“The popularity of virtual production, known as the challenger to the green screen, has skyrocketed in the past few years. The technology, which includes LED backgrounds and real-time game engines, has been used by Disney for series such as “The Mandalorian” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. The trend is showing no signs of slowing down, with smaller budget productions increasingly relying on virtual production.
We asked Zoltán Bathó, VP & VFX producer at DIGIC about the current state of the technology and its future prospects:
BPR: Is virtual production still the high-end productions’ option, or is it becoming more popular on smaller markets?
Z. Bathó: Yes, it’s getting more and more popular every day. Virtual production is somewhat expensive at the moment, but as more people start using it, it will become cheaper, different alternatives and smaller LED wall solutions will emerge, offering more options for the studios. Experts in the industry are beginning to understand what this technology is good for, what they can or cannot use it for. LED walls are also being used in video clips lately, as the budget often does not allow shooting at multiple locations, making shooting in studio conditions is a convenient alternative.
The other sector where the shift is becoming more noticeable is TV series, and I’m not necessarily talking about series like “The Mandalorian”, but classic small and medium budget TV series. These almost always have central locations returning in every season, which can easily be reused in a virtual environment. In the past year and a half, virtual production has started to appear in smaller productions besides the “A” category films, so this change is imminent. Next to the studios specializing in big productions there are now many smaller ones.
BPR: So it’s no longer an emerging technology, but more like a challenger to the green screen right now?
Z. Bathó: Absolutely. The technology has reached the phase where the question “green screen or LED wall?” is frequently being asked. Of course, this requires that directors and cinematographers who have been using green screen in the past switch their mindset and workflow to the new system, to understand and see its limitations and start thinking in this new direction. They need to be able to recognize whether the quality of the material produced using this technology will be better, and to see the differences in the length of post-production. Many virtual production studios hold open days, where they invite experts to demonstrate what virtual production is capable of. This process is still in its infancy in Hungary.
BPR: What are the visual and other advantages of virtual production compared to green screen techniques?
Z. Bathó: Most importantly, choosing virtual production also affects the quality of the performance of directors, cinematographers and actors. On a green screen shooting, everyone has to imagine what is happening in the background. Sure, there are storyboards and visuals, but a LED wall gives you the opportunity to create a sketch of a scene. For example, an actor doesn’t have to imagine a dragon flying towards him anymore, because he can actually see it. When a director explains his vision in a green screen environment, different actors can have very different ideas, and this is something that can be overcome quite easily in virtual production.
So the primary benefit is not in the visuals. While using green screen, you can still achieve a higher quality in visuals with a higher budget and the right expertise, but it also requires a lot more post-production work. With a LED wall, you can roughly see on location what you will eventually see in the editing room, so you can spot details that need correcting much sooner, preventing a lot of reshoots. Different technologies are now meeting for the first time in virtual production, spurring new, target-specific collaborations between different sectors of the entertainment industry.” Continue reading