Our Virtual production test shoot at Drexel University demonstrated rear-projection and it's ability to rival costly LED wall setups on an indie budget. We brought together local crew and remote VAD Artists to collaborate in real time from Japan to Philadelphia, proving that stable ICVFX Virtual Production workflows hold up at an indie level.
Nov 7, 2022
Once it seemed like all of the pieces had aligned, Catalyst Co-founder Ian Fursa came up with the idea to test our newest workflow developments in a real-world production scenario. We wanted to push the boundaries of ICVFX Virtual Production by doing a proof-of-concept using projectors, with the aim of producing industry-standard level content at an indie level.
Working closely with Catalyst co-founder Stephen Chandler, the idea for the production was to do 2 completely different concepts that both integrated the use of new tools and ideas developed by ourselves and our partner company, Vp Toolkit. We partnered with Drexel University's Nick Jushchyshyn, a long-time Virtual Production educator who offered up their mocap and projector space. For production support, we utilized our relationship with Colorspace Labs and Lightbulb Rentals who helped us take this from a development session to a real-world production.
Our first concept, WAR, would test the rear projection system's ability to appear properly exposed to camera in a daylight high contrast environment. Vp Toolkit also wanted to demonstrate a solution to seamlessly focus between real-world talent and a helicoptor within our virtual environment.
This solution, the Vp Tookit focus solver, integrated with on-set tools like the follow-focus and lens encoders to allow our crew to operate the camera as close to normal as possible while getting realistic results. Not only does it allow for breaking through the screen to a virtual focal plane, but it also calculates for basic in-camera VFX depth of field to prevent the "layering effect" that generally plagues virtual productions. The depth-of-field focus solver, along with new calibration and operation tools, creates an ecosystem that elevates the ability to achieve realism and consistency like never before.
This concept was also the background for a livestream we hosted during the shoot, where we break down some basic lighting and virtual production principles. Ian gives his results on how he achieved the high-contrast lighting scenario: https://youtu.be/jqgCZq3YCzA
In our second concept, DANCER, we drove a sci-fi virtual setpiece using Unreal Engine blueprints and a Vicon tracking system. The rotation and position of our lead talent's hands controlled the rotation speed, distance, brightness, and material proeprties of our virtual asset. This gave us the ability to create a world where our dancer could control his enviornment in real-time, creating organic moments of storytelling through his dance.
Check out our behind the scenes video to meet our crew, and see the setup:
During this entire production, Catalyst supported a new level of connectivity and reliability with it's latest infrastructure & workflow platform, for running in-camera VFX Virtual Productions. Using one of our development servers, an on-site editor VM was used to control the environment in real-time. Our server supplied an isolated netwoked environment, with a cusotm software stack including a high-speed file-share, Unreal Engine multi-user server, Perforce, DNS/DHCP and VPN gateway. This provided a backbone for Virtual Production that could seamlessly integrate with Drexel's on-site network, and we were able to bring in remote collaborators easily to run a smooth virtual production, despite the technical challenges.
Overall, we believe the results of this shoot speak for themselves. We had such a good time testing these new workflows and techniques with our colleagues and friends. Please be sure to check out the other creatives we worked with on this video, such as Colorspace Labs (www.colorspacelabs.com) & Lightbulb Rentals (www.lightbulbrentals.com).
Make sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming release of Ian Fursa's Vp Toolkit, which includes all of the features tested in this production: www.vp-toolkit.com.
Be creative. Don't hold back. Ignite the flame.