Construction begins on cutting-edge LED film studio in Burnaby
Versatile Media’s technology promises to transform the filmmaking process.
Vancouver might be colloquially known as “Hollywood North” for its spectacular locations and varied terrain, but when productions need to film in the great indoors, Burnaby is the hotspot. At the forefront of technology in film, the city and its Big Bend neighbourhood has fittingly been chosen by veteran production company Versatile Media as the home of its state-of-the-art LED wall: a piece of tech that the organization says will augment the filmmaking process.
The company has now broken ground on its 43,000-square-foot facility, purpose-built for live action filming. The location will house multiple soundstages, both traditional and LED, with its new technology promising to be one of the most feature-rich LED stages in North America.
LED systems open up new possibilities for filmmakers. The tech uses enormous, bright video walls that create a live virtual background for scenes during filming. By using complex computers, the screens display a realistic 3D setting behind the actors, and as the cameras move, the perspective of the scene tracks with it. Doing so eliminates the need for green screens – a boon that can dramatically reduce editing time, while making the scene seem more realistic for both actors and viewers.
“We are breaking down the barriers between animation and live action workflows so that talented artists from both industries can cross over and participate, to create more potential for storytelling,” said Leo Lee, CEO and founder of Versatile Media. “I look forward to seeing exciting creative work produced in our Vancouver studios and seeing our global industry embrace new filmmaking techniques.”
The large format of these LED screens offers greater flexibility than traditional techniques. Not only does it reduce the post-production costs by slashing visual effects budgets, it cuts time on set by making it easier to line up camera angles and by providing realistic lighting that can be adjusted in real-time.
“Filmmakers are embracing virtual production to better serve the creative process,” says Steve Read, VP and head of studio for Versatile Media in Canada. “We want to empower filmmakers and expand the limits of what is possible with our technology. Our ultimate goal is to accelerate and nurture great storytelling, and allow film production to catch up to the tremendous changes of distribution demanded by its appetite for global content.”
Versatile’s stage will comprise of 12,000 LED panels, and will integrate Epic’s advanced computer graphics software Unreal Engine, powered by NVIDIA’s GPU technology. Its panels can be filmed from any angle in sharp focus up to two metres away. Other core cinematography features include zero latency camera tracking, filming up to 8k resolution at 120 frames per second, integrated virtual and physical DMX lighting console for creative lighting and colour management, and integrated camera focus pull.
The technology is akin to Industrial Light and Magic’s StageCraft LED system which has been used on productions including The Mandalorian, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and The Midnight Sky, each filmed on the company’s high-tech stages in L.A. and London. Industrial Light and Magic is slated to open its first LED facility in Vancouver in spring.
Versatile Media already has two LED stages at its existing headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Its Vancouver project will be completed by late 2022, and ready for productions by early 2023.
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