Virtual Production Takes Hold of Hollywood With Epic Games’ Unreal Engine

Epic Games
Courtesy of NantStudios

The cutting edge of production technology is getting cornered by the video game business instead of the usual Hollywood companies.

North Carolina-based Epic Games, creator of the global phenomenon “Fortnite,” is making a name for itself out West by providing its Unreal Engine software to TV and film productions looking to shoot with a new set of tools loosely known as virtual production. Epic rival Unity Technologies is also active in this space, as are other companies not known from the video game world.

Miles Perkins, business development for film and TV at Epic, and Connie Kennedy, the head of the company’s LA Lab, talked on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business” about how virtual production is catching on. TV shows like HBO’s “Westworld” and films like “John Wick: Chapter 3” have employed innovative new techniques that could revolutionize traditional production work by allowing all sorts of visuals relating to art direction, lighting and camera angles to be digitally manipulated in real time without having to alter a physical set or location.

“You used to have to wait for months in order to find out what was happening in post, whether that was going to work,” said Kennedy. “Now you’re able to iterate in real time, collaborate in real time with everybody on the set at one time.”

Listen to the podcast here:

While the pandemic has made making movies and TV shows pretty difficult, virtual production has enabled many shoots to continue, even when the actors are in a different location than the director.

“I think it’s really driven the technology along more so than it may have otherwise in some ways, because I think the ability for all of us to trust virtual solutions has changed,” said Kennedy. “I think the fact that we’ve all gone to work from home when that was looked at as possibly something that was detrimental to the productivity of many companies has been proven quite the opposite.”

Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.