Make Your Own Virtual Set
An old adage says out of cheap, fast, and good, choose two. So if you’re like [Philip Moss] and trying to make a comedy series on a limited budget rapidly, you will have to take some shortcuts to have it still be good. One shortcut [Philip] took was to do away with the set and make it all virtual.
If you’ve heard about the production of a certain western-style space cowboy that uses a virtual set, you probably know what [Philip] did. But for those who haven’t been following, the idea is to have a massive LED wall and tracking of where the camera is. By creating a 3d set, you can render that to the LED wall so that the perspective is correct to the camera. While a giant LED wall was a little out of budget for [Philip], good old green screen fabric wasn’t. The idea was to set up a large green screen backdrop, put some props in, get some assets online, and film the different shots needed. The camera keeps track of where in the virtual room it is, so things like calculating perspective are easy. They also had large arUco tags to help unreal know where objects are. You can put a wall right where the actors think there’s a wall or a table exactly where you put a table covered in green cloth.
Initially, the camera was tracked using a Vive tracker and LiveLink though the tracking wasn’t smooth enough while moving to be used outside of static shots. However, this wasn’t a huge setback as they could move the camera, start a new shot, and not have to change the set in Unreal or fiddle with compositing. Later on, they switched to a RealSense camera instead of the Vive and found it much smoother, though it did tend to drift.
The end result called ‘Age of Outrage’, was pretty darn good. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it doesn’t jump out and scream “rendered set!” the way CGI tv shows in the 90’s did. Not too shabby considering the hardware/software used to create it!