May 18, 2024
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Christina Nowak MD New Chapter Production Ltd
The state of virtual production (VP) is currently under scrutiny, with BECTU’s claim that 68% of people in production are out of work casting a shadow over the industry. This significant figure raises concerns, especially for niche roles and VP studios, which may face even greater challenges unless they pivot to commercial work. The halt or postponement of independent studio builds exacerbates the situation, dimming the prospects of the anticipated boom in studio expansion.
Adding to the complexity are the downturn in subscriptions to streaming services and the projected decrease in TV advertising revenue. VP stands to benefit in serving these sectors, yet the prevailing conditions create a perfect storm scenario. Many capital equipment purchases may not be fully paid off, leading to financial strain and the possibility of steep pricing or intense negotiations to stay afloat.
The debate surrounding Synthetic Organic Rendering Algorithm (SORA) poses another existential threat to VP studios and creatives. While the potential impact is undeniable, the regulatory landscape for AI, particularly regarding copyright, remains largely uncharted. Natural aversion to the idea of AI overtaking human creativity and the inevitable limitations and issues with SORA may deter widespread adoption. However, the caveat to AI lies in responsible usage and governance. If implemented correctly, AI can streamline workflows in various departments, including post-production and VFX, which have long required automated processes.
From asset stitching to metadata collection on VP sets, AI can simplify tasks for department heads, making virtual production more accessible, efficient, and viable. As the technology matures, its potential to ease the complexities of virtual production becomes increasingly apparent, offering hope for a smoother and more lucrative industry landscape.
Amidst these challenges, opportunities emerge. Government-funded initiatives and the UK’s VFX tax incentive offer glimmers of hope. The rise of indie filmmakers, spurred by the aftermath of industry strikes, signifies a shift towards self-reliance. However, the sustainability of such initiatives remains uncertain, especially if government support wanes due to misconceptions about the industry’s dynamics.
The lack of dedicated representation at the government level exacerbates the issue, leaving the industry vulnerable to fluctuating funding and policy shifts. As questions arise about the necessity of traditional employment models in the face of technological advancements, the industry must navigate a delicate balance between innovation and preservation.
Ultimately, amidst the uncertainty, one thing remains certain – change brings both challenges and opportunities. Adaptation and resilience are key as the virtual production landscape evolves. While the road ahead may be bumpy, it also holds the promise of transformation and growth, especially with the rise of lidar, object scanning, and photogrammetry implementation for use in VP, making it more versatile and potentially creating new revenue streams for the industry.