This is a great report on the global innovation opportunity for the UK’s Virtual Production sector, published by StoryFutures. The report contains a wealth of information on the technology, efficiencies, enhancements, cost reductions, infrastructure, skills, plus the “many gaps and pain points in the workflows and pipelines of both Production and Postproduction talent in the UK”.
Here’s the opening Executive Summary:
“Virtual Production (VP) is becoming a ubiquitous
methodology for the achievement of high-quality film,
television and media productions. A game-changing
development, VP combines virtual and augmented
reality with computer generated imagery. All this is
made possible by real-time game-engine technology.
Exemplified by high end Hollywood productions such
as The Mandalorian and in television by the BBC’s
Virtual Production presentation studio for the Tokyo
Olympics, Virtual Production takes traditional screen
media production methods to a new dimension.
VP capitalises on technology developed for games
development, notably Epic’s Unreal Engine, and
delivers stunning, photorealistic sets, environments
and audience experiences in real-time.
VP offers efficiencies and enhancements for
both live action (Production) and visual effects
(Postproduction). VP allows for a reduction of the
costs and risks associated with VFX, which typically
account for 10-20% of overall budget: virtual sets
not only save on production time and costs, but
might also be more sustainable, reducing carbon
footprint by removing travel and transportation
costs of location filming. Instead of flying crews,
equipment, actors and sets to locations across the
world, Producers can design and build locations in
the computer, which are then played back on large
LED screens known as Volumes.
Such Volumes are being rolled out across the UK to
service the growing need for this technology. This
represents a massive investment in the technology for
companies such as Netflix, Sky, ILMxLAB and Warner
Bros. This is because the opportunity is also massive.
Traditionally the technologies and methodologies of
the games and film and TV industries have developed
in parallel, with very little crossover from one field
to the other. With VP the opportunity exists for a
crossover of competencies allowing companies to
expand from games (UK 2020 video game market
worth £5.3 billion) to high-end TV (UK 2020 spend on
HETV production: £1.49million) to film (UK 2020 total
spend feature film production: £1.37billion) and into
immersive (UK value 2021 prediction: £5.7billion). With
the potential to benefit all these sectors individually
and collectively, it is crucial that the UK ensures that it
has not only cutting-edge VP infrastructure, but also
the skills capacity to develop its own new intellectual
property in the form of tools, methods and in our
world-renowned ability to make the highest quality
content. This is not simply a technology opportunity,
it is one that brings together Science Technology
Engineering and the Arts: a true STEAM opportunity
for our Creative Industries.
Throughout this research we found an industry
that recognised that whilst current costs were
high, Virtual Production would be normalised and
correspondingly cheaper within 5 years. However,
‘hands-on’ experience is still low. Appetite for
training is therefore veracious: Epic, Screenskills,
Digital Catapult, National Film and Television School
StoryFutures Academy, and others, have all launched
training programmes in 2020-21, with ScreenSkills
seeking to establish national training standards
for VP. As the then Minister for Creative Industries
Caroline Dinenage commented, to ensure the UK
stays ahead of the creative curve there is a need to
“develop our world class screen workforce [to] help
the UK’s film and TV sectors build back better”.
This Interim StoryFutures Academy Skills Report
provides a map of the VP skills needed across the
film and TV industry. As with the roll out of the
technology itself, the skills mapping will need to
grow more widely to include games, theatre, and live
production, and also look more broadly across the
UK creative industries. Our Report identifies both
the hard and the soft skills demands of the creative
industries required to translate innovation practice
into economic growth. It shows how VP changes
the way key Departments operate – internally and
with other Departments – during Preproduction,
Production and Postproduction.
However, the report has identified many gaps and
pain points in the workflows and pipelines of both
Production and Postproduction talent in the UK,
revealing a significant skills shortage. Demand for
talent and training far outstrips supply. There is a
clear need for highly creative, technical artists who
can write code, problem-solve and communicate
effectively with creatives while fixing complex
technical issues; all within the fast-paced film and TV
set environment. This shortage needs to be tackled
urgently if the UK is to leverage its reputation for
innovation and creative excellence across film, TV,
VFX, games and computing.
Copyright Details (reprinted)
© The Authors, StoryFutures Academy, copyright 2021.
Cover image: © Wilder Films / Fireworks
This project has received funding from the AHRC-UKRI Audiences of the Future
Programme. Grant Reference AH/S003622/1
The text of this document (this excludes, where present, logos, production stills)
may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium provided that it is
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The material must be acknowledged as The Authors’ (Bennett, Heath, Kilkelly,
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