LED walls from ROE Visual have been used to create 80six’s virtual production studios in Slough, just outside of London, UK. The set-up is adaptable to each production’s requirements.
Over the last 18 months, 80six has carried out extensive R&D testing with LED technology and cameras for film and TV productions with trusted partners such as Epic Games, Dimension Studio, DNEG and OSF. “To be able to confidently advise our clients of not only the benefits but also the pitfalls of shooting LED for in-camera VFX based on our experience has been invaluable,” said Jack James, director at 80six.
80six’s interest in virtual production stemmed from delivering extended reality (xR) stages, which incorporate similar technologies and techniques.
“The silver lining to come out from the pandemic was the time we had to research these techniques,” said James. “Working with the likes of ARRI, ROE Visual, Epic Games, Brompton Technology on various LED panel and camera tests has guided us on our choice for tech for our own in-house studios.”
The studios display two semi-permanent ready-to-shoot LED stages, featuring high-resolution, ROE Visual LED walls, controlled from a central gallery. Specifically designed for film and TV productions, the virtual production stage is one of the few purpose-built LED stages available for commercial use in the UK.
The curved LED wall, assembled from 324 ROE Visual LED panels, is 18m (59.1ft) wide and 4.5m (14.8ft) high. The LED set-up is divided into two categories: in-camera LED and LED screens for lighting purposes. The rear wall, which acts as a backdrop to performances, is built with ROE Visual Diamond DM2.6, ROE Carbon 5.7mm (0.22in) is also used for both the height-adjustable LED ceiling and movable lighting dollies.
“Diamond 2.6mm [0.10in] is the LED product we tested for in-camera shots and has proven to be worthy of various seals of approvals from cinematographers, VFX teams and DOPs,” said James. “The LED ceiling and lighting dollies use Carbon CB5 and this has been previously used on the Mandalorian and our own tests. As they are out of the camera, these are used mainly for reflections and lighting subjects because of the higher brightness inherent to the panel.”
“We used this LED set-up in January , when 80six worked with DNEG, the multiple Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning visual effects and animation company, and Dimension Studio to shoot a high-profile indie short film from Paul Franklin, DNEG’s creative director,” said James.
The 3,500ft² (325.2m²) space is designed to give ample room for incoming film and TV productions to capture wide-angle shots and complex camera movements. Large sets, props and vehicles can be brought in through the loading bay on the ground floor.
“We think that the increased demand for this new method of shooting will continue even after restrictions ease,” said James. “The benefits are huge on time and resources: film productions can send one person abroad to laser-map an environment and then bring it back to the UK, rather than transport the whole crew overseas. On-set, filmmakers can shift virtual environments at a click of a finger and are not restricted by physical environmental limitations.”
The second LED stage, a compact pre-calibrated xR stage, is 9.5m (31.2ft) wide and 3.5m (11.5ft) tall and built with ROE Visual Diamond 2.6mm LED walls and Black Marble 4.7mm (0.18in) LED flooring.
Game-engine technology, LED screens, camera tracking and virtual set extension combine in an immersive virtual environment, where people can move around and interact in real-time with content displayed around them. The Disguise workflow and xR technology can be applied to anything from award shows to corporate events, music videos, live-streamed concerts, sports broadcasting and commercial shoots.