Opening up multiple shoot possibilities during COVID-19 and beyond, top Spanish producer Adrian Guerra is bowing Orca Studios, a new Spain-based virtual production facility that uses the same LED volume technology employed by ILM on its Stagecraft system for “The Mandalorian” – hailed by some as the biggest technological step-forward since green screen.
Head of studio at Orca is Adrian Corsei, former head of studio at Trixter, Germany’s biggest VFX studio whose prolific Hollywood credits take in “Fear the Walking Dead” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” 2.
Orca Studios has developed its cutting-edge technology with the support of Epic Games and collaboration of Kinolux in Spain.
Also pioneered by Jon Favreau on 2019’s “The Lion King” sequel, LED wall volumes replace static backgrounds in virtual studios with exterior or interior images that adjust in sync with camera movement, powered by video game PC engines, such as Unreal for “The Mandalorian.”
Allowing filmmakers to shoot exterior scenes in a far safer controlled environment of a studio, set ups such as Orca Studios are of course even more attractive in a COVID-19 scenario.
Developed over the last couple of years by Guerra, Orca Studios is now based out of Gran Canaria, one of the biggest of Spain’s Canary Islands and burgeoning film-TV hub, which allows all environment work and other virtual production to qualify for Spain’s new 45%-50% tax rebates for foreign productions, approved by the Spanish government on May 5.
All environments and assets will be created from Gran Canaria and then displayed on an Orca Studios LED Volume in Madrid or anywhere in the world. Orca will be opening a LED Volume in Canary Islands in the near future.
Orca Studios also has offices in Madrid and Barcelona. Its Madrid LED volume studio located will host its first shoot from June 8, said Guerra, whose credits as a producer take in Sundance hit Buried, with Ryan Reynolds, Red Lights, starring Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro, Spanish blockbuster “Palm Trees in the Snow,” Olivier Assayas’ “Wasp Network,” and Netflix movie “Hogar” and mini-series “Los Favoritos de Midas.”
Offering a 600 sq. meter (6,500 sq. ft.) soundstage, Orca will use an Unreal video-game style engine. Production companies have employed LED walls for isolated scenes for some years. On ‘The Mandalorian’” ILM took that one step further, shooting about half of all scenes, exteriors and interiors, in its Stagecraft virtual studio.
Set-ups like Stagecraft will not do away with location shooting, but will allow filmmakers to go to locations, shoot them in HD, and display them on a LED wall so that they are molded into a photorealistic environment with actors.
For Guerra, a lot of of the energy in movie making goes into logistics: Distant locations, the hours of light at a certain places, noise issues, restricted and pre-determined access to historical sites, etc.
“There are so many things that go against the creativity of movie making. Virtual production with a LED volume helps overcome those issues. It empowers filmmakers, allowing for far greater flexibility and control.”
“This is a tool to help us in certain locations and situations to be more efficient when shooting so we can save money from not traveling oversees,” Guerra added.
“Besides the obvious uses for sci-fi/fantasy environments, this technology is accesible for smaller productions. We can avoid small locations where a director is only going to shoot half a day or time spent at certain locations that are very expensive or have limitations like a hotel or hospital, where you can create your own.”
Orca Studios currently has crews creating environments that will be used in Los Angeles, mainland Spain and Europe, Guerra said.
Originally envisioned for Guerra’s own productions, Orca Studios is now offering its environments and facilities for third-party shoots.
LED stands for light-emitting diodes, originally used for lighting in tight spaces, such as car scenes. “Volume” refers to a space where motion capture is carried out.