Image of a person in front of a screen filming a scene for virtual production.
September 17, 2020

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

Workflows

As the world became remote, industries needed to adapt. For filmmakers, this means learning new tools for virtual production.

What Is Virtual Production?

Virtual production is an emerging method that uses a suite of software tools to combine live action footage and computer graphics in a real-time. Filmmakers across multiple locations can deliver feedback across digital or physical environments where cast members are physically working on set.

Being able to make informed decisions quickly is vital to creating a seamless experience for studios and the future audience. With virtual production, visual effects are no longer mostly used in post-production. No, they are in pre-production. The old mantra of “fix it in post” is now moving to “fix it in pre.”

The Remote Revolution: Virtual Production Pipelines

For many, the recent push to virtual production is partially due to COVID-19. The sudden shift to remote means coming up with a different way to get work done fast. It requires teams to work with new tools and adjust their creative workflows and pipelines.

To do this, teams need the right tools. It can help studios connect global teams and sync large files and feedback. It’s the new foundation for how to build a digital world. So, what are VFX studios using?

Following the Game Dev Roadmap

Films out today — like Lion King, Ripple Effect, and Mandalorian — were made using game development software. Game engines allow studios to combine virtual reality, augmented reality, and CGI with live action film on set.

Just like planning a game, this requires a high level of orchestration. Filmmakers need to figure out dimensions (spatial reference) of characters, where assets should be placed, and how the camera angles and lenses will be set by the director of photography (DP) and their team. These assets and camera settings will then be tracked and managed in a 3D game engine.

This level of shooting requires coordinating teams, setting up processes, and creating pipelines before your virtual production shoot takes place.

What VFX Studios Need for Virtual Production…

How these virtual production pipelines changing? Where will they be tomorrow?

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 is pretty much required to use virtual production to its fullest extent. Cloud data centers should be based near where your teams are located to give them 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.

How Studios Work Faster with AWS >>

Digital Asset Management

Cloud can help you access files, but you need a data management solution to manage them all. 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.

You can even track how files evolve by integrating with a version control solution. 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 files 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.

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.

Ftrack, Shotgun, Hansoft, 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.

Video Conferencing and Communication

The entire world has started using Zoom, and so has the film industry. Although this was used by studios prior to COVID-19, it has been increasingly important. Studios can stream what is happening on set, offering up insights into how actors should move and where props should be placed. Using a combination of video conferencing, and communication tools like Slack or Teams, you can keep everyone on your team connected.

Game Engines + Integrations

Game engines are the tool that enables virtual production. But there are so many other necessary components. You need to have integrations for every contributor.

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

Your Virtual Production Pipeline

From pre-postproduction, software is necessary to help propel the innovations of virtual production pipelines. Using the game development roadmap can help make that happen.

When it comes to data management and integrity, game devs 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 offers security and reliability without sacrificing on performance. It can be deployed in the cloud and offers integrations with the tools digital creators are already using.

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.

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