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May 18th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

“We are only at the beginning of the virtual production filmmaking” - Pierre-Guy Di Costanzo (Pure View XR)

Virtual production studios (and volumetric capture or volcap, mocap ...) are developing around the world with often impressive facilities combining advanced technology and creative expertise. Despite the pandemic, France has seen the appearance of several of them, including the Pure View XR Studio based in Saint-Denis (93) since the beginning of the year.

Meeting with Pierre-Guy di Costanzo, co-founder of the studio.

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Pure View XR, a (big) technological brick

Pierre-Guy Di Costanzo - With Thomas Besson, we first created the company Blue Node, which is interested in the uses of real-time 3D in the general sense of the term, with a vocation to be an R&D laboratory about creativity. By developing our own tools even before the term "XR" was adopted, we explored all the possibilities of digital technology - today on pixel streaming or pure digital content. On the subject of virtual capture, we first set up a filming cube in Paris for tests last year, and we quickly understood the potential that this could have - where we could develop new technological "bricks", new technologies. More than 20 people worked on it, and after six months Julien Colet joined us as a third partner to launch the Pure View XR studio within our company Virtual Display Services. Our DNA is mainly based on our research function on subjects that change almost every week. We update our tools in real time!

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P-G. Di C. - Today, in addition to the shooting set in Saint-Denis (380 m2, 8x8x4), we have set up a mobile operation that allows us to respond to more and more requests - especially for broadcast television. We work alongside broadcasting service providers with a larger infrastructure, but which we know by heart because these are the areas in which we have previously worked. We offer flexible, innovative solutions, with stages for all the classic production steps; production, image, set design... They see us arriving with new constraints, in particular with LED screens, synchronization or latency which we manage but which require real synchronization.

Navigating multiple creative industries

P-G. Di C. - Whether it's advertising, television or even corporate content, these new technologies require pedagogy above all. Fortunately, with Blue Node on the creative side and Pure View, we offer complete support for the quality of the videos and experiences produced. We can imagine many more things, we just need to know how to integrate all these innovations! On set, on location, our experience enhances the production of the content produced, and at every stage of the projects we handle. Each sector has its own demands: maximum possibilities for corporate content to boost speeches, synergy of efforts in advertising and infinite creative possibilities, flow issues in broadcast television with green VFX backgrounds, etc. The advantage of virtual production on our sets is that we can work on integrating lighting and decor while getting as close as possible to a final image.

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P-G. Di C. - We are called upon very early on in a project, particularly for the question of 3D content. So we have a vision of the architecture of the projects we host, with an obvious advisory role. The question "What's the framework?" can lead us to make a more relevant proposal in terms of technical installation and, of course, budgetary estimates. We are there to adapt to the size of the project. Depending on the sector, we find it more or less easy to discover our technologies; on the clip or marketing agency side, it is often no problem. Otherwise, we are there to take them into our virtual production universe. The old habits of "we'll see in post-prod" can change, and integrate our proposals to save time and energy.

Virtual Display Services : a creative and technological alliance

P-G. Di C. - Blue Node produces almost all of the images that are used at Pure View, although other studios can help us. These are very specific skills, almost exclusively under Unreal, and our teams always need to adapt, code, and customize the content. Technically we master the entire creation chain, and the studio has been finalized since the beginning of 2021. But since Unreal is still in development, we're in constant R&D to adapt to all the creative possibilities. Not to mention the physical side of the set; we've already hosted shoots with artificial snow, rocks, water... on the LED floor.

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P-G. Di C. - It's difficult to have a 3D image bank, because each project is really specific. Now we have image bases, external resources that we can integrate and model, which can save us time. Modeling is a key step to personalize each visual. And we're moving fast; this month we're producing 37 sets at once! We are expanding the team accordingly, with a specific workflow.

Virtual production, an ecosystem in the making

P-G. Di C. - The ecosystem of virtual production studios is growing in France, with studios that each have their own specificity - some of them from more traditional providers who wanted to diversify in the face of the Covid crisis. We are not the biggest, but we are among the most flexible, with a real capacity of reception and comfort. We have also installed a small space on a green background for adjacent shots, which is very popular with some productions. We have key, stable configurations that allow for adaptations without having to reinstall everything.

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P-G. Di C. - Real time and virtual production are only the beginning. However, players in this sector have been around for a long time. Epic Games with Unreal, Fortnite, has an impressive technological and financial arsenal and should not stop anytime soon. Nvidia is evolving together with Epic, there is a perfect hardware and software base that can take us very far. Our common slacks are very active, and we also give them feedback to make everyone move forward at the same time. Real-time engines and graphics cards are evolving fast: the next few years will be exciting. Furthermore, we're working on virtual avatars for a project, which is absolutely fascinating, but MetaHumans as envisaged by Unreal are still too embryonic for us. In 2021, our R&D has other priorities for creative improvements.

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P-G. Di C. - In Europe we have some very nice studios for immersion. The most beautiful set I know of is the one that Weta launched in 2020 with Avalon Studios and Streamliner in Wellington itself (link). Actually, all these facilities are not entirely new; we were already shooting on green screen, we were already creating like that before, from the beginning of cinema - it's really the modularity that changes everything, and the contribution of LED technology that allows for greater light work. With the new studios, it is above all innovative tools that are offered to us. For the cinema in particular, it's amazing. With Pure View, this is our objective with our mobile offer, but also our equipment on the set. The fact remains that in France we don't necessarily have the productions that need large infrastructures; studios like ours are more than sufficient for the current market. And today's offer can quickly go global; we receive proposals from abroad, particularly from the USA, which is ahead of the game in terms of virtual production. On the other hand, our mobile offer will allow us to travel at least at the European level!

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