What is LED virtual production technology, why is it changing Hollywood, and how can filmmakers best shoot on a next-gen LED stage?

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Find out in this interview!

Imagine stepping onto a film set that lets you capture a golden hour that lasts the entire day, change the weather, move photoreal background mountains, see a blockbuster-quality VFX creature interact with actors, or scout for locations around the world, all without leaving the room.

Now imagine doing this entirely in real-time.

That’s what happens when you use LED virtual production technology. And the good news is it’s no longer just a figment of our collective imaginations or even just a demo at trade shows.

Thanks to its successful use on projects like The Mandalorian, this technology is real, on its way to going mainstream, and already changing Hollywood.

But what goes on under the hood to bring this cutting-edge tech to life, and what should filmmakers expect when shooting on an LED virtual production stage?

We speak with one of the tech pioneers at disguise to see how it all comes together. Learn more below!

What Is LED-Based Virtual Production?

At its most basic level, LED virtual production is what happens when a combination of technologies lets filmmakers replace their green screens with walls made up of LED panels. With the help of a game engine, these LED walls display real-time backdrops and visual effects, all directly on set.

“This creates a far more immersive experience for the entire film crew compared to using green screens,” said Ed Plowman, CTO of disguise.

He’s spent the past three years developing an LED-friendly virtual production workflow that has helped companies like Framestore, Lux Machina, and High Res deliver films including Solo: A Star Wars Story and live-action commercials for Nissan and Hyundai.

“Using an LED virtual production stage means filmmakers can see—and capture—all the final pixels of a shot in-camera on set,” Plowman said. “All without waiting for post.”

According to Plowman, other benefits of using LED stages include:

  1. Post-production teams will no longer have to spend time keying from green screens.
  2. Post-production teams will automatically have correct reflections and contact lighting on actors or physical set pieces, as well as no more green spill.
  3. If a director wants to change the angle of the light so that the shadow on the actor goes in a different direction, the director no longer has to move any real lights. They just have to move the sun in the virtual LED environment.
  4. Actors no longer have to visualise the final film with only a green screen for reference. Their eyelines will be more accurate when they look at Computer Generated (CG) elements.
  5. Virtual cues can be placed for anyone on set using LED floors.
  6. Directors and cinematographers will be able to see, modify and sign-off on background locations and visual effects in pre-production (even doing virtual location scouts) so there are fewer re-shoots or iterations needed in post.
  7. There’s no need for travel. Any world can be shot from one location.
  8. Large-scale set extensions can be created to seamlessly match with the LED backdrop in post, just in case the LED wall doesn’t fill up the whole camera view.
  9. Dynamic augmented reality elements can be seamlessly added for LED assets that need to move in front of your actors.
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