How can I learn about virtual production?
Not so many years ago, the office of a major publisher in the UK would be filled at lunchtime with young men glued to their desktops playing a fast-paced first-person shooter game called Unreal Tournament. We had no idea that this high-octane shoot’em up would become the driving force behind the virtual production revolution. The Unreal Engine is just one example of how technology has grown and adapted in the past ten years. It is highly likely that many of the fantasy and period dramas that we all devour on Netflix are made using the Unreal Engine.
The VP training is unreal.
So how do we all keep up, as publishers and professionals in the broadcast industry, The aforementioned Unreal Engine, by Epic Games, is a prime example of how a massive corporation is helping educate all those who are willing to learn this new technology. Unreal offers superb online training and works with major universities around the globe.
That said, virtual production, or VP, is a massive subject covering many disciplines and diverse technologies, of which Unreal is only one part.
The VP sector already employs a huge number of highly skilled professionals. However, as technology advances, the demand for virtual production training grows exponentially. Hence, not only is there a high demand for skilled professionals but there is also a high demand to learn these skills.
So what resources are available to everyone throughout the industry? As we mentioned, Unreal offers superb online training, but where do you go for your first overview of the industry? As the headline asks, “How can I learn about virtual production?”
virtual production glossary of terms
In the last year or so, sites from companies working in the VP sector have begun to make information available in a highly digestible form. For a complete beginner or anyone who wants to learn more about VP, some of the best web pages are the good old-fashioned glossary of terms pages. The excellent USA-based VP glossary https://www.vpglossary.com/ is, without a doubt, the biggest and most comprehensive of these valuable resources. It debuts in 2022 and contains detailed descriptions of every VP product and discipline imaginable.
Not to be outdone, the UK-based Dock 10 virtual production company has launched their own glossary, which, though it may not be as comprehensive as its US cousin, is still a great place to do a deep dive into some of the terminologies that we read and hear every day about VP. https://www.dock10.co.uk/downloads/dock10-virtual-production-glossary.pdf
virtual production in the press
There have also been some excellent press articles, blogs, and video presentations about virtual production in the last couple of years. IBC has produced a huge volume of written content, along with seminars and webinars. Industry publications such as televisual LLB and broadcast have written in-depth pieces explaining virtual production’s disruptive technology. Some Daily News websites have followed suit, such as global broadcast industry news and movie makers’ news.
Even with all the great work done by companies in the industry and publications, it was clear that everyone in the industry at every level needed to know much more.
Universities and companies working in virtual production collaborate to train the next generation.
Thankfully, virtual production companies are partnering with universities and colleges to offer excellent practical training to fill those much-needed vacancies in virtual production. Other companies, like Mo-Sys, are setting up their own academies to train the future leaders of their own companies.
One such partnership is between Warner Bros. and NFTS, which offers the NFTS Virtual Production (Filmmaking with Real-Time Technologies) Certificate.
The school boasts this about the course: “This part-time National Film and Television School (NFTS) Certificate has been designed to give students the foundation on which to build a virtual production career in the thriving VP industry.
Warner Bros. Discovery Access is supporting the course for the second year in a row to help ensure this form of training is as accessible as possible as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion across the industry. In addition, thanks to the support of Screen Scotland, a number of places are also ringfenced for creative professionals living and working in Scotland this year.
This course aims to introduce students to the core technical and filmmaking skills required to work on a VP project using an LED stage driven by the Unreal Engine. Students who complete the course may go on to fill key artistic and technical disciplines, including technical artists, lighting specialists, colour specialists, technical designers and directors, camera hardware and software pipeline engineers, LED hardware engineers, or VP technical generalists. Participants may come from varied technical and creative backgrounds, such as games, VFX, 3D animation, graphics design, or film crew camera departments.
The course offers theoretical and practical experience delivered via weekly online seminars as well as approximately six (6) weekend hands-on workshops at our VP LED wall and facilities at the NFTS Beaconsfield Film Studios. https://nfts.co.uk/virtual-production-filmmaking-real-time-technologies”
Then we have the excellent courses that have been run at the Mo-Sys Academy. Mo-Sys CEO Michael Geissler explained the logic behind the academy last May when he said,
“There has been a boom in virtual production, and the greatest challenge facing the industry is finding people who understand LED volumes, on-set pre-visualization, and XR shooting.” “These are relatively new techniques, and there is a shortage of trained technicians who understand the unique challenges that come with this new and exciting way of creating content,” Michael Geissler continued. “Mo-Sys Academy was created to address the skills bottleneck the industry is facing and to transfer the knowledge Mo-Sys has gained over the last 25 years.”Mo-Sys CEO Michael Geissler
Mo-Sys is also working with universities, such as the University of Sunderland, which recently announced a major £1.4 million technology refresh. Mo-Sys’s partner, CJP Broadcast Services, has installed state-of-the-art virtual production technology, making Sunderland a powerhouse with standout media courses that will benefit students for years to come. In support of this upgrade to the latest LED volume production technology and tools, Mo-Sys Academy provided virtual production training for university staff.
When we look at the depth and quality of the training offered, we can rightly conclude that this new industry is going to continue to grow and prosper in the UK, but we all need to study hard to keep up!