With ICVFX (‘In-camera VFX’, the term to accurately describe this particular type of virtual production), 3 factors in particular are key to arriving at a good result:
Lord of the Rings: Epic Break
Wherever your break takes you, make sure it’s Epic – with KitKat and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Virtual Production with ICVFX were used to bring Middle Earth to life in these 2 epic commercials for KitKat.
Earlier this year we quite literally opened our doors to the lands of Middle Earth! Shot at ReadySet Studios, with production company Wenneker Amsterdam at the helm, a seamless blend between real (on-)set pieces and virtual set extensions was achieved by the close collaboration between director, dop, production designer (and ReadySet co-founder) Florian Legters and his Uncrowned King crew and the virtual art department / ICVFX team lead by Planet X’s Robert Okker.
The triad of successful ICVFX
- A convincing foreground set or set-piece, in this case the real-size bird hut and library hallway;
- A seamlessly extending and realistic-looking background displayed on the LED screen, in this case virtual environments of Middle Earth;
- Light design on the set that ‘binds’ 1 & 2 together and is also virtually extended into the virtual background. This means that the gaffer and virtual art department need to be in close contact to align light characteristics.
When all 3 line up, the final (and in-camera!) result achieved on set is nearly indistinguishable from the real deal, but with infinitely more control over virtually every asset from weather conditions to limiting company moves.
With the power of Unreal Engine, Planet X created fully 3D virtual environments that were adjustable in real-time. Coupled with our camera tracking and lens encoding data, we have all the benefits of a soundstage in terms of control, blended with the realism of a shoot that takes place on location.
The flexibility that the LED volume provided meant that we could shoot way more in a regular shooting day schedule than we could have with for example a more traditional greenscreen / chroma key approach. Like DOP Pieter Snyman remarked:
“I can now see what otherwise would have taken
three weeks to see using a green screen”
The instant feedback from the LED screen is unparalleled. Real-time adjustments from director Josh Cohen together with the Unreal artists on set, resulted in a high level of fidelity both in the 3D backgrounds and the traditional set pieces.
The collaboration between all the creative departments on-set gave us near ‘final pixel’ results. At that level, the director could make a draft version of the edit instantly on-set and get an even better idea of what the final cut could look like, making any necessary changes on the fly.
At ReadySet Studio we use what’s called inside-out camera tracking. This means that we mount a tracking device to the camera and this tracker sees a pattern of special reflective stickers on the ceiling. This way the tracker knows where it is within the led volume.
This was one of the reasons why this shoot was a great match for our studio. In this case the shoot mostly took place inside a wooden (bird observation) hut. And because of our inside-out tracking, we were able to easily add trackers to the roof of the set piece, thus ensuring a smooth continuation of real-time match-moving.
Everyone involved was excited with the end result; this was a true team effort. With over 50 people on set this was a big one! Please take a look at the two 30 seconds commercials for Nestle’s KitKat and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.