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World's Largest Permanent LED Volume Built in Melbourne for Virtual Production: A Game-Changer

We at Canopy are excited to share with you the news about the world's largest permanent LED volume. The innovative structure was built by NantStudios, a Los Angeles-based virtual production house, at Docklands Studios Melbourne. What is Virtual Production ? Virtual production is an innovative technique used in the film industry to create realistic and immersive environments that would otherwise be impossible to film. It combines real-time rendering, virtual sets, motion capture, and other cutting-edge technologies to generate stunning visuals that can replace traditional on-location shooting.

In virtual production, a virtual environment is created using computer-generated imagery (CGI), and actors are placed in this virtual environment using motion capture technology. The actors' movements are captured and integrated into the virtual environment in real-time, which creates a seamless and immersive experience for the viewers. This technique is used to create anything from fantastical creatures to entire cityscapes, and it is quickly becoming a game-changer in the film industry.

Virtual production has several advantages over traditional filmmaking techniques. One of the biggest advantages is the cost savings it offers. With virtual production, filmmakers can create almost any environment they desire without the need for expensive on-location shoots. This means that filmmakers can create entire worlds on a soundstage, without the need for costly travel, permits, or location fees.

Another advantage of virtual production is the creative freedom it provides. Since filmmakers are not limited by real-world constraints, they can create almost any environment they can imagine, allowing them to tell more complex and visually stunning stories. Additionally, virtual production allows for real-time collaboration between the director, actors, and the rest of the production team. This means that filmmakers can make on-the-fly adjustments to the scene, making the process much more efficient and effective. With all these advantages, it's no wonder that virtual production is quickly becoming a go-to technique in the film industry.

This massive construction project was first announced in April 2021, alongside the news that AppleTV+ series Metropolis will shoot in Victoria. The production received investment from both the federal and state governments, and NantStudios built the structure consisting of two volumes for the project.

The first volume is designed for large-scale film and television projects and features a 40-foot high radiused wall of 6,000 panels, running 88.1 meters. It is located in Docklands' 2,323 square meter Stage 1, which also has a 12 x 28 x 3 meter water tank. Additionally, two moving LED wall sections at 6 x 9.95 meters are available.

The facility is capable of accommodating a large immersive set as well as multiple sets simultaneously using modular wall sections that serve as wrap-around LED partitions. The volume also has a "J" shape designed for sweeping shots or a long "walk-and-talk" of up to 38 meters before talent needs to begin turning the radius of the wall. Art departments also have the flexibility to decide whether building into a curve or a straight wall is more creatively desirable.

The second LED stage, in Stage 3, is more suitable for small to medium-sized set pieces and moving vehicle scenes, with the wall standing at 26 feet high, 17 meters wide, and 21 meters long. It also offers moving wall sections at 4 x 6 meters. Both stages have fully articulating ceiling architecture that can be manipulated via 3D software, allowing a production to push light into any corner of the stage.

While Metropolis is produced by UCP, a division of Universal Studios Group, and Matchbox Pictures provides production services, the stages are not exclusive to the companies and will be available to other local and international productions going forward.

The Victorian government provided $12.5 million toward the build, and the Federal Government has put an additional $5 million forward to support students with training as part of a national upskilling program, in partnership with the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Universal, and Matchbox.

This build is a significant coup for Docklands, which only recently opened a new $46 million, 3,700 square meter sound stage, in Stage 6, increasing its capacity by 60 percent.

NantStudios was founded by Michele B. Chan Soon-Shiong, who serves as its president, in 2012. It has a secure layer 1 fibre network, with a family of issued patents covering cloud hybrid fabric, machine vision and computing technologies. Part of the Nantwork system of companies, it also offers services such as digital asset creation, AI machine learning motion control, consulting, performance capture, and on-set operations.

NantStudios VP of operations and business development Keaton Heinrichs shares that the company had been looking to expand out of LA for some time, given that the market there was primarily busy with commercial and mid-tier TV episodic productions. In Melbourne, the company saw the chance to build a virtual production hub within the Southern Hemisphere.

"Our goal from the outset has been to bring this technology and workflow to all scales of projects, so finding a well-supported area with attractive tax incentives to major studios was essential. We have been keeping a close eye on Docklands Studios Melbourne for over two years now, and when we learned about their involvement along with other esteemed companies and anticipated


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