There is no question that 2022 will be the year of virtual production. Although the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated awareness around virtual production (VP) technology and workflows, it also made some things a lot harder — not least of which is the physical element of evaluation and collaboration, which are typically key parts of the often-complex world of VP.
We’ve seen lots of new tools released that are attempting to aid anyone who wishes to adopt the various benefits of VP, including virtual camera solutions, LED wall integrations, smart lens technology, camera-tracking and motion-capture products, and, of course, a number of realtime compositing tools (more often than not based around Unreal Engine). What seems to be missing is an off-the-shelf ‘control center’ where all these technologies come together in a cohesive user interface. I’d really like to see someone develop a tool, or set of tools, specifically designed for virtual production with the artist in mind.
Harnessing the power of all these technologies and delivering them in a robust and well-managed fashion requires a very particular skill set, which at this point is only possessed by a relatively small number of individuals (and even fewer companies). I can certainly foresee the know-how within this space taking huge steps forward during the coming year, which benefits all of us who work in and around the industry.
We can address these deficits through learning tools and knowledge transfer. Schools, colleges and universities are taking VP very seriously, embracing the technology and workflows like never before. The fact that VP is undoubtedly the largest step change to content creation in a very long time is evident, and that view is supported by education facilities around the globe. Online courses and certification need to be part of this process, and the evidence suggests that people wanting to learn about VP are hungry for this type of content.
But there is also a need for real-world, hands-on experience — which is where nurturing apprenticeships could be extremely valuable. Learning the theory of VP technologies and workflows will only get a person so far. From there, we must figure out how to ensure that anyone who wishes has the ability to gain real-world experience using these tools. That’s one reason we opened two new locations this year, built to support the growing demand for smart stages and training facilities in Europe and Latin America. Rigged with the latest equipment, teams can learn new tech, test workflows and problem solve in a worry-free environment.
The trend of planning earlier, planning better and the overall collaboration that virtual production enables will grow exponentially throughout the coming year. It is plain to see the benefits VP brings to all areas and departments, enabling more creative freedom and far higher levels of control. VP will no longer be seen as a ‘science project’ and a ‘nice to have’ that is only used by larger-budget productions. On the contrary, it will open up to all creative content verticals and become the norm.
Nic Hatch co-founded Ncam in 2012 to develop innovative virtual production technology and solutions for film, TV and broadcast. Prior to founding Ncam, he jointly formed Nvizage & Nvizible, one of London’s fastest growing VFX studios. Hatch is also a creative, having worked as a CG artist for Mill Film and the Moving Picture Company on a variety of projects, including Troy, Tomb Raider and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.