What is Virtual Production?

virtual production Sony Madison

The use of Virtual Production sets a revolution in the field of content production. As we all know, the pandemic marked the end and the beginning of a new era. Together with numerous problems and insecurities, it brought significant technological resolutions and innovations, in order to make life easier and (why not) cheaper and allowing a lot of things to be more accessible remotely. Even if it was born before the pandemic, Virtual Production definitely got a significant boost “thanks to it”.

Virtual Production is the touchpoint where the live action world and the digital one meet, removing the barriers between live production and visual effects, so that it becomes feasable to make them work together simultaneously. By using VP, the chances to make a high quality content with less effort and lower budgets are limitless and the only limit to your creativity is basically your mind. With Virtual Production, every place can be transformed to another: an empty desert can become a crowded city and basically every scenario can be digitized and created by simply using digital interactive sets or LED walls without the necessary and long use of the post-production.

This kind of technology is possible thanks to certain platforms and suites, such as Unreal Engine and Unity, that allow the creation of games, movies, any 3D content or even a metaverse, the new internet revolution where we live as virtual avatars in virtual worlds. In the Virtual Production context,  the actors directly interact with the virtual objects and the surroundings. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, let’s take a closer look at what Virtual Production is and why it appears to be a great revolution.

Virtual production

The differences between Virtual Production and traditional VFX

VP begins from the pre-production stage

Compared to the traditional Visual Effects (VFX), Virtual Production presents several aspects that make it completely different, starting from the very beginning. The process of using VP, indeed, starts in the pre-production phase, where you can have an initial look of what your content should look like. Using traditional VFX such as green screen and chroma key, this process is basically impossible to make. With Virtual Production you don’t need to go to certain places, spend time finding the right image and hope and guess that the final look will be the same as you thought. You can have a plain view even before starting.

Real-time production makes the process quicker and without the necessary use of post-production

Virtual Production allows you to create amazing high quality experiences cutting the long process of post-production that has always been necessary in order to realize the image intended to be created. In fact, the real-time aspect makes the whole experience quicker, since possible changes become applicable on set at that moment. The real-time aspect allows the production to also make live experiences whether it can be the newest way to make weather forecasts or whole music concerts creating incredible images otherwise impossible until not so long ago.

It is the case of Madison Beer immersive concert experience, made by Sony and Unreal Engine, gone live on Tik Tok during the pandemic and now available on Youtube, where Madison Beer played an entire concert in real time virtual production, showing worldly what Virtual Production and creativity can do.

 Madison Beer concert

With Virtual Production you don’t necessarely need to use Green Screen or LED Walls

One of the biggest revolutions of Virtual Production, as said, is its quicker process. This is due to the fact that for some kinds of productions, the use of Green Screens or LED Walls may not be necessary, since all the creations are made virtually. Using a virtual environment, in fact, the crew can change from scene to scene, in the same location, without interruptions.

Not using the green screen means more accuracy of the image realism and also less stress over the guessing of the right lighting, colors, ideas of how it should be and the sense of disconnection that may come. 

This also benefits the actors, who have the possibility to see in real-time how the environment is and thus, the acting process seems to be easier and more engaging. Moreover, it is more empathetic to the audience, creating in the actors the so-called “sense of presence”. 

If you are a Star Wars fan, you have probably heard about the The Mandalorian Series. Well, season two is entirely made with Virtual Production in collaboration with Unreal Engine. It is now famous for its unbelievable high quality and revolutionary making process.

virtual production the mandalorian

Leveraging on the same assets for multiple productions (Cinema, Videogames)

With the tools dedicated to creating Virtual Productions becoming more and more sofisticated, with an attainable quality level close to photorealism, production houses are turning more and more to VP because it allows them to make use of 3D assets for multiple purposes, for example they can do both a Movie and a Videogame with the same environment and that’s certainly a cost-effective solution. A recent case of Virtual Production of this kind is The Matrix Awakens, where they used the same 3D assets (e.g. the city) for both the Movie and the Videogame.

Virtual Production means high quality with lower budgets 

The need of finding the right places, of moving to certain areas in order to make particular scenes, or the need of a numerous crew is no longer a burden that the productions need to carry thanks to Virtual Production. With 3D technologies and virtual production, the workload is a lot lightened and thus the budgets become significantly reduced, that’s mostly possible because a less hardware-intensive approach can be used. You don’t need Hollywood’s budgets, but just a little studio where you can burst your creativity. 

This is a substantial revolutionary aspect, since the lower costs increase the number of the companies who can take advantage of using Virtual Production. This means that even smaller companies can experiment with the improvements and the conveniences of Virtual Production and aim to have high quality final products. The lower budget also allows companies from different backgrounds such as marketing, communication agencies and so on, to experiment with these new technologies and create brand new high quality content. 

VP

In the end, Virtual Production can actually “save you”. It helps you save time, it helps you save money and it helps you save a lot of stress, all of that guaranteeing the most effective high quality product.

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