Virtual sets with LED screens – from the Mandalorian to Budapest
Worldwide, an innovative product has come to light in the field of filmmaking.
The virtual production workflow that allows filmmakers to capture complex visual effects shots in-camera is available in Budapest at ORIGO Studios. It aids to produce more authentic scenes than a green box does, which brings both actors and directors one step closer to reality or a sense of reality during production. On top of that it can save a lot of money for the filmmakers.
The new way of filming arrived to Budapest, András Krucsai (project manager), Ádám Ruzsinszki (general manager of productions) and Marci Szigethy (camera man) talk about that.
- Where did this technology come from?
- András Krucsai: In the field of event management, the usage of LED technology is very common. The VFX is a technique used with a green or blue background, but the problem with that is the actors had a hard time playing out certain scenes, in a strange and odd environment, often surrounded by people dressed in green. The whole thing is not realistic. Applying a LED wall changes the whole game. We use the same background that we will actually see on screen.
I position a character in the studio under controlled lights and can imagine the place to be anywhere I want it to be. A good example is the Mandalorian series, which was made in parts under such conditions.
- In order to have the LED wall what steps you took beforehand?
- András Krucsai: The thought here was that Origo Studios should have a virtual studio as well.
- How does a wall provide service?
- András Krucsai: We bring four types of companies together under one roof, and so it becomes an end product, a service that movies need. What is needed is the LED itself, the technology that controls the system, the content that provides the background that the virtual world loads. Here we see and experience virtual reality in real time.
- Whose job this technology makes easier?
- András Krucsai: For the actors, the directors, even for the editors, because they see on camera exactly what is happening, this couldn’t be done before.
- How long have you been using it and what opportunities do you see?
- András Krucsai: We put together the first set-up before Christmas. It was first designed for a floor. We realized that we only needed a floor in rare cases and then also we thought to make better use of the possibilities of the wall in a U-shape.
We first make a semi-dome (a semi-enclosed space from above) and then a dome (a fully enclosed space). These are already expensive solutions, but super productions require it.
By forming a dome, we will be able to give the feeling that the actor is under the open sky.
I think that the upcoming films will be able to use 80% of this, even in Hungarian films. Filmmakers are very curious; they like to experiment. So anything new is interesting and they want to try it.
The key aspect of building an LED Virtual Production studio is to have a consistent synced world mapped onto a vast array of screens, such that the view is always correct from the camera. The primary use for the LED virtual set is to provide the correct digital environment and thus also provide the ‘correct’ lighting on the actor on the stage.
- What challenges you faced the first time you tried it out?
- András Krucsai: The first commercial made with this technique was shot a few days ago. In fact, it was all a challenge, I had to get used to it, to learn the system. But even so, we finished an hour and a half earlier than we planned, so we lived it as a success.
The ecological footprint will also be smaller for filming – we will save the work of a 40-person crew: they won’t go out to shoot a lot of cars, just use the studio and the LED wall.
- Marci Szigethy: It is also important to know that the LED wall has made filming even more complex, as it is difficult and hardware-intensive for camera tracking, but at the same time it is a very innovative technology.
- Is there already a film production happening that is using the wall?
- András Krucsai: Yes, the Mandalorian.
- What kind of feedback have you received?
- András Krucsai: Everyone uses VFX these days. There are trends and they are quickly being picked up by the film industry. Especially, if you have a west side recording market for it. This LED wall is one such trend now. The Mandalorian series has shown that this can work very well.
- Ádám Ruzsinszki: If there is a need for it, we can build an entire studio full of LED walls or LED curves, so we can create a whole world.
If there comes a production who will want to shoot a desert scene, they come to us, we create a LED wall to create their desired world. In the long run, they can save a lot of money on this kind of production, as they don’t have to travel to a desert location, pay hotel and transport there and hire a separate crew. With the same concept they can even shoot in space. This gives productions endless possibilities. With this, Origo Studios is trying to win the market, as it is a cost-effective solution
- András Krucsai: It is also good for Hungary. It employs the industry; you can spend every day shooting here without traveling to other parts of the world.
- András Krucsai: We shot an ad here yesterday, you see, it looks like the background is running. According to the story, as the car progresses, the seasons change.
In this way, many environmental uncertainties can be eliminated. Furthermore, it is also practical if you want to shoot winter scenery, for example, during summer time. With the wall you don’t need to wait for the first snow to fall, it is enough to come to the studio with us. Even, if the season is right, it is still better to shoot at the studio, because it makes it easier to stimulate anything you want to see on camera, instead of in this case literally putting a car on a trailer and filming that. All of this can be done in about 6 hours, which would normally take 1-2 days to make in the real world. This saves a lot of money, time and energy.
Marci and I are working to introduce this technology to colleagues, and make it available to as many filmmakers as possible.
The other day we talked to an American stunt coordinator/director who was very happy that this technology is now available in Budapest at Origo Studios, because in Los Angeles, he doesn’t have access to it yet.
- Marci Szigethy: In the commercial, the LED wall was U-shaped here so that the landscape was reflected on the side of the car, and that reflection can be well received by the wall. We also saved an extra lamp with it, we barely had to light it, because the LED itself gives a lot of light. This is an improved version of a traditional background projection that we have known in the world of filming for many years. It was still in rudimentary form a decade ago, but today the technology has reached to a professional level. Nowadays, the technology is advanced enough so that is the computer that recalculates an image from the right camera angle with the right viewing angle. Finally, the computer calculates what we should be able to see at that moment.
- András Krucsai: Movies haven’t been using this for a very long time, so the whole world is learning the technique. You have to master the lighting, because it’s a little different.
- Marci Szigethy: The actor is needed, the costume, the props and the director – actually we can shoot an entire movie using LED walls.
- András Krucsai: There are plenty of tricks to create a very believable reality. This is sure to be momentous in the future of filming!