There are a host of considerations when shooting in VR production for the first time. While VR production offers lots of flexibilities and options, it’s best to consider these factors in advance of the day of the shoot. We will discuss such topics as the timeline, the green screen space plus many other considerations. Traditional […]
There are a host of considerations when shooting in VR production for the first time. While VR production offers lots of flexibilities and options, it’s best to consider these factors in advance of the day of the shoot. We will discuss such topics as the timeline, the green screen space plus many other considerations.
Traditional hard sets typically have a beginning and end because they are a series of hard flats connected together. VR sets don’t need to be built out in the same way as traditional sets. They can be built out as complete environments with 4 or more walls, ceiling floor, separate rooms, outside spaces etc. For these reasons our clients have tremendous creative opportunities. Instead of moving cameras around for shots we move the set around the talent for those angles, backgrounds that make the most sense. These flexibilities now become considerations while preparing for the shoot.
A virtual environment also allows for lighting cues to be made or virtual assets to be moved around as needed. The pre-production phase of prepping for a shoot is when all set decisions would be made. In doing so, our designers can work with the client on pre-set positions within each set that can be re-called on the day of the set. They can also work on each detail from every camera angle to ensure consistency and balance within the scene.
Virtual Production Essentials: Things to Know Before You Start Shooting
Timeline the process
Shooting in the virtual world is mostly front loaded. I always tell my clients that pre-planning is really important and the key to success on the day of production. This involves having close ties and good communication between the client and production studio throughout the entire pre and post production process. A timeline approach works best from the moment the client has decided to move forward. This should be a weekly breakdown of the needed work and includes giving deadlines to each step of the process and allowing for a response time for changes and alterations to the virtual set.
Consider the space
Green screen spaces vary widely. They can be as small as a 6 feet with one green wall or larger than a 50 foot long green screen space with 3 walls. The client and production house need to consider the number of talent on camera that will be needed, cameras and talent movement, any needed props such as a practical desk etc. Floor to grid height is also an important consideration in case there is a performance or very large practical props. Other considerations for a green screen space would include the amount of cameras needed and the kind of setups that are required. For examples, jibs offer great flexibility but require enough room to move around. Steady cameras are also a great option in a virtual environment but need space to work given their rig and the need for a utility person.
Every client should know how many cameras are needed since this would require blocking, crewing. Record media and record devices plus camera tracking devices need to be prepped beforehand once the camera count is decided. It is equally important to know the plan for the final composite. For example, many of our clients walk out with a final composite which may be all they need for distribution. However, some clients may have plans for some post production so they may require several different records for each camera. This may include a composite, camera direct, matte signal records for flexibility down the road. Others may want tracking data records for making set changes in post.
Other considerations included would be whether HD, UHD or 4k is needed as a final deliverable plus frame rates and record formats would need to be determined. Some clients only require standard HD if distribution is all web based or streaming. However, 4k or UHD allows for maximum quality or may be a requirement for a network. We will often discuss the pros and cons of the various possibilities with our clients at the beginning of each project. Pre-testing is also an option to make a determination on any of these options.
Choosing a set
Once a client has decided on their deliverable needs we will discuss specific set options with them. For example, Jett Sets has a library of set options and our clients are able to choose from our library. From there we would speak with our client in order to understand the mood and feel, color pallet and all of the specifics they are looking for in this set. For example, we could explore whether they need virtual monitors or special graphics or something else built out for this set. We can also build a set from scratch.
Sometimes our clients come to us with an existing set. We can take this virtual set, modify if needed and import into our render engines for further testing and preparation for the shoot. This is typically a back and forth process. We can also take a VR set that has been scanned and build it out and prepare for a shoot. This option typically requires more preparation but is a via option for any client.
Script, Storyboard, testing
A very important part of preparing for a virtual shoot includes the need to script or storyboard the camera shots for the day. While it may seem unnecessary for some it’s really important because it will vet out any potential issues ahead of time. For example, if there’s a window behind the talent you would want to know if that background is well lit and the quality works for the shot. Other details such as the need for virtual furniture, wall assets can be explored and worked into the scene.
Virtual production also lends itself to movement to show parallax which is yet another reason why storyboarding each shot is important. We always prefer some movement when it’s possible. Past green screen shots were limited to static shots. However, camera tracking allows for full moment within each scene which adds to the realism of the scene.
Going through each shot ahead of time allows for more creative possibilities but it also allows us to maximize each shot within the scene. Typically our team will go through these shots so a client can see and approve everything in advance . We will also record each shot in a pre-production phase in order that the team can see everything, make comments and allow us to make any needed changes in the scene.
Within each scene we can adjust lighting, improve any background elements/assets. This all moves us through the process to deliver an absolutely perfect and photo realistic set to our client. It also allows us to create the exact mood and feel that the client is looking to capture.
Sometimes we will have a talent or stand-in come in before the day of the shoot for a walk through. This allows our talent (and client) to view everything within the set. We would look at each camera angle and set positions throughout the scene. We can also make any final or needed changes for lighting, color, texture and content.
The talent can also be prepped by seeing himself/herself within the scene. We offer monitors for the clients so they can see themselves in the scene which is typically helpful. If a walk or movement is needed or the talent needs to refer to virtual monitors or virtual assets we will rehearse this with them. This will give them a level of comfort before shooting and allow us to properly block and set our camera positions. We will also make any necessary marks on the floor for walks or walls if the talent needs to point to a virtual object such as a virtual monitor.
Shoot day – Being prepared
The shoot requires just a few more things in preparation for the day. I always tell my clients that, if possible, it’s great to have their editor on site if any editing is anticipated. That will insure that all needed shots will taken care of. If addition, a PA may be beneficial for time code/director notes as a reference for the editor.
Various clothing for the talent should be on hand so a wardrobe test can be done before shooting. This will ensure the best clothing is chosen for talent and lighting, green screen. The video engineer and LD can also take a close look at the talent and setup for the best lighting and keying for the talent.
Virtual Reality for production first came to life about 25 years ago. There were many challenges in those days because of slower computers, graphic cards and various other challenges that designers had to work with in order to make realistic looking virtual sets. Often this was because of the technical restrictions and head room of […] Virtual Reality for production first came to life about 25 years ago. There were many challenges in those days because of slower computers, graphic cards and various other challenges that designers had to work with in order to make realistic looking virtual sets. Often this was because of the technical restrictions and head room of the render engines and typical graphic cards of the time. Two and a half decades later it’s a very different playing field. Gaming engines have taken a major role in making virtual reality production worth while. These render engines can render photo realistic sets through the use of volumetric and dynamic lighting, 4k textures, high tech shading algorithms. Graphic cards from companies such as Nvidia now offer incredibly fast cards that allow 4k real time compositing plus the additional shading, lighting techniques for incredible realism. For those producers and companies thinking about virtual production for the first time one should consider this as a perfect time to begin working with virtual reality. Some companies and production houses such as Jett Sets have entered their 10th year in VR production and have entered new high tech territory. This includes 4k, multi-camera VR production and live streaming for their clients. https://vimeo.com/681349416 Dynamic and photo realistic sets allow a producer to create a scene that would otherwise blow a budget if it required a traditional hard set or an enormous studio to build it out. There are also time constraints attached to building out large sets. Virtual sets also allow complete environments with individual rooms, ceiling, outdoor spaces etc. The green screens don’t have to be huge for these large virtual environments and the unimaginable is now possible through VR production. These virtual sets don’t need maintenance, can be changed with ease, need no storage, build or breakdown. There can also be built at a fraction of the cost of a hard, traditional set. This also allows the user to integrate with real foreground or BG practical set pieces. Jett Sets has been designing, building and operating in the virtual production space for over 10 years now. As a result of the success with VR production, many clients who have been working with VR are making this a standard practice for their ongoing productions.