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Pandemic drives demand for virtual studios

The demand for virtual studios has increased exponentially since March 2020, with companies and broadcasters looking to shift to a virtual production in light of ongoing restrictions, according to research from transmission and production facilities search site Videstream. Historic analysis of the keyword ‘virtual studio’ shows that search volume is up 90 per cent YoY since March 2020.

Hundreds of other keywords were analysed in order to track demand and interest around the topic. According to the report, during the period from March to December 2019 there were a total of 69,300 searches on Google for ‘Virtual Studio’. In the same period for 2020, this increased 90 per cent to a total of 132,300 searches.

Certain keywords saw dramatic increases, including ‘virtual newsroom’ which grew 190 per cent YoY, ‘virtual set design’ which saw 125 per cent YoY gains, and ‘3d virtual set’ which grew 264 per cent.

The surge in growth for virtual studios, like the pandemic, is a worldwide phenomenon, but five countries make up almost 35 per cent of the demand, with searches from the United States equating to just over 11 per cent of total volume.

According to Mike Phillipson, COO of graphics and virtual studio production company Moov.tv, the pandemic has meant that broadcasters have had to create a safer working environment for talent, and virtual studios have been able to help that with the tools that are on offer. “The demand for virtual studios has been rising in the last few years for a number of factors. With the technologies improving all of the time and the output quality of virtual engines being photorealistic, the opportunities for clients to create something special and memorable are vast. Tied in with the improvements around keying, which is the integral part of virtual solutions, virtual studios are starting to become the norm.”

“We’ve seen that Covid-19 has accelerated this move, with a broader group, rather than just opinion leaders, now embracing it, because they have had to focus on working remotely, so have become more comfortable with it. Also though, it needs to be said, a lot of the revolution is because of gaming technology. That has also helped drive the changes we are seeing now, where uniting the digital and physical worlds has been a top priority for them. So their learnings and technology have filtered through to the new breed of filmmakers, broadcasters and the world of media – and have helped empower them.”

In terms of what this acceleration means for the industry, Phillipson suggests that, inevitably, the business model of pre-production, shoot and post-production is changing as broadcast technology such as VR is used more up front in the model, not just for aesthetic and practical reasons, but cost reasons also. “And as they become more sophisticated, whilst keeping the costs lower, broadcaster and media companies will only become more virtual in the future, rather than less, versus live,” he adds.

“The race is on to be more sophisticated and as a result more ‘real’ – so I think we will see advancements in things like graphics cards, like real-time raytracing to increase the quality. I think AI will develop also, not just in content creation for action simulation, three-dimensional texturing and post-process motion-capturing data, leading to more advanced visual effect software functions, but with virtual film or production crews being a real possibility one day too,” he concludes. Advanced Television

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