Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales makes the leap to cinema

News 12 June, 2024

Spain

Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales (TSA) has been awarded the contract for the implementation and commissioning of a real-time virtual film production centre (VPxR) for the Provincial Council of A Coruña, which will be part of the Ciudad de las TIC technological complex. The contract, awarded to TSA for a value of 6 million, is part of the Digital Ecosystem project of the Galician audiovisual sector (EDAGA) – Coruña Immersive Studio (CEI), funded by the European Union – Next Generation EU, within the Spanish Government’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, and with funds from the Provincial Council.

The Ciudad de las TIC is a strategic project that started in 2020 and aims to make Galicia a centre of technological innovation and a reference hub in artificial intelligence in Spain. Covering more than 128,000 m2, the environment includes, amongst others, spaces for ICT training and dissemination, with a technological campus linked to the University of A Coruña, as well as a large business park that will accommodate both large and small technology companies.

As part of this large innovation hub, the new VPxR virtual production centre will be set up on a 750 m2 set with dimensions of 30 x 25 metres and a height of 12 metres. To put it into operation, Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales (TSA) is responsible for the acquisition and supply of all equipment, as well as the integration of all elements, installation, and auxiliary means necessary for its complete operability.

To achieve this, TSA has worked jointly with Tangram Solutions and Alfalite, which has enabled the development of the largest Virtual Production project on a fixed and fully equipped set, unique in Spain today, not only for its dimensions but also for having all the necessary equipment and applications for any type of production imaginable.

The immersive virtual studio allows the creation of backgrounds in a completely enveloping and dynamic environment, thanks to a main 4K resolution screen in a semicircular configuration. Thanks to its 168 m2, covering 28 metres in length and 6 metres in height with a radius of 10 metres, and its 1.9 mm pixel pitch, the camera will have a perspective and depth of field similar to that of a real set, so that movements will synchronise naturally with the elements shown in the image.

This configuration is complemented by an upper screen of 100 m2 with a pixel pitch of 3.9 mm, arranged in the form of movable trapezoids in 3 zones, allowing independent and motorised mobility for the adjustment of each part separately in terms of height, tilt, and brightness. To facilitate these movements, all motors will be connected to a control panel from which any adjustments can be made quickly and easily.

The lighting system in a VPX film studio represents a challenge, as it must be capable of generating special lighting effects while compensating for all light sources, including the LED screens themselves, to achieve a balanced lighting environment. TSA designs the system based on a preliminary study that incorporates a lighting console, operable from the virtual scenography system, which will be able to control all lighting systems present, whether fluorescent lights and LED lights installed specifically for studio lighting, as well as the LED screens themselves that will emit their own light.

The lighting is further complemented by auxiliary LED screens in the form of movable side totems, 4 metres long and 5 metres high, which will be used to support the lighting and will have the capacity to generate reflections, moving and orienting them as needed.

To achieve the immersive environment sensation mentioned earlier, it is necessary for the applications to match the power of this hardware. Therefore, the heart of the graphic representation is realised through the Pixotope software, which will not only represent virtual scenography, 3D sets, and all kinds of graphics on the screens but also has important functionalities such as the integration of actors and real elements with virtual ones, set extension to cover all out-of-bounds areas, and colour correction for perfect integration.

Unreal Engine will be the graphics engine responsible for rendering in the virtual scenography system, which is integrated into the Pixotope software. A powerful 3D content creation tool capable of creating high-quality virtual backgrounds and elements in real time, both in green screen studios and with LED screens.

Designed especially for the video game world in the early 90s, Unreal Engine has revolutionised the world of audiovisual production in virtual environments, both in film and television, as it facilitates and enriches content creation for movies, fiction series, advertising, and television. Increasingly used in the audiovisual field, in the case of a virtual production studio with LED screens, it will allow generating virtual backgrounds while shooting on set, greatly facilitating tracking and camera movement.

Additionally, the installation includes Trackmen, the tracking hardware and software that, once connected to the camera and lens, will allow synchronising the real camera with the virtual one, in real time and without latency, offering perfect integration with all elements of the scene.

A full-frame large-format digital camera system, with a complete set of accessories (lenses, filters…), integrated with the aforementioned high-precision tracking system, equips the recording set with the quality and flexibility required in a VPxR production environment.

The project is completed with 2 VFX rooms and an audio post-production room of approximately 50 m2, equipped with a large screen with a projector and Dolby Atmos sound, and acoustically treated to simulate a cinema hall.

In addition to the virtual production system itself, TSA is responsible for the supply and commissioning of a Media Asset Manager (MAM), as well as the video infrastructure, data network, and the sizing and installation of the electrical system.

A major venture by TSA and its technology partners that represents a great challenge, with which they make the leap into the world of film production, in a project that meets all the quality standards required by the main operators in the sector: Movistar+, Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, Disney+

Images provided by Alfalite

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