Building a Pro Cyc Virtual Production Studio with Alex Pearce, Partner & Senior Creative Technologist , Light Sail VR.

Pro Cyc: It’s great to connect with you Alex. We are excited to hear about your new studio project! Let’s first start with some of your background and experience?

Alex Pearce: I’m Alex Pearce, I’m a partner and the Senior Creative Technologist for Light Sail VR, one of the top companies doing immersive media. My role at the company is quite broad but I spend a lot of my time focusing on developing Virtual Production pipelines for our clients. 

I started in 360 Video, at JauntVR. Then I did a deep dive into 3D/Game Engine and did a ton of work for United Airlines, from VR simulations to Web 3D to photorealistic renderings. I hired different vendors and built different teams to scale. This is where I started in Virtual Production and brought those capabilities to our clients. Connect with me here:

-LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexpearcexr/

-Instagram: @michalex19

-YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/AlexPearce3d

-Website: LightSailVR.com

-Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lightsailvr

-Twitter: @lightsailvr

Pro Cyc: What were your goals for your new studio studio build? 

Alex Pearce: The main purpose of our stage is for internal R&D, to test out our virtual production workflows, shoot some basic green screen elements, but having built it, we probably will use it for small shoots and such, it’s certainly capable! It’s a place that I want to host some workshops and have community gatherings as well planed. I want our clients and friends to feel comfortable in using it for testing out new ideas and experiment to push innovation and simplicity for virtual production forward.

Pro Cyc: Tell us about your Pro Cyc Chroma key studio build?

Alex Pearce: Our studio is mostly used for R&D, but it’s quite capable and we have already used it a few times professionally, I imagine there will be a lot more to come. We have an NCam camera tracking system and several different camera options. We run specialized computers to power Virtual Production software such as Assimilate Live FX and Unreal Engine.

For the cyclorama installation we used the Pro Cyc  System 4QS 3’6″ radius Freestanding system with 2 walls (L-shape) w/ Quick-Seam and the Expanded Corner option which resulted in dimensions of 16 feet 2 inches x 12 feet 2 inches x 10 feet high.

Pro Cyc: What about the the chroma key paint and flooring?

Alex Pearce: We selected the Pro Cyc’s Virtual Green® Chroma Key Paint and Grey Bonding Primer which create a very high-quality flat (non-glossy), fluorescent, painted surface. We then completed the installation with Pro Cyc Pro Matte® flooring.

The Pro Cyc floor is precisely cut with a really nice texture that is durable. It matches the nap of the paint on the Pro Cyc chroma key green screen. The Pro Cyc Pro Matte® flooring is super durable and cleans up quickly with a basic soap and warm water mixture. If you have any kind of scuff marks you can just wipe it off. One of the reasons I was looking into Pro Cyc is because of their floor because you don’t have to repaint it every time! In fact, you never have to paint it. I think this is going to be really amazing.

Pro Cyc: What was your decision process for selecting Pro Cyc studio products ?

Alex Pearce: Once I started looking around, I also asked a few trusted colleagues and several turned me onto Pro Cyc. I have shot on a few custom built green screen stages before, so I had some reference. The LED solution was pretty cool to see. We had to retrofit the standard ceilings to come up with a creative solution with Quasar Science lighting. I selected the Quasar Science T-8 Dimmable 4′ tubes at 5600K color temperature.

I’m pretty proud of that to be honest! I spent a ton of time researching lighting and grids and truss and everyone said I would have to build a grid. I felt strongly that there had to be a better way. My DP friend, Nick Mahar, was the one who suggested Quasar Science LED studio light tubes. He recommended empty KinoFlo shells to mount them. Quasar Science has new LED light housings launching soon. I bought four bulbs and one shell and tried it out but it was still too heavy. I got a few more recommendations and the thought was that we’d buy some heavy duty fixtures. 

I ended up just mounting the individual Quasar Science T-8 LED tubes to the ceiling without the KinoFlo shells. This spread out the weight evenly and solved many issues.

 

 

Pro Cyc: Tell us about your virtual production technology stack and pipeline?

Alex Pearce: Which one?! We like to use the right tool for the job, and many times I’ll build a pipeline based on the job at hand. We use Unreal Engine with various plugins for some of our work. I’ve also used Zero Density and would use that for broadcast clients and we’ve been using Assimilate Live FX a ton recently. 

Assimilate Live FX has been very interesting because it is very flexible in what you can do, and I’ve been able to build my own tools around it. Most recently I’ve been using Blender 3D to bake lighting into texture and load those models into Live FX. It’s a very specific workflow that I created out of necessity. 

I’ve also tested an Unreal/Octane workflow, it’s cumbersome, but when Otoy’s Brigade comes out, it will be worth it. 

Pro Cyc: What products / services or other are missing or need more attention in this new world of virtual production?

Alex Pearce: The industry needs more high-end 3D artists to create more content! Mega scans and marketplace assets are cool, but they get recycled too often, and make a lot of virtual production have a certain look that will eventually date itself. Software needs to be more stable, load a lot faster and the UX should really be much easier to use. If you are on-set, and your machine crashes and the shaders have to compile, this costs way too much time!

Also, we need more AOVs/render passes to continue to improve the composite. Octane Brigade should be coming out soon and one of the biggest advantages it will have over other solutions, is the AOVs it can provide. 

Pro Cyc: What are a few Pro-Tips you can provide who are designing and building a new Cyclorama Chroma key studio?

Alex Pearce: Put up plastic tarp all around your Pro Cyc cyclorama wall, floor to ceiling with no gaps, before sanding! The joint compound will go everywhere, especially if you’re in a small space.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I asked lots of different people for all sorts of things, advice, physical help, borrowing tools, lighting, construction etc. it can be a lot to take on if you haven’t built one before.

Pro Cyc: Great points Alex! Thank you for sharing your insights.

Dec 05 2022