Pinewood Atlanta Studios, the 700-acre full-service film studio in Georgia, home to the MCU (“Avengers: Endgame,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”), has opened a new LED-stage virtual production service in partnership with MBSi, Fuse, and SGPS/ShowRig. This is similar in concept to Industrial Light & Magic’s LED-screen StageCraft platform for “The Mandalorian” series, and Weta Digital’s LED-stage virtual production service, based in Wellington, New Zealand.
“We joined forces with our partners to find a turnkey solution for filmmakers to interface with our team to place his or her characters anywhere in the world in real-time and interactively,” said Frank Patterson, president and CEO of Pinewood Atlanta Studios. Patterson emphasized that the LED-stage capability is intended as much for indie filmmakers as the MCU and TV series.
The group’s first installment of this technology at Pinewood Atlanta can be expanded to fit any production need, as well as be transferred to any stage on the lot. MBSi provides stage lighting and grip equipment in collaboration with Fuse, which handles the LED hardware (which it performs on “The Mandalorian”), and SGPS/ShowRig does interactive rigging for the LED and lighting/grip equipment. Currently, Pinewood Atlanta utilizes the real-time Unreal game engine from Epic Games, but will remain agnostic for productions aligned with other engines.
The LED-stage system was designed by the group to eliminate the need for traditional car process trailers and set-builds, and to help reduce cost and time for productions of any scale. It also allows for both short and long term rentals. By fall of 2021, the technology will expand to a permanent stage installation in Pinewood Atlanta’s recently announced Phase IV facilities, with a capacity of up to three cameras.
“We’ve already utilized nascent iterations of this stage for major studios on some of the most cinematically compelling projects, and we’re happy to now offer it to a broader group of filmmakers through this joint venture,” said Jeffrey P. Soderberg, project manager at MBSi.
Pinewood Atlanta spent 15 weeks putting together the protocols during the pandemic “to make the safest and most secure lot in the world for making movies,” according to Patterson. They have one feature and three TV series that will shoot in September and all are being advised on how to make use of the LED-stage system.
Pinewood Atlanta Studios
“The game changer has been solving for [camera] parallax, real-time interactive lighting, real-time interaction with the video elements, and real-time interaction with the cast members or the virtual characters you have programmed in,” added Patterson.
The good news for cinematographers is that lighting becomes more dynamic. “LED virtual production technology offers tremendous opportunities for filmmakers, whether it’s car process work, live set extensions, or interactive lighting effects,” cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt (David Fincher’s “Mindhunter” and “Mank”) said in a statement. “This particular technique is valuable in the age of Covid, when insert cars and extensive location work are compromised or otherwise impossible.”