At the event horizon of production technology the Director of Virtual Production and the Virtual Production Supervisors – Overall Technical Direction – VP HOD Role – Virtual Production Systems from Script to Screen. VES backlink.
Virtual production systems are integrations of multiple hardware and software technologies that blur the lines between the real and virtual world, in-camera, in system and in the cloud. Just like technology in any other industry, production technology never stops advancing.
Enter stage left, the DVP and VP Crew.
It’s the role of the VP crew to bring technology to set and ensure the success of the productions user experience. On a virtual production set, you’ll see familiar faces, the Director, a DOP, a 1st AD keeping the clock, but on a VP shoot, standing next to all these familiar faces will be a few new faces. The VP Director, or Director of Virtual Production, or DVP for sort code, will be one of them, and behind the DVP, you’ll find a bunch of determined and highly skilled technical crew, that’s keeping the production technology systems all working, and carrying out real-time on-set adjustments.
“As the VP Director, I’m ultimately responsible for the productions overall technical user experience and its ability to enhance and deliver on the directors vision, I deploy technologies and my technical philosophy on-set.” Asa Bailey, Director of Virtual Production / VP Supervisor.
Basically, if the tech experience sucks and the creators can’t create what they want, it’s down to me and my crew. Conversely if everything runs sweet, and the crew get what they want out of the technology, that’s down to us too. I work as a DVP for studios, some days I think I brake things for a living. Quick history, I started out at art collage studying fine art, then worked as a UX designer in digital advertising. I then moved into Directing and I started taking VFX with me on-set.
When I started building VP systems back in 2016, the first thing I needed was a computer to run the real-time game engines, on-set. Finding nothing on the market that met my low-latency, high-throughput needs, I went back to basics, and I designed the virtual production computer, all to get the production data I was creating stable and up to speed. This grew into what is today, proudly my computer company.
Over the years as my work as a VP Supervisor also started to take off, I started to carve out the role of the Director of Virtual Production, I needed to manage multiple VP Supervisors working on multiple parts of a production, and provide overarching creative leadership to the VP department.
If I am not in a zoom call or on a set, on the service side, on a day to day basis, my team and I build virtual production systems for some of the world’s top Studios, Directors and Cinematographers. We also trouble shoot on productions around the world and we beam into sets remotely too. You’d be surprised how many sets and stages we have set up from our lab in North Wales. We’ve remotely built and trained studios and crews in Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, and the USA.
BELOW: The GOODBOX on-set computer designed for virtual production with it’s ruggedised form factor and low-latency architecture on set at the 80six Virtual Production Stage in the UK.
Now, we’re a permanent fixture, hired on to productions to provide the technology, and the support required to enable virtual production to take place.
We dematerialise physical production and replace it with virtual production where required. With virtual production it’s possible to produce the impossible. Asa Bailey, Director of Virtual Production
On-set and for our studio customers around the world, we build VP systems using our learned and developed technologies. We also get virtual production systems ready for the rest of the production crew to come in and use them.
From the script level, nowadays with my team of Virtual Production Supervisors, we’ll all work with the rest of the HODs on a project to break down the script and extract the VP requirements, and we give advice on how to best achieve the scenes. Sometimes VP is used for the whole show, making it a full-on VP production, in other cases we are providing individual scenes that have to match traditionally shot footage.
What makes the VP user experience a successful one? If I have been able to capture and express the productions creative vision, that’s a successful virtual production for me and the rest of the creative team. If it all happened without anyone getting hurt, if it’s on budget, and on time, then that’s a successful VP shoot in the eye’s of the production team as a whole. As a senior member of the production team these are my critical concerns.
The VP crew provide the technology and knowledge to set up and run cloud pre-production and remote VP services too, such as virtual scouting locations and tech viz for camera and rigging set ups using VR. This is all set up by the VP team for the rest of the crew to enjoy.
On-set, on production, the VP crew operate the systems and ensure the on-set user experience, and they will assist the rest of the crew to use virtual production methods and technologies.
My job as the DVP or VP Sup on-set, is to advise on split second improvements to the system and hot fix any issues, it may be that I assist the cinematographer to adjust the LED walls, or adjust the virtual lights, or adjust the color in-engine. By me also supervising and designing and having a total knowledge of all the system and technologies on set, I know where to make the most effective adjustments, a cut with my scalpel, to give the best result in the shortest amount of time.
What’s the difference between a Director of Virtual Production and a VP Supervisor?
Ones essentially a director of photography that has transitioned to VP, and the other is a VFX or motion capture supervisor that has transitioned to VP.
In my experience a DVP comes from the camera / director department, where the VP Sup’s tend to come from the VFX department, and are often also provided by the VFX vendor to oversee and supervise on-set. Also, it seems that if there is a DVP on the production then they become the VP departments creative HOD. The DVP will coordinating the creative efforts of all the projects VP Supervisors and virtual production crew. If there is not a Director of Virtual Production attached the project, the VP Supervisor then acts in this role.
It’s a style thing too, as most DVP’s tend to also shoot and have a much more focused knowledge of cameras, tracking, lenses, LED and lighting, staging, where the VP Sup has a much more focused knowledge on VFX and in-engine workflows, understanding data and how it is managed, stored and offloaded off-set. Both the DVP and the VP Sups know engines inside out and can set up a system, they know the assets pipelines, and the job titles are somewhat currently interchangeable, it’s just more a matter of what the professional wants to be called and where they feel more comfortable.
The VP Supervisor in my crew ensure the integrity of the data and drive the technical bench.
They run the on-set engine pilots, the teams driving the engine on the shoot. I’ll look after camera tracking and systems front end, my VP supervisors ensure the back-end is doing what it should. They also oversee and ensure the data is captured and logged correctly, using snapshot and take recorders. While I may be jumping between the camera and the brain bar to assist the DP and the Director, the VP Supervisors are making things work, and making sure everything we are doing on the set is being captures correctly.
My VP Sup’s work closely with the Script Supervisors to log scene snapshots, saving a VP session as a set of recallable settings that can be called back up later. During pre-production the VP Supervisor will set up and orchestrate virtual scouting sessions, this will be attended virtually by other crew using VR headsets and remote collaboration software. The DVP and VP Sup are both just as happy and responsible for these types of activities.
It’s the VP crews role to carry out the requirements of the DVP / VP Supervisor and to deploy, integrate and operate VP technology.
A top Director of Virtual Production or VP Supervisor will often bring crew, a philosophy, and technology with them, to a production. For me it was my computer and network and my focus on improving the sets user experience. I built my own on-set computer system, as when I am shooting, I don’t want to have to worry about at least one thing on-set, and that’s my computer platform. As its the foundation of everything on-set, my computer needs to be designed for the task, assured, proven, tested, and most of all bomb proof. Nowadays, I have my key crew. This includes my VP Supervisors, System Operators (Engine Pilots), network engineers, LED techs and on-set VP developers. VP crew explore new technical developments and bring production ready solutions to set, its a constant job to keep productions up to date with the latest technologies.
The VP crew is here for good.
Once technology gets out the box, it’s hard to put it back in. VP technology is not one invention, its more than just shooting LED. Its AR, VR, Spatial, it happens at the event horizon of creative technology. Virtual production is also about connecting to other technologies too, from robotics and AI to blockchain. Pandora’s box has been opened, this time on-set.
Asa Bailey Bio and Credits
Director of Virtual Production
Cinematographer / Motion Capture (Camera Tracking) Technical Lead.
Read more articles on virtual production on the Visual Effects Society web site.