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London: The Global Virtual Production Hotspot



The team at Bild Studios on the VP capital of Europe and why it's the epicentre of a massive film industry

London: The Global Virtual Production Hotspot

Going into 2020 the global virtual production market was already worth $1,260.5 million and is projected to register an annual growth rate of 15.8% from 2020 to 2027. Clearly, while the pandemic has perhaps accelerated its arrival, virtual production has long been set on its journey towards a studio boom.

With the pandemic leaving many projects teetering in and out of production, the UK and particularly London has seen an explosion of potential solutions in the shape of virtual production studios and facilities.


The virtual production capital of Europe

Following a frustrating and much interrupted year and a half, a host of virtual production studios are taking shape in and around London, ignited by the demand to finish existing projects and start ambitious new ones. The UK’s capital is fast becoming a global hotspot for virtual production.

As the heartbeat of the UK, London is one of the most connected cities in the world with a suitably efficient transport network, making it the perfect location for an industry boom. And VP solves one vital problem for the city, while historically, film productions have been tortured by London’s unpredictable weather, technology now makes controlling the weather and environment a reality.

Being the capital of the UK, London is the epicentre of a film industry that generates more than £6 billion for the national economy meaning it always has access to extensive infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce and technical expertise.

London’s VP scene is now a mixture of already well-established studios investing in VP shaped expansions of their existing site, and virtual production specialists launching facilities such as Bild Studios’ latest MARS Volume facility in Ruislip, west London. MARS Volume is also a centre for research and development into VP technologies and workflows.

Elsewhere in London, studios have been launching as the industry attempts to meet the ever-growing demand. German film tech supplier ARRI launched its own VP solution in Uxbridge, while Warner Bros has opened its V stage at its site in Leavesden, on the outskirts of the city.

Garden Studios has also launched their own VP stage at their studio site in Park Royal, west London. Adding to their existing studio in Washington DC, Dimension has also invested in a studio space in west London.

While the focal point of the emergence of sites is certainly the capital, 80Six have set up a semi-permanent stage with around 3500 sq ft of space just an hour outside of London in Slough. The VP boom isn’t exclusive to the south of the UK, with The Vectar Project launching two studios in Stockport, just outside of Manchester.

The advanced technology at these studios allows film productions to capture scenes and environments in the studio instead of travelling to remote locations or building expensive sets. There is the potential to create scenes and 'out of this world' environments that are impossible to travel to and impossible to create as a traditional set.

With the arrival of a variety of these new VP studios and facilities, the capital is a befitting home to green screen’s natural successor. As a collective, London’s leading studios can continue to push the barriers of possibility and extend reality for British filmmakers and HETV producers.


What does London’s virtual production boom mean for the industry?

For those not in the know, VP combines digital and physical set design, using real-time game engines, LED technology and camera tracking. It enables film-makers to create computer-generated virtual locations and environments on large adjustable LED screens. VP is basically an interconnected ecosystem of tools, technologies and workflows that gives filmmakers complete control over in-camera visual effects during shooting, in real-time.

For those at the helm of audacious and pioneering film projects, virtual production allows many things, including higher levels of environmental control, lower costs and risk of viral transmission and, perhaps most important of all, the ability to bend the laws of time and physics, pre-production.

With a traditional linear production pipeline, 20 percent of a typical film budget is spent on reshoots. Whereas the virtual production pipeline turns your pre-vis environment into the final frame on set, which makes filmmaking a far more agile and iterative process, saving film and TV producers time and money.

Where environments are created in a real-time video game engine, directors can update and change the virtual background environments on the fly, such as updating the time of the day or the weather conditions in a scene. Directors can now easily change, update and control these kinds of environmental parameters in real-time, from a simple iPad app, while filming.

Not only does VP allow on-screen talent to be transported to locations worldwide, but it simultaneously acts as a solution to the industry’s burgeoning carbon footprint problem. The emergence of virtual production stages has the potential to significantly reduce the industry's carbon emissions output.

While VP is still an infant industry with a lot of room to grow, the latest London-focused studio boom firmly places the capital as a research and development hotspot for VP skills, technologies and workflows. Plus, as the film and TV industry starts to ramp up production again, post-pandemic, the possibilities made real by virtual production solutions now have the potential to replace on-location filming for many film and TV shoots.  

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Bild Studios, Thu, 05 Aug 2021 08:26:00 GMT