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January 09
2024

ISSUE

Winter 2024

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using LED Volumes for Production

By GLENN DERRY

Edited for this publication by Jeffrey A. Okun, VES
Abstracted from The VES Handbook of Virtual Production (Chapter 2)
Edited by Susan Zwerman, VES and Jeffrey A. Okun, VES

The VES Handbook of Virtual Production

Is an LED Volume the Right Tool?

The decision to commit to an LED Volume style of production needs to happen well before the budget and schedule are determined. If the LED volume is the primary methodology for principal photography, its use will influence every aspect of the production pipeline: key creative hires, the types of scenes written, production design, as well as the practical concerns of crew members and visual effects vendor choices. Key creatives will need to embrace not putting off decisions until post-production. Ample time should be allocated to the pre-production period for shot planning and visualization, digital asset construction and creative approvals to be finalized before principal photography begins.

When using an LED volume, most digital production design and pipeline tasks, such as modeling, texturing and lighting, are moved from post-production into pre-production. Additionally, there is the added overhead of optimizing the digital environment for the game engine used to render and display content. The physical art department and virtual art department (VAD) work simultaneously with the production designer to complete a cohesive design. Physical set pieces that may also appear on the LED wall need to be digitized and used as a reference for the digital content team. All of this happens at the pace of a production’s shoot schedule rather than driven by an editorial request in post-production.

When deciding to use or not use an LED volume, there are many factors to consider:

Advantages of LED Volume Production

  • Has the potential to reduce principal photography and post-production
  • Creative decisions are made in pre-production, establishing a blueprint for principal photography while working out the technical logistics.
  • Distant or exotic locations can be reproduced on the LED volume stage, minimizing crew travel and associated
  • LED volumes can reduce the overall number of physical stages and associated support equipment required for a production while maintaining the script’s scope and scale.
  • The LED wall provides environmental illumination and reflections on the subject(s) and set surfaces.
  • Shooting in an LED volume allows for as much time as required to shoot sunrise, nighttime, “golden hour” or other typically time-sensitive scenes and in a comfortable environment.
  • The LED volume offers better continuity for reshoots and pick-ups. The shooting team can load a previously photographed scene’s background into the wall for newly written dialogue or use plate photography captured on location as the background source material in the volume.
  • The actors can see the world they are performing in, resulting in more authentic performances and sight lines.
  • The LED volume is schedule-friendly for actors, especially children or other talent that may have contractual time or travel restrictions.

The Ten Commandments of LED Volume Production

  1. Key creatives, such as the Director, Production Designer and Director of Photography, must be available during project development and for the entirety of pre-production.
  2. Creative decisions must be made early and acted upon with urgency.
  3. The pre-production schedule will be longer.
  4. Money will be spent sooner.
  5. Creative transparency and open collaboration are required across all departments.
  6. Every physical set piece or prop appearing on the LED wall must be scanned and reconstructed digitally.
  7. The VAD (Virtual Art Department) is an extension of the art department creating the set.
  8. Virtual scouts and pre-light days in the LED volume are required for every set.
  9. Final look decisions must be made in the LED volume through the camera lens.
  10. Creative drives the technology.

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