Loading

VIRTUAL PRODUCTION Workshop Introducing practical Virtual Production set design, March 2020

PREFACE

This document has been complied to help students participating on the Erasmus+ co-funded programme EMEX (Emerging Media Exploration). Grant number: 2018-DE01-KA203-004282.

Please note that due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the workshop only ran for a single week and the students were unable to participate beyond that. This document provides the framework and objectives for the workshop as planned and is documented here for evidence and archiving purposes.

INTRODUCTION

In order to prepare students from the University of Lincoln for their forthcoming roles within the "virtual art department" for the Autumn 2020 workshop, it was agreed that they would participate in an extra-curricular intensive workshop series that ran during the period in their Semester B studies (January - April 2020) where their workload was at its least intensive (March - April 2020).

The workshop was to provide them with skills in both Blender and Unreal Engine. This was to ensure they were better able to advise their international teams on the reality of being able to produce the ideas discussed ahead of the Autumn workshop.

It would also ensure they were able to fulfil their roles as members of the virtual art department when it was time to produce the team prototypes.

Furthermore, it was also an opportunity for staff at the University, all of who are contributors to the EMEX project, to explore the realities of teaching the subjects of virtual set creation and to establish the virtual production on campus and have the students participate in this too. This would ensure they knew enough about the setup and pipeline to replicate this at the Autumn workshop.

WORKSHOP BRIEF

The following information has been extracted from the workshop guide distributed to the students who signed up...

Overview

You are tasked with designing and producing a short film sequence that utilises Virtual Production involving the hybrid green screen live methodology.

Working in small groups, you are to create a ~30 second film that composites live action with a totally real-time CG background and foreground.

Your films will each follow the same format and will consist of only a single shot. Additionally, each film will have the same premise for its shot composition but the design of each will be unique.

Premise

Your film is set on a research base situated in a hostile environment.

The narrative is simply an establishing shot. There will be live action in front of a window/porthole and the camera will either pull back or push into the porthole to focus on the environment outside.

There does not have to be any spoken narrative but an implication of story or direction is required from the piece. This can be something as simple as a sense of wonderment for where the actors are or a sense of danger/trepidation. However, nothing too dramatic.

Suggested Approach

You will be assigned one of the following environmental settings:

  • Antarctic
  • Lunar Surface
  • Martian Surface

You will then gather reference material via online shared moodboards for both the external environment and the interior of the research base. These need to be accessed and contributed to by all team members in any location.

On top of static reference, you should also attempt to engage in films, documentaries and games set in these locations/scenarios. There’s a list of suitable films later on to get started.

The next stage will be the production of a storyboard depicting the scene and the camera movement and any actions the actors will make.

Each team will be provided with an outdoor landscape to match that of the assigned environment. At the same time, each team will produce a set of the section of the base from marketplace content to form the backplate for the live compositie.

Finally, each team will capture a performance which will be composited live with the CG elements and recorded. If you are undertaking this project to count towards Level 2 Digital Media assessment, this will constitute your Final project Output.

Considerations & Expectations

The key consideration for all participants to keep in mind with this project is we are all doing it for the first time… even the tutors. Therefore there is no guarantee everything will work inline with your expectations. In fact, there is no guarantee it will work at all! That said, there are plenty of other aspects to planning and preparing for a production of this type which will generate content and provide you with significant opportunities for skills development.

The external environment will be provided for each production location and will work “straight out of the box” but please feel free to experiment if you want to shape it specifically.

You will have to produce the interior environment section used in your sequence. However, this is only expected to be constructed from various third parties obtained through the Unreal Engine Marketplace (or elsewhere externally). There is a list of suitable free assets in the resources section.

Each interior environment will contain a window/porthole to the external landscape which is essential to the narrative. The remainder of the interior should be balanced and realistic in its composition. You should probably also establish a rough date for the setting of your production (to determine if your assets should be based on today’s technology or that of a more sci-fi era.

In your first workshop you will be given an introduction to Blender as a tool for creating 3D environments and props. This is so you can combine source environment content with bespoke elements created by the group. Whilst creating your own content is entirely optional, it will provide you with some control so you can generate a sense of identity to your research base. More on identity later.

The more ambitious you are with the camera movement in your sequence, the more you are likely to need in terms of environment and props. Therefore it is advised you keep things simple.

There will be workshops in the appropriate software and skills required to undertake all aspects of this type of production.

Every aspect of the production is required to have a fall-back suggestion if we can’t achieve what we set out to do. These will be discussed as we set up the studio.

Identity

Each group must also establish an identity in the form of a mission crest or badge for their base or the fictitious mission currently being undertaken.

This can be used both in the interior environment design (as decals on a wall panel for example) and on the various props (computer login screen, cups, oxygen tanks, etc.).

Furthermore, the same crest/badge could be applied to a t-shirt or polo shirt which the actors in the scene are wearing. This is most likely going to be implemented through iron-on transfer. We will cover the cost of the transfers and t-shirts. Each group can discuss this with the tutors before the Easter break.

Guide to how this might work: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-and-Use-Iron-on-Transfers

Please don’t use any copyright protected logos (such as NASA, ESA, NSF, etc.) as that will limit the places we can share your productions.

Project Timeline

  • Week 8 (11/03) - 13.00 - Introduction and 3D Asset Production Primer
  • Week 9 (18/03) - 13.00 - EMEX meeting. 15.00 - Setting up the Virtual Production Studio
  • Week 10 (25/03) - 13.00 - EMEX meeting. 15.00 - Unreal Engine intro for environment construction
  • Week 11 (01/04) - 13.00 - Unreal Engine camera & lighting primer. 15.00 - Group production time
  • Week 12 (22/04) - 12.00 - EMEX Presentations. 14.00 - Group production time* (ATB2108 or ATB2222)
  • Week 13 (29/04) - Group production time*

*On the Wednesdays of Week 12 and 13, if your timetable permits, we can have all day in the Virtual Production Studio. Obviously, we’ll need to attempt to congregate somewhere to deliver the EMEX presentations from 12.00 in Week 12. We also have access to computer labs all day in Week 13 so the other groups not using the studio can still meet and work towards getting their production together.

Resources

The following kits are probably what you should base the design of your interior environment on. They are all free and will should work well together.

Kits from the Unreal Engine Marketplace, Permanent Free Collection:

  • Modular SciFi Season 1 Starter Bundle
  • Modular SciFi Season 2 Starter Bundle
  • Spaceship Interior Environment Set

Film References

  • The Thing
  • Whiteout
  • Moon
  • Solaris
  • Silent Running
  • The Cloverfield Paradox
  • Nightflyers
  • Lost in Space
  • Gravity
  • Europa Report
  • The Martian
  • The Last Days on Mars
  • Red Planet
  • The Ghosts of Mars
  • The Abyss

Reflection