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THE FAILING VP INDUSTRY? - Unveiling the Reality Behind the Hype

Updated: May 6

In the early 2020s, amidst the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film industry buzzed with excitement over the promise of a revolutionary filmmaking process—the Virtual Production (VP) stage. News articles touted its potential with bold claims like "Never leave the studio lot again!" and "Everything can be done in camera, it's so easy." For production professionals, these headlines evoked a mix of anticipation and apprehension.

Videos flooded the internet, showcasing the same narrative:

  • Step 1 - arrive at the stage in your spacesuit or armed with your on-set motorbike

  • Step 2 - load your background (As long as it was a vast open void full of rocks, with a couple of extra rocks thrown in for good measure)

  • Step 3 - Show how easy it was to pick up these rocks and move them anywhere in the scene, we can even make the sun move too!

  • Step 4 - Show us briefly (I mean really briefly) how the image looked in camera, making sure to do as little movement as possible and have the actor in the foreground look uncannily like they were stood in front of a screen!

The promise seemed boundless—VP was heralded as the filmmaking saviour, promising Star Wars-level creativity for all.

Yet, as the dust settled, the reality of VP's limitations currently offered began to emerge. Firstly, there was the issue of scale. LED screens, the cornerstone of VP technology, were not only expensive but prone to failure, demanding constant maintenance. The highest-quality screens, necessary for a seamless experience, came with an exorbitant price tag, thus restricting the size of VP volumes and limiting creative possibilities. At the same time the fixed stages were charging a large ticket price on the rental cost.

Delay and Lag dogged productions to slow camera movements, background environmental loads still looked very "gamified" and colour pipeline was all over the place.

Lastly, VP clashed with the industry's penchant for flexibility. Filmmaking is a dynamic process, often evolving on set as new ideas emerge or complete turnarounds in post as narrative structures change. However, VP demanded decisions be made 'very' upfront, stifling creativity and leading to compromised content. Directors and producers felt trapped by the constraints of the technology, unable to pivot as needed.

If you were seasoned pros accustomed to meticulously planning every detail in advance, with ample time to refine your vision within the controlled environment of a Virtual Production (VP) stage—much like our esteemed colleagues at Lucasfilm—then navigating the intricacies of VP technology was indeed manageable. However, for those accustomed to a more flexible decision-making process, akin to the dynamic workflow of a Marvel production, the transition to VP proved to be fraught with challenges.

So where does that leave us then? Is VP just a passing Fad... hang on, doesn't FIN STUDIO PICTURES have a VP stage?

Our journey to develop and build our state-of-the-art stage began long before the recent surge in interest in Virtual Production. Nearly two decades ago, while immersed in the creation of an automotive launch film for Rolls-Royce, we encountered a formidable challenge: how to film an embargoed car within various environments, each presenting its own set of logistical hurdles.

At that time, the concept of VP was still in its infancy, and real-time rendering capabilities were far from what they are today. Nevertheless, we recognised the potential of integrating virtual elements into live-action footage to overcome our production challenges. Drawing on our ingenuity and resourcefulness, we devised a VP pipeline that laid the foundation for what would eventually become our cutting-edge stage. While the technology may have evolved significantly since those early days, the core principles remain the same: leveraging innovation to overcome creative obstacles and deliver exceptional results.

While some have successfully harnessed its potential and used it to good effect, such as the creators behind "1899" and segments of the latest Apple TV+ series "Masters of the Air," the true essence lies in addressing the diverse needs of producers and directors who stand to benefit from the utilisation of a Virtual Production stage.

Our mission from the outset was clear: to deliver the ultimate VP experience to all levels of production, be it AAA blockbusters, broadcast endeavours, or advertising campaigns. We aimed to achieve seamlessness, fluidity, and productivity, all while ensuring a competitive price structure that integrates seamlessly into production budgets without undue strain. Complexity may be inherent in the process, but we believe in simplifying it to yield exceptional results.

We view our stage not merely as a single-purpose entity, but rather as a multifaceted space designed to accommodate a myriad of creative endeavours. From its expansive volume area, adjustable to heights of up to 15 meters for compatibility with motion platforms, to its versatility in facilitating full motion plates, real-time motion capture, or expansive self-illuminated green screens within a 60mx50m sound stage—every detail has been meticulously crafted with the production process in mind. Our in-house VFX team stands ready to guide and support projects, irrespective of their familiarity with the VP process. We dismiss technical jargon in favour of practical solutions that simply work.

While productions may opt to bring in their own custom setups and dismantle them post-shoot, we pose a question: wouldn't a top of the line, flexible solution to eliminate these throwaway costs be a more efficient and advanced option? We firmly believe so, which is why we continue to push the boundaries of innovation with our ongoing commitment to building the most advanced stage in the world.

Driven by our dedication to service, we've tailored our stage to accommodate the diverse needs of projects within the FIN STUDIO PICTURE slates, empowering independent producers and filmmakers to achieve levels of output previously unattainable. We invite you to revisit and experience the true potential of Virtual Production with us—a journey defined by innovation, efficiency, and unparalleled creative freedom.


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