Lighting Tips for Shooting an LED Volume

In the world of film production, the use of LED volumes has revolutionized the business. This innovative technology, coupled with carefully orchestrated lighting techniques, allows filmmakers to create breathtaking, immersive virtual environments in real time, enabling crews to shoot all kinds of fantastic locations in the studio.

Like any new technology, you require a grasp of the fundamentals to make the most of the innovative tech. This means careful attention must be paid to setting up your shots, lighting your performers, and integrating your physical set properly.

Understanding the Concept of a Virtual Production Studio

LED volumes have become the new gold standard for replacing the traditional green screen as the backdrop for visual effect spectaculars and have become a fixture in VR/XR studios. But what exactly is an LED volume?

At its core, an LED volume is like a giant television screen that serves as a background for your talent. But when you add state-of-the-art computer graphics, like those rendered by Unreal Engine (created by Epic Games), you get photo-real visuals and total control over your production environment.

An LED volume is actually a system with hundreds of connected LED panels that work together seamlessly. These panels generate soft emissive lighting for realistic reflections on physical surfaces.

You also get a background that corresponds perfectly to your camera's tracking.

But the technology won't be as effective without paying careful consideration to your practical lighting.

How Do Cinematographers Adapt to LED Volume Technology?

When shooting an LED volume for the first time, you may have to get used to some terms associated with volumetric filmmaking (implementing video gaming technologies).

For example, a "brain bar" is the team of on-set professionals you'll be relying on for any adjustments to the screen. You'll need a playback operator for what appears behind your on-screen talent, a camera tracking tech, and a digital gaffer in charge of the studio's lighting setup. These people will become your best friends on set. Of course, every LED volume employs different crews.

Here are some tips to remember when working in a virtual production space.

The beauty of lighting using an LED volume in a virtual production space is that many of your decisions are made before filming during the pre-visualization process. Those delicate final touches can be worked out during the pre-lighting sessions which typically occur a couple of days prior to the scheduled shoot.

  • Ensure your camera can genlock for proper synchronization with the VR production stage. If you require a suitable camera, Shift Dynamics has plenty of options for rent.
  • Ensure your lighting conditions are consistent with the virtual environment.  
  • Think outside the image presented by the LED Volume.
  • A shallow depth of field can limit accidental moiré (visual distortion on the LED volume), but utilizing it too much defeats the purpose of working on a virtual production stage.
  • Any proposed camera movement should involve your assigned brain bar to ensure proper sensor tracking with the background. The same goes for any change in your frame rate, shutter angle, shooting angles, or desired color grade.
  • You may be able to get away without using other lighting fixtures, depending on the quality of "light card" you use. You can create 3D objects on the LED volume that act as an additional light source off-screen.
  • Avoid hard lighting sources that can wash out the LED volume.

Advantages of Using LED Volumes in Film Production

LED volumes offer numerous advantages when it comes to film production, particularly in the realm of virtual production.

Real-Time Photorealistic Environments

LED volumes create real-time, photorealistic virtual environments that correspond to the lens you are using, eliminating the need for extensive post-production effects. Filmmakers can see the final visual effects on the set for immediate feedback.

This real-time rendering enhances the actors' performances, too. Performers can react to the virtual environment in real time, improving their performance.

Flexibility and Versatility of LED Walls

LED walls, the core component of virtual studios, offer filmmakers the flexibility to create any location or set design. These walls can display dynamic lighting effects, saving time and resources in post-production.

Virtual production using LED walls allows filmmakers to experiment with different lighting setups, enhancing the visual storytelling process. Furthermore, LED walls' real-time camera tracking capabilities enable filmmakers to seamlessly integrate live-action footage with virtual elements, providing endless creative possibilities.

Explore the Possibilities of VR Production at Arc Studios

In virtual production, lighting plays a crucial role in setting the virtual environment's mood, atmosphere, and realism. Proper lighting techniques ensure the seamless integration of real and virtual elements, enhancing the visual effects and cinematography of the film.

Whatever you’re shooting, you need to be aware of the intensity, color, and directionality of the light. If it doesn't match the scenery, you could distract your audience, taking them out of the action. When you shoot at Arc Studios, it’s like shooting in a giant softbox with flattering lighting that’s always a perfect match. All you need to do is add the desired amount of fill.

Arc Studios in Nashville offers a 1,000 sq. ft. LED stage, extensive virtual production services, and the talent to guide your vision on set. Our studio introduces a more cost-effective and sustainable approach to production by not wasting money and resources on expensive location shoots.

Would you like a tour of virtual reality facilities? Would you like to pick our brains on any of the technical specifications or our production process? We'll help you maximize the effect of our PixelFLEX technology, disguise software, and the infinite creative possibilities of Unreal Engine. Let us walk you through our virtual production pipeline.

Let us know about your upcoming video production or short film project.

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