Can a virtual production commercial be shot on a small LED Volume during a media technology tradeshow?
At 80six, we love a challenge. Can we shoot a virtual production commercial on a small LED Volume during a media technology tradeshow?
PREMISE: You don’t need a Mandalorian-sized LED Volume or Virtual Production Stage to shoot in-camera visual effects (ICVFX).
CHALLENGE: Prove it by filming an ICVFX commercial using an 8m x 3.5m LED Volume during The Media Production & Technology Show.
At this year’s much-awaited edition of the Media Production Technology Show (MPTS), we set on building the largest Virtual Production Stage ever seen at the tradeshow in celebration of the grand re-opening of our studios. We recreated a scaled version of our 11,743 square foot, purpose-built Virtual Production Studio, collaborating with award-winning Director Nick Jones and DOP Dave Tree to shoot a test commercial during the two-day event.
The decision was made to give attendees an up-close look at how virtual production studios make shooting in-camera VFX using LED technology easier for filmmakers, cinematographers, directors, producers, and creatives.
The digital tracking stars innovation by Brompton Technology & Mo-Sys was a crowd puller.
Our stand also highlighted our constant drive for technical innovation and provided a showcase for some of the leading-edge technology revolutionizing the visual effects industry today – including Mo-Sys StarTracker, Brompton video processing, disguise, Unreal Engine 5, ROE Black Onyx 2.8mm LED tiles and ETC’s innovative fos/4 range. With a mission to drive VP forward, Mo-Sys, Brompton Technology and ETC – Electronic Theatre Controls came on board as event partners, adding their experience and expertise to the mix.
The Mo-Sys StarTracker precision camera/lens tracking solution is the technology of choice for our studio. The Brompton Technology video processing, optimised by its Tessera v3.3 software and including digital markers for use with the Mo-Sys StarTracker, overlays markers on the video displayed on the LED wall; Tessera’s Frame Remapping feature then only displays the markers on output frames that are not visible to the main camera. The markers are automatically generated, with the ability to configure the colour and size of the markers from within the processor UI.
80six Co-Founder, Dan Hamill, explains: “The StarTracker delivers all the performance and precision we need to deliver a flawless final image when shooting with an LED volume, and the way the Brompton Tracking Markers overlays are displayed directly on the content system are an incredible innovation for VP, great in situations where it is not possible or easy to install retro-reflective stars on the studio ceiling/floor. Together this is a winning combination. And we had the ever-reliable ROE Visual LED panels, which are the go-to for VP.”
ETC’s fos/4 range of luminaires complemented the light from the ROE Visual LED Volume. Our event partner ETC showcased their innovative fos/4 range of luminaires that introduced deep red emitter into the LED array, filling in a portion of the spectrum we did not realise we were missing. The eight-colour mix in their fos/4 line of products offered superior colour rendering on set, enhancing the LED wall and giving a more realistic feel to the background and the subjects in that virtual world. The fixtures also benefitted from being run on powerful Eos patented colour control software, allowing for easy adaptability and unlimited programming options.”
Commercial Behind the Scenes
“Deciding to shoot an ICVFX commercial at a tradeshow, it must’ve been a madman’s idea! The team at 80six jumped on the challenge of doing something different, and in just two weeks, we put together the concept for a mini virtual production. We created a sci-fi/Mandalorian kind of scene using a Nannite UE5 retro junk-yard environment and matched it with industrial-looking props in the foreground. What you will see is the result of a team of 6 people having shot VP in the ‘quiet times’ at a tradeshow, in-between seminar talks and press demos at the stand”. Nick Jones Director – Virtual Production & ICVFX, Super luminescent
“We didn’t have the luxury of time at the show.. or before. The result is not perfect, but we think it is an exciting experiment showing that high-quality in-camera VFX can be achieved even on a small LED volume, in an atypical location, with limited time & budget on your hands. It’s all about having the right team & technologies to work with.” Dan Hamill Co-founder, 80six & Virtual Production Studios
“This was an ambitious plan, but we pulled it off with the combination of the right people and best-in-class technology. A picture speaks a thousand words, but something like this speaks a million,” says Brompton Technology’s Director of Business Development, Rob Fowler. Rob Fowler Business Development Director, Brompton Technology
Training Program Coordinator at ETC, Declan Randall: “It’s been brilliant to be involved. ETC’s fos/4 fixtures provide a new standard of LED lighting quality with the addition of Deep Red LEDs which really added to the virtual production set for this commercial”.
DOP Dave Tree, Super luminescent: “We were limited to two prep days on-site, one day entirely dedicated to building the LED Volume, and the second day focused on integrating the VP pipeline. It left me & the camera crew only a couple of hours for the creative, playing around with the lights and shot composition until the moment the tradeshow doors opened. Having the reliability and precision of the Mo-Sys StarTracker coupled with the ease of using Brompton’s digital tracking markers on the LED screen helped us quickly put together 80six’s tried and tested VP set-up. We all loved being part of this experiment”.
Stephen Gallagher, Product Marketing Manager at Mo-Sys concludes: “By showing just what can be accomplished with the latest VP technology and techniques in two short days, the envelope has been pushed forward. By bringing this unique showcase to a trade show, creatives have been given a glimpse into how they can take their projects to the next level. We are proud to have collaborated with 80six and Brompton Technology and the creative talents of Nick Jones and Dave Tree to bring this fantastic project together.”
8m x 3.5m LED Volume Stage: ROE Black Onyx 2.8mm for the back wall.
3m x 2m LED Ceiling & Dollies: ROE Carbon 3.7
Video Processing: Brompton Tessera SX40 4K LED Processor
Camera Tracking: Mo-Sys StarTracker
Media Servers: Disguise VX4 and RXII Render Notes
Game Engine: Unreal Engine 5
Lights: 8x fos/4 PL16 panels and 2 x fos/4 Fresnel by ETC
Camera: EOS C500 Mark II
Miller Pro Jib 701 Kit
Ronford-Baker Rolling Spider Dolly
Director: Nick Jones (Super luminescent)
DOP: Dave Tree (Super luminescent)
Actors: Phil Baro-Thomas, Peony Ho
VP Producer: Dan Hamill (80six)
VP Technical Director: Paul Nichols (80six)
Production Manager: Olli Silk (80six)
Production Coordinator: Aura Popa (80six)
Camera Tracking Engineer: Asi San (Mo-Sys)
Lighting Design: Declan Randall (ETC)
Art Department: Mark Everret
Camera assistant: Manuel Amler
Editor: Paula Albrechtaite