REality pixel bites

Last Friday, our studio manager, Fawwaz Allie, along with his colleague Paul Ward, journeyed to the ICVFX (In-Camera Visual Effects) stage at Zerospace. York is exploring the transformation of our modest studio into a virtual production space, poised to introduce modern workflows for our students.

Paul standing on the set of ZeroSpace's ICVFX studio.

An ICVFX stage uses an immense LED wall serving as a backdrop, capable of displaying any conceivable background. It serves as an alternative to the traditional green screen, offering advantages such as eliminating the struggle to achieve the perfect key for background removal and preventing ‘spillage’ onto reflective surfaces. Moreover, performers benefit from a heightened immersion in pre-visualized environments, departing from the clinical green spaces of the past.

But that’s just the beginning, there are three significant game changers inherent in this production approach. Firstly, the displayed image seamlessly adapts to camera movement when the background is generated using tools like Unreal Engine, revolutionizing the dynamics of scenes compared to the static backgrounds of rear projection setups.

Secondly, the ability to map the projected image onto a lighting grid facilitates the creation of matching lighting effects through pixel mapping.

Lastly, the combination of the displayed image and corresponding source lighting ensures matching reflection on all surfaces, addressing a longstanding challenge with green screens when dealing with reflective surfaces.

We are currently in the research phase for virtual production workflows and in the process of unlocking capital funding to make this transition possible. If successful within the next year or so, we would have the first virtual production studio in the CUNY system, offering abundant opportunities for our students and others within the system.