What does the role of the Cinematographer play in Virtual Production?

Peter Bathurst, DoP sets up the shot for lead actress, Grace Enever on the set
ARRI Volume LED studios, London
Jodi Nelson-Tabor, Writer/Producer/Co-Director demonstrates to the cast and crew what the final shot will look like in the immediate playback on the green screen set.
Mo-Sys’ Juliette Thymi running their Ultimatte and StarTracker system set up on location
Peter Bathurst, DoP works with students who assisted on crew
Malgorzata Pronko sets up the Ronin 2 Rig with the StarTracker system with masters students assisting
The HoDs collaborate remotely via Teams with Drew MacQuarrie, who demonstrates in Unreal Engine one of the scenes in the film
The finished storyboards, printed out poster-size for visual aid on set for all HoDs to collaborate and execute (this was planned for and discussed during previs, which is crucial to principal photography)

VP Production Process

Our production week began with a prep day for Mo-Sys, where they set up and attached motion tracking stickers to the studio ceiling and lighting rig to prepare their system to map the space. Day 2 gave us a pre-light and a chance to confirm how the lighting would work in terms of pulling our key. The script is set at night and the main source for lighting within the Unreal world being ambient moonlight and so we needed to continue that theme on our set. I opted to risk turning our soft box top light blue with ½ CTB gels and hoped that this wouldn’t affect the purity of the key.

Mo-Sys putting up the ‘stars’ stickers for the StarTracking system
Checking the location of the ‘stars’, where the visible ‘green’ tape is located across the floor
Lead actress, Grace Enever walking through the scene where she has to cross through the real fencing.
In playback, the same scene, but as shown in Unreal Engine with the virtual background.

Flipping the set

The shoot itself basically boiled down to a series of vignettes, which set up real world props and set dressing against the Unreal background and helped us on our journey. One of the ongoing demands of shooting in this way is that when approaching reverse shots within a scene instead of turning the camera around and shooting back the other way in physical space you keep the camera in the same area and switch the Unreal world instead and flip the lighting through 180 degrees to make the shots match.

Lead actor, Connor Creighton in his ‘home’ for one of the scenes, which had to be rotated an entire 360 degrees to get the reverse shots of the other actor in the scene (instead of the camera moving to location)
Lead actress, Grace Enever inside the train wagon during a scene where the only light source is to be a torch.

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Dr. Jodi Nelson-Tabor

Dr. Jodi Nelson-Tabor

Dr Jodi Nelson-Tabor is a Filmmaker, Writer/Producer, Sr Lecturer & Creative Consultant working across the traditional and immersive creative economy sector.