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Saving Time and Money with Virtual Production
Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP --  The Herman Group Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP -- The Herman Group
Austin, TX
Wednesday, November 17, 2021


The Herman Trend Alert

November 17, 2021

Saving Time and Money with Virtual Production

Technology is revolutionizing the way we make movies and television shows. Imagine being able to significantly reduce the time it takes to produce that content? That reduction is exactly what VFX (Virtual Effects Production) does! The new film technique allows studios to combine people and other real objects with computer-generated objects and environments seamlessly and in real time---that means, as it is happening.

Why this development is so meaningful

VFX saves time and money and allows for editing on the spot. The bottom line is that the investment in a film may be returned much sooner. Think about the cost of money over months and you understand what an incredible giant leap forward this technology is.

A Bit of History

Going way back, before digital cameras, movie makers had to scan film negatives before any sort of visual special effects could be added to a scene. That complicated and time-consuming conversion from an analog, physical, chemically processed medium to a digital video/image file required intricate systems and processes to ensure that the dynamic range, color, and detail of a shot were as captured to be ready for the VFX (Visual Effects) teams. A precise scanning process was critical to preserving the highest visual quality from the camera negative. As you can guess, it took a lot of very smart people and lots of time and money to get the best outcome. The better the scan of the film, the better the context for in which the VFX teams could work their magic. With the advent of ultra-high-quality digital cameras, things changed.

Where We Are Today

Now, no longer are visual effects just added in post-production. Now, studios can start with an excellent canvas and on the spot, using a suite of software tools combine live-action footage and computer graphics in real-time. Plus, production people in multiple locations can create and render digital environments, while cast members are physically working on the set. At the time of shooting, the decision-makers may decide what is best for the flow right away. They can even take things out, if they want to. 

The Remote Revolution

The advantages for studios willing to capitalize on virtual production are enormous. Virtual production allows the studios to go bigger, innovate more, and deliver high-quality results earlier in the process.

Other Advantages

Virtual scouting. For studios, virtual scouting can take away travel time and reduce expenses. Some of the creative decisions and revisions can now be made earlier in the process ensuring that better decisions can be made while actors are on set. This advance planning leads to better initial shots and less rework.

Idea iteration. With virtual production creatives may develop their visions sooner. This new technology creates the opportunity for consideration of visuals and settings before shooting the actors on set. Using these visions helps studios bring people together to create extraordinary visual environments and effects.

Enhanced Visibility. With virtual production, everyone can have sense for what the finished product will look like. Using virtual cameras and green screen live compositing directors may see into their virtual worlds and contributors can see exactly what they are capturing. Moreover, LED walls show filmmakers and actors alike what the sets look like both through their eyes and through the camera.

Quick On-Set Transitions. Without having to move physical sets, teams can transition from one scene to the next without interrupting shooting. And all of it happens in the same location. Digital assets can be changed quickly; this quick-change allows filmmakers to shoot several scenes with the same actors in rapid succession. Finally, with a virtual location, the filmmaker no longer needs to be concerned about weather, time of day, lighting, object position, or anything else in an external environment. Almost any conditions can be recreated at any time and are immediately available.

Library of Assets. Now, with virtual production, filmmakers can utilize pre-built assets from existing libraries. Those resources can easily be customized to meet the needs of any production---without having to build environments from scratch. Stored electronically, these virtual assets reduce the costs of physical storage, transportation, and labor.

The Only Downside

Since the scenery is digital, there is more pressure on the script and the costume designer to help the actor to be in the other world. This increased stress will push screenwriters and costume designers to get better---maybe not such a bad thing after all.

The Future is Remote and Global

Virtual Production fosters the use of global collaboration with decentralized teams. Today, filmmakers use creatives and technical specialists from around the world---expanding the possibilities without increasing the cost. Expect this trend to intensify and for the global marketplace of talent to explode---as gifted people in less-developed countries begin to explore their worth.

Special thanks to GLG for raising my consciousness about VFX and to my daughter Samantha Gioia for her help in understanding this new technology.

Next Week's Herman Trend Alert: Harnessing the Power of the Tides

One of the largely untapped (and free) sources of energy on the planet is the the oceans. Now, an experiment in the Orkney Islands appears to hold great promise for generating power by exploiting tidal energy. With a wingspan of 200 feet and a turbine the size of a Boeing 747, this device appears to finally be the answer engineers have been looking for for years.


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Group: The Herman Group
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