In a pandemic, the show must go on! But it’s not just about taking to the stage. Virtual production is opening the doors for cutting-edge entertainment that will change live production forever. In some respects, the pandemic is speeding up virtual production adoption. It cuts the need for travel and offers a much better capacity for a controlled, safe environment. And we’re seeing the results. Several industries are innovating, breaking ground with new and fantastic delivery of live entertainment.

Fashion-forward with virtual production

The past few months’ pandemic restrictions have accelerated the fashion industry’s embrace of virtual production to showcase new apparel.

Louis Vuitton 2021 Fashion Show

Louis Vuitton introduced his women’s spring-summer 2021 line in a Fashion Show with an incredibly sophisticated virtual production, involving 10 Reality Engines, robotic cameras, remote heads, rail cams and cable cams, with the Samaritain building in Paris as the backdrop.

Tokyo Virtual Runway Live

In a more straightforward virtual production fashion installation, Tokyo Virtual Runway Live provided a dynamic LED screen backdrop for the GirlsAward, which was broadcast in real-time with live models.

Virtual production integrated in live games

Many sports events have been limited or unable to have live audiences in-stadium. But for fans at home, the audience is part of the game. Certain, network television decided an empty stadium just didn’t look right.

MLB filling the stadium 

Broadcasters have recreated the inside of stadiums in Unreal Engine, complete with a “fake” audience in the stands, plus audio of them cheering. “We believe the crowd and seeing people in seats is part of a broadcast for high-level sports in the major leagues. So we wanted to come up with a solution for that,” explained Brad Zager, executive producer and head of production and operations at Fox Sports in an interview printed in The Verge.

The 2020 Super Bowl pre-game “100 All Time Team”

This is not unique to the pandemic. For the 2020 Super Bowl, the pre-game “100 All Time Team” presentation combined live-action with multiple virtual stages and graphics. The virtual stadium had been created using scans and measurements from the real thing, then tweaked live “on set” at the stadium, as images were fed into the virtual production platform from multiple cameras, including a Skycam wire camera. “This allowed everyone to see the results in real-time, making adjustments and improvements as we rehearsed the show in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.”

The UEFA Nations League soccer game

To bring the The UEFA Nations League soccer game to life last September, Zero Density and Dreamwall brought virtual fans, virtual billboard advertisements and augmented reality entertainment into virtual production, complete with a new way to promote hashtags #gotogether #belgiandaredevils. See the demo reel of the live-action here.

Corporate events embrace virtual production for live events 

Salesforce’s Annual Dreamforce

In a 40-day film production for Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce event, they used virtual production to travel abroad.

“We set up a shot on top of a mountain in the Alps, but we were actually in Marin, California,” Clayton Talmon, executive producer, film director at Salesforce explained in a news release. “The executive could drive over from her home across the bay and be placed in the Alps.”

Talmon said for corporate applications of virtual production, his company is a leader. “That’s our big breakthrough here: We're one of the first ones to [fast-track] it into the business world.”

“It bends the brain a bit,” he explained. “What is digital looks three-dimensional and you feel like you're transported to a beach in Hawaii, but you're on a soundstage.”

Intelligence Turkey is also one of the first to embrace the new format in the corporate world, they took their annual event to the virtual stage combining the forces of three agencies: one to provide the technology, another for content and finally an event building agency.

 US election coverage from anywhere in the world

Using a massive Reality Engine-powered 15x11 green screen, Sky News Arabia brought election coverage audiences from Abu Dhabi. With the help of Zero Density’s real-time node-based broadcast compositing system, Zero Reality Engine gave SNA keying, rendering and tracking from a single machine, putting SNA broadcasters square into the White House front yard, with integrated augmented data such as state maps and bar graphics seamlessly integrated, controlled from a tablet and physical touchscreen. 

For live entertainment, there’s no going back. Virtual production enhances live events, and brings stories to life.

And we know this is only the beginning…

New virtual environments for TV, cinema and live events seamlessly blend into reality, combining virtual and augmented reality technology. New applications of virtual production are on the horizon for 2021. The industry is accelerating with new plugins, equipment and applications almost every day. Innovation is abundant.

Thought live entertainment was on hold? Think again. It’s an extremely exciting time to be part of this industry.