February 6, 2023

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10 Reasons Why Your Virtual Production Failed: the Biggest Mistakes Broadcasters Make

* This article is originally published in RedShark

Virtual production can be incredible when done correctly. M. Ulaş Kaçmaz, Founder of Zero Density, lists ten critical problems you should be on the lookout for to make sure it is.

From teleporting football players into a live studio halfway across the world, to putting a presenter on the surface of Mars, virtual production can help audiences visualize just about anything you can imagine. But, just like any other groundbreaking technology, it can also be easy to get wrong.

That’s why I decided to put together the top ten list below. Read on to discover the biggest mistakes you’ll see on a virtual production set, and how to fix them.

When it all goes smoothly. Pic: Warner Media

1. Bad shadows

Cycloramas should be built with round corners and coves to give your green screen an infinite look. If they do not have round corners and coves, there will be a visible black line on the camera where the two walls converge. Then you’ll need to clamp the key, which results in losing important details in shadows.

2. Floating talent

When broadcasters employ LEDs or videowalls on the floor to have a cube XR production, they often forget that the light source coming from the floor makes the talent’s shadows disappear. The end result? The talent will look like they are floating. A simple fix to this common mistake is to put a carpet or other physical material on the floor.

3. Moiré patterns

Depending on the pixel pitch, field of view, and resolution of the broadcast camera you’re using, an LED-based virtual production set may result in moiré at some level. Always be sure to test your setup extensively first and experiment to avoid this.

4. Changing colors

As well as moiré, LEDs can also cause color uniformity issues when the camera angle shifts. To avoid these changes in color, try to ensure cameras are pointing in the direction of the LED panels as much as possible. Avoid filming the LED panels from numerous different angles and make sure you pay attention to the pixel design of the LEDs you want to purchase.

5. Green spill

When using a green screen, the color of the paint is hugely important. If the paint is too bright, it can cause a lot of green spills to appear on your subject in the final shot. This spill – as well as all the post-production work needed to fix it – can easily be avoided by using less bright paint.

6. Unrealistic compositing

In augmented reality productions, the blending of the virtual and real can often be improved. Match the virtual shadows with the physical lights and ensure that your reflective objects always reflect the entire environment. These two fixes will help make your graphics look more real and blend seamlessly with the studio.

7. Tracking delays

Another common mistake involves tracking delay. This is when your virtual object or environment glides or glitches whenever your broadcast camera moves too fast. To avoid this, make sure to use the correct delay settings.

8. Dropped frames

One of the biggest fears that many working with virtual studios have is dropped frames. These are very common but luckily are also very easy to avoid. To avoid dropped frames, make sure that your 3D scene assets can be rendered from all production angles. If you are sending data to your studio, make sure this works well and does not block the engine. Know the limits of your render performance and always take the time to test and optimize your assets.

9. Bad 3D assets

As in every production, there is always a sense of urgency on virtual studio sets. People think getting the 3D virtual assets up and running is fast, but they should be reminded that there is a serious creation, optimization and testing process behind every element of the shoot. Try to take your time to test your setup first, and the broadcast will be far simpler after.

10. Fake-looking shadows

On many virtual productions, it can become easy to use lighting in a way that makes your shadows disappear. Because of older chroma keying technology limitations, people used to believe they should avoid shadows entirely when using a green screen cyclorama. This couldn’t be more wrong: It will result in a composite without shadows, which looks fake in the final output. Use a newer technology keyer and match your lighting with your virtual environment.

About Zero Density

Zero Density gives visual storytellers the tools they need to bring their creative vision to life effortlessly and with lasting impact. Our integrated virtual production and real-time motion graphics platforms boost operational efficiency and deliver results you can rely on. Zero Density is your forward-thinking industry partner, with offices around the globe serving clients such as The Weather Channel, Viaplay, Sky News Arabia, Fox Sports and Warner Media.