Here’s a new film from Satore Studio that highlights the potential of Virtual Production.

Fueled by the impact of COVID-19 and productions like The Mandalorian and The Lion King, VP is often seen as an emerging tech, something that’s not quite ready for prime time unless you have the resources of a company like Disney.

But over the summer, as the first wave of COVID restrictions briefly began to ease, Satore’s creative team partnered with MBS Equipment to demonstrate the power of VP by creating this demo.

Produced for Quite Brilliant, the short uses a handful of real props and furniture pieces, but the CG backgrounds effectively do all the heavy lifting. The result is a photorealistic series of shots that depict a performer in multiple locations – but in reality were all shot on Rebellion Productions’ stage over the course of two days.

“Everything you see in the background of the demo was final pixel VFX, which is simply incredible,” said Tupac Martir, creative director and founder of Satore Studio. “After the demo was done, I was watching it and I couldn’t remember seeing a market stall on set. It turns out even I was fooled!”

To set the stage Satore created two CG background scenes using a combination of tools including Maya, Disguise, Houdini, ZBrush, Substance and more. Six other scenes previously created by an archviz company were then optimized for use in the demo and rendered using Renderman, Octane and Arnold. The environments were housed on Universal Pixels servers running Unreal Engine. Each virtual background was created to run in 25fps, using a proprietary workflow developed by Satore.

Tying it all together was an Ncam tracking system, which blended all of the CG and video data coming from the Arri STX into a single in-camera mix. By using a natural marker-based point cloud as a tracking tool, the creative team was able to easily track the performer in relation to the lighting, background and props, providing a real-time view into how everything was lining up. With everything in-camera, the director and DP could quickly see if a take was working, making it easier to call out changes in the moment.

In addition to live reviews, the data could also be streamed to remote locations, giving others the ability to contribute to the scene without needing to be present on site.

For this demo, the majority of the work was created using previz, with only 20% done on set. Fewer than 30 people set foot on stage over the two days, with an average cast and crew of nine individuals.

While reaching the levels of photorealistic productions seen in The Mandalorian still require vast resources, Satore’s demo offers a closer look at the potential on a more grounded level.

“Satore is a small indie company, and works in a very indie way,” said Martir. “There are still some hurdles slowing virtual production from becoming mainstream, but if you’re clever, you can use these techniques to create something truly incredible, and do it safely and with ease.”

Jon Creamer