While the video industry seems to be doing well with its current digital technology, it will soon be re-experiencing an irreversible technological shift that will disrupt almost every aspect of the manufacturing process as we know it.
This is an all-too-familiar shift for an industry that is only just starting to recover from a similar earth-shaking evolution less than 20 years ago.
Back then, film cameras were disrupted by the digital age and changed the industry for good. But now the disruptions in the virtual age will be more significant than you can imagine.
From filmmaking to video editing and post-production, get ready for a roller coaster ride.
In the early 2000s, many industry experts predicted that digital cameras were a fashion statement and lacked the quality required to replace a 50-year-old film tradition. Admittedly, they were right then. The fact was that digital cameras initially had poor quality, were unreliable, and modern film cameras have seen many promising improvements recently.
However, after just a few years of innovation, the benefits of digital camera systems clearly outweighed film cameras in almost every category and ultimately proved to be a much more efficient solution.
Today we are seeing early signs that virtual systems are about to disrupt their digital counterparts in the same way.
Virtual production is a process that uses large-format LED screens with in-camera visual effects, simulating photorealistic environments in real time as a virtual background.
And these are just the first steps in Virtual Evolution. But how and why does this happen?
1. Industry recommendations
For the new technology to take full advantage of it, it needs industry support. Take LED lights for example. LED lighting has become a standard in studios around the world today, but when Chinese manufacturers first introduced LED lighting to the video production industry more than 15 years ago, the industry didn’t even consider it. It wasn’t until 5 years later that major manufacturers such as Arri, Mole Richardson and KinoFlo started offering LED lights that LED lights really caught on.
The lesson we have learned time and time again is that for innovation to take over the industry, change must come from within, not from the outside.
When it comes to virtual production, the main insider recommendations have already been set by industry leaders such as Arri and Sony, who not only publicly endorse virtual production as the future, but are actively investing hundreds of millions of dollars in creating products specifically designed for it.
Another important point of the data is that we are seeing the market adoption rate increase at an ever faster pace. This can be seen in several areas. The two most important of these are the number of productions currently being shot in virtual production and the number of virtual production studios being built around the world, which increased by over 300% last year alone.
Even the mention of virtual production in industry articles has risen sharply in the past two years, suggesting that this is no longer just a technological whim, but a growing industry trend. In addition, many industry-wide surveys, such as this Adoptive Sentiment Survey below authored Altman Solon (opens in a new tab)suggest that most video professionals are open to adopting virtual production. These numbers are expected to increase as the industry continues to transition to virtual manufacturing in the next 18-24 months.
2. We are approaching the tipping point
Changing the industry, however, is not an easy task. New technology entering the market has to deal with the forces of gravity in an attempt to disrupt the main behavior of “old ways of doing things”.
According to Geoffrey Moore Crossing the gulf, the tipping point is the point at which the new technology becomes prepared to take over the legacy technology. This is where the technology becomes commercially viable, quickly available, and the adoption of the technology begins to penetrate the early majority of the industry segment.
For many years in the video industry, the broadcasting market has been a gatekeeper for accepting or rejecting new technologies. This was certainly the case with 3D which was adopted by many in the fictional market but never gained popularity in the TV market and then was not adopted in the consumer market.
Today we can already see how major broadcasters such as ESPN, FOX and even the Weather Channel are building their own virtual production studios and proving the effectiveness of this technology in the broadcasting sector and pointing to an impending tipping point.
3. Setting industry standards
Any new technology requires standards to go from technically feasible to universally accepted to true success.
One of the main arguments many critics point out as to why virtual manufacturing has not entered the mainstream is the lack of universally accepted standards that are essential to the industry’s growth. After all, without the standard way to build virtual environments, manage color settings, and handle virtual scenes, interoperability will be almost impossible.
Simply put, standards need to be set for new technology to be mainstreamed, but where are they?
For decades, the Society of Film and Television Engineers (SMPTE (opens in a new tab)) is the organizational body of the video industry that sets the standards for codecs, color science, and other important protocols.
Last year, SMPTE brought together a group of over 100 top brands and professionals in the video industry to accelerate the creation of standards for virtual production. These standards are essential not only for the entire industry, but also for scaling and educating future employees to support virtual production.
However, despite the lack of these standards, it is estimated that more than 50 of the best film universities will be offering courses in virtual production in 2023. The race to set industry standards is fully successful.
4. Accelerated innovation and growth
Ultimately, innovation was and will always be a self-fulfilling cycle. If a sufficient number of studies decide to invest in virtual production, manufacturers will be encouraged to create products for them, and if companies need a talent to handle technology, education is encouraged to teach virtual production, and if all these things already exist, more studies are encouraged to do so. investing in virtual production.
For this correct loop to work, several important things in the technology implementation lifecycle need to go right. Of all the reports to date, experts say it is already happening.
Major early adopters at Virtual Studios such as Pixomondo, Final Pixel, XR Stage, Orbital Studios, PRG, and Vū not only proved the business model, but have all already invested in additional studios to expand their business, which is a key indicator of where the industry will go further.
For example, Vū witnessed this, starting with one virtual production studio in Florida in 2021, the video production company now runs four corporation-owned studios across the United States and helps build another 11 additional virtual production studios after seeing strong demand from corporate and educational clients. All this while working with specialized system builders in a joint effort to standardize virtual production equipment for the entire industry.
From our point of view, on the front lines of virtual manufacturing, day by day, we’ve seen the implementation lifecycle evolve faster than ever before, now that the digital manufacturing process has become more and more popular.
5. Productive workflows are changing
Traditional studio giants such as Disney, Paramount, and Warner Brothers have built their empires, creating clusters of physical study over the years. Having a large campus of studios has made productions more efficient and easier to manage by having all studio resources collectively in one place.
Today, however, the landscape is fundamentally changing. Work is no longer a place, it’s a verb. Instead of investing in the Brick and Mortar campus of studios, many are investing in building a network of virtual studios across North America, allowing operational and technology standards to exist on the network and allowing remote operation, pooling resources, and sharing virtual assets across the network. This paradigm shift allows anyone, anywhere, to access and work in the studio without actually being physically there.
It is possible that the future of virtual production is a cloud-based virtual studio network that fully dematerializes the entire production process as we know it. That’s right, everything is virtual. If that sounds crazy, take into account the fact that it was already in the early 2000s.
When Netflix moved to DVD by mail, it dematerialized the movie rental business, making the demand for physical stores negligible. Then, just a few years later, they dematerialized the entire video delivery process by delivering video via streaming. This made even the need for physical media or physical transportation completely irrelevant.
In a similar way, today’s video session requires a lot of physical elements such as lights, microphones, cameras, props, and so on. Thanks to virtual production, as we now recognize, we were only able to dematerialize one physical element of a session: location.
Inevitable shift to video production virtualization
As the real-time rendering of the game engine becomes more and more photorealistic, it is inevitable that we will soon be able to dematerialize the entire production process, allowing us to produce everything virtually in the cloud. Instead of streaming to deliver, think streaming to author.
In the future, the camera will be virtual, lighting will be virtual, actors will be virtual, and location will be virtual.
It’s fair to say that the virtual production we know today is like the DVD mailed in the early 2000s, an interesting transitional innovation, but far from what Netflix is today.
The next innovation in virtual production will be full virtualization, where we go beyond the physical components that were once required for production, to a fully virtual video production process that will be quickly available to anyone from anywhere, enabling creators around the world to create content in pace of thought.
Although we are several years away from this reality, it is a future that we work on every day. In many ways, the future of Virtual Manufacturing is already here, and yet on the other hand, there is so much more to Virtual Manufacturing.
We know for sure that video production as we know it today will soon be disrupted by its virtual counterpart in the same way that it was disrupted by the digital age and in the same way that it was disrupted in the film age and time and time again. that. Video production is an industry that has emerged as a result of technological evolution and will evolve over many years.