At the event horizon of production technology the Director of Virtual Production – Overall Technical Direction – HOD
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.
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.
But on the service side, my team and I build virtual production systems for some of the world’s top Studios, Directors and Cinematographers and we trouble shoot on productions around the world. BELOW: The GOODBOX on-set computer designed for virtual production with it’s ruggedised form factor and low-latency architecture.
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, I work with the rest of the HODs to break down the script and extract the VP requirements and give advice on how to best achieve the scene. 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 own job as the DVP 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 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.
It’s the VP crews role to carry out the requirements of the DVP and to deploy, integrate and operate VP technology.
A top DVP will often bring crew and technology with them, to a production. For me it was my computer and network, 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 platform needs to be designed for the task, assured, proven, tested, and most of all trusted. Nowadays, I have may key crew who I trust and like to work with. This includes my system operators, network engineers, LED techs and VP developers. VP crew explore new technical developments and bring production ready solutions to set.
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.