.Learn how Entertainment Technology Center build their pipeline >>

Digital Project Management

Virtual production pipelines involve a lot of moving components. Having a project management tool that adapts quickly and increases visibility is vital to keep everyone on task.

FtrackShotGridHansoft, and other tools are being readily used by teams to create an on-set experience, virtually. It unites global artists, supervisors, producers, and engineers, making it easy to track, manage, discuss, and review stunning visuals in near-real time.

Game Engines + Integrations

Game engines are core of virtual production. With the highly anticipated release of Unreal Engine 5, studios will be able to expand their worlds and adjust sounds, animation, and lighting in just seconds.

Learn how to leverage your game engine >>

But there are so many other necessary components to a final film. Your tools need to be able to integrate with each other to support other designers and artists.

Photoshop, Maya, and 3DS Max are also used to build assets. Pulling all of these extremely large files together using Unreal and Unity makes the final film. Whatever tools you end up using, game engine integrations should be a primary focus. Learn more about:

 

Complete Guide to Game Engines

Learn more about game engines and get started fast. 
GAME ENGINE OVERVIEW

 

Your Virtual Production Future

From pre-postproduction, software is necessary to help propel the innovations of virtual production pipelines. We can help make that happen. If you are a new user or a veteran filmmaker, learn how to get free tools and up to speed fast.

Perforce + Virtual Production

When it comes to data management and speed, leading studios trust Perforce. Did you know that 17 of the top 22 games of 2019 were built with Perforce Helix Core? And 19 of the top 20 AAA studios choose us to version and manage their digital assets.

Why? This is because Perforce Helix Core handles:

  • Remote siloed contributors.
  • Lots of large files.
  • Range of digital assets.
  • Numerous iterations.
  • Security for valuable IP.

Binary files, audio files, video files, code, and more can all be stored and securely versioned inside a Helix Core depot. Your teams get lightning-fast performance, thanks to Perforce Federated Architecture. Then when you’re ready to render, everything can be pulled into your game engine. Because Helix Core integrates with more than just Unreal and Unity. It offers integrations with the tools your digital creators are already using— 3ds Max, Maya, and more.

“Perforce Helix Core has been a foundational tool. It helps create a single source for all our film's digital assets. We can version our critical IP and digital files within an infrastructure that supports and integrates with leading tools like Unreal Engine, 5th Kind, ftrack, and more.”.”— Erik Weaver, Director, Adaptive Production & Special Projects at ETC

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Free Tools + Tutorials from Perforce

Virtual production has near endless possibilities for the future. We are here to help bring your film to life. You can sign up today for free to get access to free tools and tutorials from an award-winning studio.

Because at Perforce U — College of Virtual Production — contains free guided courses for creatives, developers, managers to help anyone master new virtual production tools, concepts, and workflows. You can become a certified virtual production pro, at your own pace.

Ready to dive in?

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