Features and Columns · Movies

RIP Green Screens: What Virtual Production Means for Hollywood

Rear projection walked so the volume could generate CGI imagery in real time.
The Batman Virtual Production
By  · Published on June 16th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores what virtual production is.

I do wonder, sometimes, if the digital vs. analog debate will fall off in future years. Perhaps the magnitude of the discourse feels exaggerated for those of us deep in the movie weeds. Maybe the average audience member isn’t even aware that discourse is happening. Or maybe they don’t care.

Either way, I am curious: when the memory of the stark difference between CinemaScope and early 2000s CGI goop starts to fade, what will that look like?

Regardless, there’s no denying that an increasing reliance on CGI isn’t going anywhere. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It would be ignorant to throw the good CGI filmmaking out with the bathwater. Being dogmatic about these things isn’t realistic. And even if you are a die-hard analogue defender, you might have felt your allegiances flinch with the recent innovations in virtual production.

The grandchild of rear projection, virtual production describes more-or-less real-time rendering of digital elements and environments. This can look like an LED screen background like The Mandalorian‘s use of StageCraft (a.k.a. “The Volume”). It can also look like James Cameron’s “simulcam,” which as its name suggests, uses real-time rendering to help filmmakers visualize shots on set.

The following video essay does a great job breaking down the innovations virtual production brings to the table, from being able to efficiently switch between locations to preserving the illusion of parallax. It’s not better or worse than analog filmmaking. But it’s exciting to see technicians and filmmakers working to improve technology that can often feel alien and hollow.

Watch “Virtual Production Explained — Is This The End of the Green Screen?”

Who made this?

This video essay on what virtual production is was created by StudioBinder. This production management software creator also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.