Watch the full NAB Show 2023 session “Amazon Studios: Building a Next Generation Studio” above.
- As part of its Intelligent Content Experiential Zone, the 2023 NAB Show assembled a panel of Amazon Studios execs to share their insights into constructing the next-generation studio.
- In a session moderated by Jessica Fernandez, head of tech & security communications at Amazon Studios, panelists included head of technology workflow strategy Christina Aguilera, worldwide head of visual effects Chris Del Conte, and head of product strategy Eric Iverson.
- From the adoption of a cloud-first approach to the extensive use of in-camera VFX, the panelists highlighted how Amazon Studios is redefining the entertainment studio model.
- Espionage thriller “All the Old Knives,” and Amazon Prime series “Solos” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” served as key examples of Amazon’s next-generation studio approach.
Imagine having sunset for nine hours a day on a film set, or creating a bustling crowd scene in the midst of a pandemic. These aren’t scenes from a sci-fi movie, but real-life examples of how Amazon Studios is revolutionizing the production ecosystem.
As part of its Intelligent Content Experiential Zone, the 2023 NAB Show assembled a panel of key technology leaders from Amazon Studios to share their insights into the groundbreaking strategies and technologies they’re leveraging to build the next-generation production studio. The panel discussion, “Amazon Studios: Building a Next Generation Studio“ was moderated by Jessica Fernandez, head of technology & security communications at Amazon Studios, and featured head of technology workflow strategy Christina Aguilera, worldwide head of visual effects Chris Del Conte, and head of product strategy Eric Iverson.
From the adoption of a cloud-first approach to the extensive use of in-camera VFX, the panelists highlighted how Amazon Studios is redefining the entertainment studio model and leading the way in the new era of film and TV production. The discussion centered around Amazon Studios’ pioneering use of a fully AWS-powered cloud infrastructure, its innovative virtual production facility, Stage 15, and the company’s commitment to sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion. Watch the full NAB Show session in the video at the top.
Espionage thriller All the Old Knives, starring Chris Pine and Thandie Newton, served as a prime example of Amazon’s next-generation studio approach. The lead characters in the film frequently meet up in an oceanfront restaurant at different times of day. The production team initially considered shooting on location, but since they were filming in London, capturing authentic sunset views was challenging.
To solve this problem, they turned to virtual production. They shot plates of a sunset and projected these onto an LED wall that was placed outside the window of the set on a stage. This allowed them to control the lighting and weather conditions, effectively giving them “sunset for nine hours a day,” said Del Conte. This approach also offered significant efficiencies and sustainability benefits, as they didn’t have to fly the crew out to a beach location or chase the sun to capture the perfect shot.
The use of virtual production was so successful that Variety, in its review of the film, complimented the beautiful sunset scenes, not realizing that they were digitally created, Del Conte recounted. “Variety got fooled,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, [virtual production is] the right kind of tool to be using for these kind of conditions. You don’t have magic hour, you have magic day.”
Aguilera highlighted the production of the Amazon Prime series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power as her favorite example of the studio’s next-gen approach. She emphasized the studio’s proactive adoption of a cloud-first strategy, which ensured a seamless data flow from camera to final creative output. This strategy proved invaluable when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, allowing the production to continue unabated while much of the world came to a standstill. The experience underscored the critical importance of a cloud-first approach and system interoperability in today’s production ecosystem.
“The fact that we had the cloud-first approach, the interoperability between the systems, the data flow straight from the camera, all the way through final creative, and all of these concepts, you know, they took work,” she said. “But When COVID hit, [the production team] didn’t skip a beat. They didn’t have to stop. The rest of the world stopped. They kept going. So that was pretty amazing, the fact that we were able to be proactive and be in a position to keep moving forward.”
Amazon Prime anthology series Solos was another example of the studio’s innovative approach, Del Conte said, describing an episode featuring Helen Mirren. “The entire scene was her inside the space pod the entire time, all white interior bubble windows. She had a red reflective leather space suit on and she has whitish hair.”
The initial plan was to use green screen outside of the windows, but this approach would have resulted in green screen spill, changing the color of the pod interior and Mirren’s hair. The bubble windows themselves also presented challenges and, recognizing these issues, Del Conte proposed virtual production as the solution.
He recalled a gratifying moment towards the end of the shoot when a member of the post-production team thanked him for his suggestion, saying, “Not only did we save time and money, but we’re also able to start testing this episode in two weeks,” as opposed going through iterative processes of VFX shots and management.
Del Conte emphasized that this approach was not only more efficient and cost-effective but also resulted in in-camera final effects shots ready for testing. “This was really the only way to do this kind of shoot, and [resulted in] a better creative experience.”