Virtual production is clearly not going to be used in every production. It requires a lot of pre-planning to work best but can then unleash powerful storytelling as well as enabling multifunctional studios. A recent EBU workshop on virtual production with LED walls provided a very good learning experience for the participants, some of whom experienced this type of set-up for the first time.
This hands-on workshop was organized by the EBU’s LED Virtual Production group in collaboration with display solutions provider Leyard and supported by key industry partners*. Participants came from BBC (UK), BR (Germany), Rai (Italy), RTVE (Spain), SWR (Germany) and Yle (Finland).
The goal was to better understand the workflows, complexity, benefits and challenges of using LED volume walls – the term used for systems of linked high-end LED panels – for typical television programmes. Two specific scenarios were tested: news/sport and entertainment.
The first scenario was specifically designed to enable a better understanding of the use of virtual production technology, especially AR (augmented reality) elements and set extensions. It was also chosen to experiment with multi-camera operation and to evaluate the feasibility of using PTZ cameras with LED backgrounds.
The entertainment scenario tested the level of hyperrealism that can be achieved when movement or dynamic tracking is involved. In this scenario, the use of LED panels as flexible light sources was also tested.
New skill sets
Many different skills are required to make the complex virtual production chain work. These skills are not necessarily present in a traditional broadcast environment. The presence of a technical director with knowledge of film and television production and experience with ICVFX (in-camera visual effects), 3D computer graphics applications, real-time rendering engines, etc., is a must. End-to-end training courses in virtual production, including hands-on sessions, geared to technicians, operators, producers, directors and artists are likely to be needed to upskill traditional broadcast production teams in working with LED volume walls.
Many broadcasters have studios with video walls already installed, so it’s valuable to understand the cost of upgrading these existing studios, provided the dimension and pitch of the LED walls would be appropriate. Multi-cam workflows can be achieved using techniques like frame remapping and ghost framing, but additional testing is needed to better understand the implications of the different approaches.
The EBU group has a long list of areas that require further study and will continue to work on some of the following:
- LED wall requirements (e.g. for RfPs)
- Cost of upgrading studios for virtual production
- How to test LED panels
- Sustainability, especially energy consumption
- Workflows and skills needed for LED-based productions
- Practicalities of multi-cam live operation
- Lighting LED virtual productions
- Level of automation that can be achieved
- Use of LED floors and ceilings
- Combining LED and green screen technology
- Mixing LED walls with different pitch sizes
This article first appeared in issue 56 of EBU tech-i magazine.
*Brompton Technology, Egripment, Grass Valley, KST Moschkau, Panasonic, Zero Density