Popularized by Disney The Mandalorian and James Mangold Ford versus FerrariVirtual Screen Production (VSP) technology has more recently been used in the production of Taika Waititi Thor: Love and Thunder.
The result of a unique and innovative combination of technologies, the endless possibilities made possible by VSP are generating worldwide excitement within the digital display industries.
Using a curved wall made up of hundreds of LED panels, VSP allows actors to perform and interact with their surroundings as they would if they were on location.
The high-definition wall uses real-time game engines, such as the Unreal Engineto generate and render the 3D environments for the background, which also generates environmental light for the physical set.
The technology has attracted interest from three creative organizations based in Christchurch, including the production company resonategame development studio CerebralFix Ltd. and event technology providers pixelwho saw the opportunity for an exciting collaboration in VSP opportunities in the Canterbury region, while tapping into an abundant pool of local talent and technology.
The result? Two short films showing how virtual production can adapt to unique commercial and artistic visions; Adversity and Co. is an advertising agency satire that takes a wry look at the tribulations agencies go through balancing tight budgets and champagne expectations, while the second film [in post-production] is a dystopian love story.
Using VSP allowed the team to shoot in Auckland, Fiji, Antarctica, the Red Desert of Mars and Aoraki Mt Cook, without once leaving the studio.
Based on an initial concept by Resonate’s creative director, Simon Waterhouse, the project saw the light of day thanks to the talents of Pixel, who configured the vast LED screens needed to create a virtual backdrop, and 3D artists and Unreal Engine developers from CerebralFix Ltd, who spent over a year building the real-time responsive 3D locations and refining the motion tracking system.
With the balance between film production and game development expertise, the pilot is a perfect example of how the global digital screen industries are increasingly converging.
This is just one of the reasons why the University of Canterbury jumped at the chance to partner with the project, hosting the production on site of what would become its groundbreaking project. Digital Screen Campus (DSC).
“We know good things happen when industry and education come together, so when we were approached to collaborate on this project and contribute a vital stream of funding to ensure it could continue, we couldn’t say no,” said Petra Westropp, project manager at the DSC Innovation Center.
The project was the first recipient of the Screen CanterburyNZ Production Grantwhich was set up to encourage film productions to locate in the Canterbury area.
“It was really important for us at Screen CanterburyNZ to support local businesses, but also to encourage innovation and pave the way for the digital production capabilities of the local film industry,” says Petrina D’Rozario , director of Screen CanterburyNZ.
“It’s a great sign of the incredible talent that resides here in Christchurch and in New Zealand.”
While the virtual production disruption will have far-reaching implications for the international film industry, this project was a huge undertaking with an uncertain outcome, but well worth the commitment, says Waterhouse.
“Personally, I’m incredibly proud of what our grassroots collaboration has achieved. No party could have achieved this goal on their own, so having five different organizations come together to pursue a common goal shows the power of collaborative enterprises.