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Virtual Production LED, Hollywood’s rising star


LED has already found a place of choice in broadcast sets, and offered flexibility and performance to the corporate and hospitality sectors when they were forced to reach out to their audience in creative ways. Today, LED studios reach the dizzying heights of Hollywood movie sets, TV documentaries and commercials, as well as large-scale cinematic experiences, and Absen is at the heart of this technological leap with a comprehensive LED portfolio.

Large and complex film sets often require heavy planning and logistics when taking place on busy streets or tourist hotspots: the desolate streets of New York in Independence day, or the pristine and empty shores of Koh Phi Phi island in the Beach. Negotiation, planning and a significant amount of money is required to allow for a production team to swoop in and film in these handpicked and iconic locations.

Even without the major budgets of Hollywood directors, allowing for on-location shooting, production teams need to acquire a set for filming. They need to draft in an entire team of working parts to plan, build, travel and shoot the shot they need for their creative endeavours.

To bypass these lofty logistics there is another alternative, already making waves in the TV and film industry: Virtual Production LED Studios.

Already used behind closed doors for broadcast/hybrid event spaces for more corporate applications, the far reaching potential for what this technology helps to achieve is being realised by documentary film makers, TV studios and large-scale film sets across the globe.

Describing the complex dynamics of an LED set, Brian J. Macauto, director of Virtual Production at Absen Inc., believes the extent of the project is the first factor that needs to be interpreted before moving forwards with an LED solution for the client: “Once the scope of the project is understood, the solution can be engineered. We need to discover all of the front-end details before an LED volume can be designed, or an existing volume can be utilised to meet the project’s needs,” he says. “Because the use-case of virtual production varies so widely, you could create a small studio in an office building, or in an enormous Hollywood soundstage.”

This ground-breaking solution fuses the tangible world with the virtual one – in real time – a technological feat that is hard to comprehend as it requires an entire eco system to come together. “It starts with a medium or large LED back wall then we add an LED ceiling to help create ambient lighting and reflections”, says Macauto. “Practical lighting is then used to illuminate the (real) set pieces and props. The camera position is tracked in real-time, and the GPU system is used to render content from the correct perspective of the camera and display it on the LED wall.

“With a large amount of on-set skill and talent in the form of cinematographers, lighting experts, and traditional filmmaking crews who will help create realistic lighting and environmental effects, the magic of moviemaking happens in the eye of the camera.”

As previously mentioned, the eco system is made up of many parts: camera tracking, video processing, sync, timecode, media servers, content asset storage, backups, video recording, audio recording, lighting, network, power distribution, monitoring system – the list goes on.

A complete solution like Absen’s Virtual Studios does come at a significant initial outlay for film makers/producers, but it’s that preliminary investment that counters a vast array of outlays and overheads during filming on set and post-production efforts that would have to be costed into a production over and over if filming the ‘traditional’ way.

This innovative Virtual Production LED solution does not spell the death of on-set filming or visual effects as we know it, but what it offers the actors and creators goes above and beyond what has been achievable before its conception.

The actors are able to engage – in real time – with the set they are filming on, giving them an infinitely more superior environment to act in rather than talking into the blank void of a green screen.

Non-destructive production pipelines are now available with the curators’ vision staying in one ‘engine’ from the moment of the film’s conception, through to production – with, of course, less waste being generated by physical set building too.

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Rapidly changing conditions of a scene to accommodate the needs of a real-time script present limitless options. Weather conditions can change – different seasons, countries, even planets can be conjured at a moments notice. This aspect alone is enabling filmmakers to create much more sustainable, efficient and creatively free productions.

Absen’s proven track record in VP studio installations makes it the obvious choice for integrators. Notable projects include Asia’s largest indoor panoramic LED virtual studio. Measuring 6m high and with a diameter of 24m, the stereoscopic LED studio occupies a total area of 700sqm, and boasts a ceiling LED screen and an LED curved screen.

In Europe, Absen has recently supplied 150sqm of the PL2.5 Pro for a Virtual Production studio in Croatia. In North America, Absen is also the LED of choice for studio in Canada, as well as US studios Show Imaging Studio and Airlot 21, Florida’s largest VP studio. Built by AV solutions specialists 4Wall, and using Absen PL2.5 Pro, the studio boasts a 22,000 square foot stage on the backlot at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The wall uses 1,022 PL2.5 Pro LED panels, capable of delivering a contrast ratio of 8,800:1.

Alongside its PL Series (PL2.5 and PL1.9), Absen has specifically designed a host of other products for the purposes of creating medium/large scale production studios. The AX Pro Series (AX1.2 Pro and AX1.5 Pro) is used as a 1mm backdrop screen, with no colour deviation even at a viewing angle of 170 degrees horizontally and vertically.

The MR series LED floor panels (MR2.5 and MR4.8) for virtual production stages can be easily connected together to create a flooring of any size. Its high intensity frame design guarantees the safety and durability with the MR4.8 matte version capable of bearing a load of 2.5 tons approximately.

With this multitude of innovative new products in tow, the team at Absen are committed to helping clients appreciate what it takes to realise their creative ideas.

So, as the glitz and glamour of Hollywood continues to thrill us all in 2022 and beyond – the actors may appear to steal the spotlight in blockbuster movies but – behind the scenes – the new rising star is undoubtedly Absen’s dedicated Virtual Production LED.