Watch the panel discussion “The Virtual Production Revolution: A Real Time Love Affair” from NAB Show New York 2023.
- A panel of virtual production experts illuminated how this rapidly advancing field isn’t just reshaping collaboration and creative workflows — it’s changing the content itself.
- Led by veteran Virtual Production Supervisor Jim Rider, this discussion featured KéexFrame founder & CEO Arturo Brena, VP Toolkit founder & CEO Ian Fursa, and ASHER XR founder & CEO Christina Lee Storm.
- VP technologies break down silos between departments, allowing for real-time collaboration and faster iteration, fundamentally changing the way content is produced.
- The role of the Virtual Production Supervisor is more vital than ever, allowing various departments to plan more efficiently and effectively.
At NAB Show New York, a panel of virtual production experts illuminated how this rapidly advancing field is reshaping collaboration and creative workflows for content production.
The session, “The Virtual Production Revolution: A Real Time Love Affair,” was moderated by industry veteran Jim Rider, Virtual Production Supervisor at Pier59 Studios, and featured Arturo Brena, founder & CEO of 3D creative studio KéexFrame; Ian Fursa, founder & CEO of educational series VP Toolkit; and Christina Lee Storm, founder & CEO of ASHER XR, which specializes in the development of real-time, virtual production, AI, and emerging technology for linear and multi-platform storytelling.
These industry pros underscored that virtual production isn’t just a technological advancement; it’s a catalyst for a more integrated and collaborative approach in media creation. They discussed how VP technologies break down silos between departments, allowing for real-time collaboration and faster iteration, fundamentally changing the way content is produced.
The panelists, each bringing their unique perspective and experience, shared insights on how virtual production is enabling creators to work more cohesively, enhancing creativity and efficiency. Read the highlights of the discussion below, and to gain even more insights watch the full session in the video at the top of the page.
Going Beyond In-Camera Effects
Setting the stage for the discussion, Rider observed that virtual production is often understood only in terms of in-camera VFX, “you know, Mandalorian-style virtual production,” but that it is in fact a multifaceted discipline encompassing a much broader spectrum.
“We’ve been trying to really sort of set the record straight because there was a lot of excitement that came out of on-set virtual production in the big shows, but that doesn’t apply to everyone,” Storm agreed. Virtual production can actually be divided among four main categories, or “buckets,” she argues: visualization, volume capture, on-set virtual production or in-camera VFX, and real-time workflows.
Real-time workflows, in particular, are continuing to evolve, she said, becoming increasingly accessible to productions of all sizes. “More and more people can use [real-time workflows] because they don’t have to have a massive stage, per se.”
Brena noted that in-camera VFX comprises roughly 30% of the work at his New York-based studio. “All the rest goes more into linear creation, linear animation using real-time rendering.”
Real-time rendering “is the core of virtual production, touching every aspect,” he said. “We use it a lot to adjust workflows. So [for] traditional linear content, let’s say that we’re creating an opener for a show or we’re creating a commercial or something, we take the jump into using real-time rendering technology in order to optimize workflows.”
The Vital Role of the Virtual Production Supervisor
Real-time technology is revolutionizing creative workflows, the panel unanimously agreed, fostering unprecedented collaboration across various departments.
“There is a very defined pipeline for creating linear content that is very segmented in between the different departments,” Brena said, “and now, with this new technology, it allows you to kind of merge and get all these departments together and working like in a single platform within a single unit.” This unity, he said, “massively improves how fast you can iterate.”
Amid these changing dynamics, the role of Virtual Production Supervisor becomes increasingly vital to ensuring that all departments work cohesively towards a unified creative vision. “It is so important to have that person who is the translator, who is the person that understands all sides,” Storm said, going on to warn, “And if you don’t have that, I’ve seen failures where you don’t have that role.”
Communication and preparation are key, and changes to how departments communicate between one another is a major issue, Fursa said. “You can’t have a director or cinematographer talking directly to… artists, because they speak two very different languages,” he cautions, recalling a challenging production day that stretched to 16 hours “just because of bad communication.”
For mid-tier productions, Brena added, there is the added complexity of communication across studios. Another big challenge, he said, was aligning expectations. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, he noted, and it’s the VP Supervisor’s job to educate clients and teams about what’s possible and what’s not.
Storm emphasized the iterative process and managing expectations to avoid disappointment on set. “The power of no is a strong thing,” she said. “And it’s not because I don’t want to deliver. I’m just… trying to make sure you know going in what you can get.”
The Future of Virtual Production
Looking ahead to the future of virtual production, “data-driven content is going to change everything,” Brena said.
He envisions game engine technology allowing for delivery of pre-rendered content that can be adapted in real time according to viewers’ interests or to support monetization. “Data-driven content is definitely the one that I see [getting] the fastest adoption, because it’s usually the one of how are we going to make money,” he said, adding that media companies will soon discover that by versioning out data-driven content “you will probably multiply revenue.”
Piggybacking on the trend for data-driven content, Storm predicts an upswing in location-based and user-generated content. “Sort of like what [happened] during the pandemic, we’re going to be able to see distinct voices come out in play and be able to share stories,” she said. “More than anything, it’s exciting. Because when there are tools that are easier for people to play with, then creativity starts to surge.”
Fursa touted new advancements in image based lighting, noting that color calibration woes for DPs may soon be a thing of the past. “For now we still have to light, and LED walls generally are not color accurate,” he explains. “They’re missing, like, a white chip. So that means that they don’t have the full spectrum” of traditional lighting for film production. “But right now, there’s a huge wave of new technology that’s coming fast.”