Noah Kadner recently wrote an article for Frame.io discussing how virtual production is changing how movies and careers are made. Virtual production has become very popular in the film, tv, and streaming industries. Noah Kadnet provides us with a great history on how the industries have gotten to this point, and where they're going, especially with virtual productions.
Groundbreaking productions like The Mandalorian have become synonymous with virtual production with in-camera VFX and LED volumes. A virtual production can be so many different workflows that a better definition would be "the intersection of the physical production world with virtual elements." Let's start with a look at past productions have led us up to where we are today.
James Cameron’s Avatar is one such project, coining the term virtual cinematography to describe the motion capture of both actor and camera movement to drive more realistic computer animation shots.
In 2013, Gravity took another giant leap in the virtual production workflows. In most of the completed space shots in Gravity, the only real filmed objects are the actor’s faces. Everything else was created digitally. The actors wore partial spacesuits on sets illuminated by large LED panels. While the resolution of these panels wasn’t sufficient to have them captured on-camera, they still provided interactive lighting effects on the actor’s faces by playing video footage of the visual effects backgrounds.
Rogue One and Solo
The same technique was used heavily in Rogue One, where effects shots were played back during filming to provide interactive lighting effects onto the live-action sets and actors’ faces. Solo took things a step further by incorporating live real-time animation. For example, in shots where Tie Fighters are chasing and attacking the Millennium Falcon, the filmmakers could flash green laser bolts into the shots projected into the cockpit on cue.
And because the Solo filmmakers utilized high-resolution laser projectors and massive projection screens instead of LED panels, they could capture some shots completely in-camera, bringing us a step closer to the LED production volumes of today. For example, the shot where Han Solo first jumps into hyperspace aboard the Millennium Falcon uses visual effects captured completely in-camera.
The Lion King (2019)
The latest adaption of the classic Disney film in 2019 brought us even closer to today's virtual production techniques. They combined motion capture and real-time game engine animation with real-world filmmaking techniques. Unity was used to create a real-time simulation of the entire film, then real filmmaking equipment—dollies, Steadicam rigs, cranes, and drones—was used to control virtual cameras within the virtual space. The end result was camera movement that looked natural, realistic, and human-driven. Because it was.
We have arrived at the iconic The Mandalorian series, which put LED volumes and in-camera VFX on the production map. Of course, The Mandalorian could have been made entirely using more traditional visual effects techniques. But it probably wouldn’t have had the same level of realism and dynamics. Not to mention being much harder to produce at the high-speed schedules required for streaming and broadcast.
Read the full article HERE