How fascinated we all were in 1993, when JURASSIC PARK came to theaters and huge, almost photorealistic, dinosaurs were running across the screen! Until that time, no one could have imagined anything like this. For the first time, creatures in a live-action film were fully computer-animated. Elaborate 3-D modeling in post-production made it possible.
Almost 30 years later, what was a sensation at the time is now standard procedure for films. Hardly any major blockbuster gets by today without digital post-production. A study by the German production company RenderThat found that 229% more films were produced with computer-generated imagery (CGI) in 2018 than in 2008.
Lengthy post-production could soon be history, however. New studios with large, curved LED walls are starting a minor revolution in film production. Where green screens were once necessary, virtual environments are now being created by powerful game engines in real time during shoots, rather than being inserted into the footage in post-production. “Let’s Talk About Digital Production”, a panel discussion being held on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the AudimaxX auditorium at the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF), will take a closer look at this new technology. Michael Coldewey, professor of VFX and animation at the HFF, will introduce the topic of digital production in a keynote speech before two LED studios are described in more detail.
In July 2021, one of Europe’s largest LED studios, the Dark Bay Virtual Production Studio, opened in Babelsberg. Virtual environments of all kinds can be displayed on an LED wall 55 meters long and seven meters high. Currently, the complete first season of 1899, a new Netflix mystery series developed by accomplished showrunner duo Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar (DARK), is being produced there. In the panel discussion, Christina Casper, managing director of Dark Bay, will report on the new technical possibilities that Babelsberg offers.
An LED studio is also currently being built at Bavaria Studios south of Munich. The consortium behind it is BaViPro, comprised of ARRI, Eyeline Studios, and Bavaria Studios. As in Babelsberg, films and series are to be produced here against virtual backdrops starting in mid-2022. Markus Zeiler, an executive board member of ARRI, will describe this project during the panel discussion.
No matter which LED studio is used for shooting, the technology alters the production processes at critical points. Post-production is already integrated into the shoot, so to speak. Actors and actresses no longer have to imagine the scenery as they stand in front of a green screen; instead, they appear right in the midst of it. And the director can already see the complete image on the set. Short-term changes to the design are also easier to implement. With the help of sophisticated sensors, the camera is able to move freely. The background on the LED wall always shifts in the correct perspective.
Film schools must of course keep up with such technical developments so that they can give their students the know-how they’ll need later on in their careers. Dr. Peter Slansky, professor of technology at the HFF, gives insight into technical education at the university in a presentation that shows where this is headed in the future.
One of the exciting questions relating to virtual film production is to what degree LED studios may contribute to emissions-free film production in the coming years. Transportation is responsible for a large proportion of the CO2 emitted during production. Will flying film crews around the world become a thing of the past if any environment can be simulated easily in the studio? This topic is also relevant to Climate Day on Friday, which is being held in cooperation with the Nagelschneider Foundation. Alongside a panel discussion on protecting the climate, producer Judith Niemeyer will be holding a workshop titled “Green Producing Today and in the Future”.