What I think about virtual production – the pros

First, what is virtual production?

Virtual production is changing film making in a big way. Using Unreal Engine (a super realistic video game engine), it creates CGI backgrounds and projects them on a huge screen. These backgrounds can be manipulated in real time.

Basically, virtual production is making it so film crews don’t have to fly all over the world to shoot, saving them money and time, and reducing the carbon impact of their project.

Here, I’m going to outline the pros of virtual production, for the cons, see my next blog.

A quick disclaimer. I know very little about virtual production, I’ve never been on a shoot, I’m not even particularly tech savvy, and have spent little over an hour researching the topic. I don’t expect you to learn much from this blog, and I’d actually be surprised if you found it entertaining in any way at all. You’d be better served reading pretty much any other article on the topic before this one.

Still here?


1 – Money

Flying film crews all over the world, putting them in hotels and feeding them is expensive. This much should be obvious.

Driving a few people to a virtual production studio in London is less expensive, unless you live very far from London. In that case, you can probably find a closer virtual production studio which will also be much cheaper than flying a film crew around the world.

2 – Time

A professional film crew might be able to shoot at two locations in a day, assuming the locations are close to one another and everything runs smoothly. My assumption, having never been on a shoot, is that sometimes it doesn’t run smoothly. Not everything in life does.

At a virtual production studio they can shoot four locations in a day. These locations don’t even need to be in the same continent. They don’t actually have to exist at all. 9AM shot in Ilkley Village followed by an 11AM shot on Jupiter. The most unrealistic thing about this schedule is that Jupiter is a gas planet, and any footage would likely be incredibly uninteresting.

3 – Real-time rendering

Hobbiton is a 523,000 square foot film set. The largest in history.

Built for The Lord of The Rings, and updated for The Hobbit, the set was worked on by over 400 people, who planted hedgerows, giant trees, and literally moved mountains. They spent several years working on it. It’s an incredible testament to the lengths a dedicated director will go to to get the perfect shot.

With real time rendering, it’s not necessary any more. These changes can be made in an afternoon by a single nerd on a computer. Take that, Peter Jackson.

4 – Pre production

If you’ve ever seen impressive acting in a sci-fi movie, you’ll find it even more impressive when you consider that the actor was running around in front of a green screen wearing a morph suit with ping pong balls on it.

With virtual production, the actors can see the setting they’re interacting with. The backgrounds are generated in pre-production.

That’s it for pros. There are a load of additional benefits I haven’t mentioned here, but this is all you’re getting. See my next blog for the cons.



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