RSS Lab: DMX
We work hard to make sure that the physical and virtual sets in our studio blend together as seamlessly and credible as possible. We are always looking for ways to improve the connection between these two worlds and one of the aspects that is especially important to get right is lighting. If the lighting of your scene in the physical realm matches the lighting of the scene in the virtual realm, the image becomes a lot more credible. To make sure that this match is made we developed a system in Unreal that can control the lighting on set.
We wanted to make sure that this system is flexible, so that any light setup on set can be attached to the virtual set and that any fixture that supports DMX can be used on set, as not to hinder the gaffer with his choice in fixtures. DMX is a standardized protocol that uses data values sent by a controller to set the parameters of a specified fixture. DMX originally stems from the world of live light shows and broadcasting events. But with the uprising of LED lighting in the film industry and the addition of DMX to a lot of fixtures that are used in the film industry, DMX is coming to the set. We saw this opportunity to further involve the “classical” departments in our workflow and decided to make a system that helps the gaffers to adapt their lighting to the virtual environment.
When we started developing this system we dived deep in the Unreal documentation and found that, as per usual, it was quite non-existent and vague. So we had to find out almost everything ourselves. Luckily our studio is sandwiched between the biggest camera rental companies of the Netherlands and one of the biggest lighting rental companies of the Netherlands. We asked them, industry experts, to help us identify the needs of a gaffer and provide us with the gear we needed to properly test and develop our system.
With this support and the knowledge we had we were able to come up with a system that answers the gaffer’s needs, being able to adapt his lighting accurately to the scene, and our needs, being able to still playback the scene in real time. We are one of the first studios to make this system inhouse and can provide this to our clients.
The only problem is that gaffers need to be informed with the possibilities and limitations of the system. DMX isn’t the most intuitive system to understand the first time you work with so the learning curve can be quite daunting. We are taking on the role of teaching gaffers, but also content creators, how to integrate this workflow in their setup and how to optimally use it per scene. Not every scene requires DMX and can sometimes even make the setup unnecessarily complicated.
Our DMX system is another tool in our arsenal we can use to enhance our workflow on set and make the shot more credible. If you are a gaffer or content creator we would like to invite you to our studio and try out our newest tools. See you soon!