Virtual production’ enthusiasts bemoaned high start-up costs and lack of cross-disciplinary talent as impediments to the growth of the technology in Asia, even as the pandemic forces changes in production practices in the region.

Building out an LED volume, such as those used in the making of “The Mandalorian,” can cost millions of dollars, which makes recoupment models harder to reconcile in a region where budgets are still relatively modest.

“Initial cost is very high, the migration from the traditional workflow to a virtual production workflow is also a major consideration. There is a lot of apprehension [from clients], you can’t afford any margin for failure.” said Sebastian Tan, founder of pioneering production agency The Shooting Gallery. He and others were speaking on Wednesday at the Asia TV Forum & Market, part of the Singapore Media Festival.

The day also contained an extended video message by Australian film director Alex Proyas (“I, Robot”) about his growing appreciation of VP.

Tan’s comments came as panelists discussed sea changes in production workflow, such as the acceleration of distributed, multi-country editing and color grading as changes forced by the pandemic.

Tan was bullish about Virtual Production however, telling the forum that his company had opened new studio facilities in Singapore for VP. He urged attendees to learn programming for Unreal Engine, the game software underpinning the practice.

This lack of available talent was also echoed by Alvin Lim from Singapore live-events producer Cgangs.

“You need people who understand 3D, and game engines. But these people then don’t understand the technical side of broadcast. Whereas broadcast people don’t know 3D and game engines,” said Lim. “You need a combination of this knowledge to put together an entire workflow.”

Despite these challenges, panelists were unanimous that virtual production is here to stay, citing enthusiasm from above-the-line talent.

“The actors love it. Forget technical benefits, it’s the fact that you’ve got teams working together enjoying it,” said Dean Reinhard of Unreal-maker Epic Games. “You can turn on a sunrise in a studio and shoot in there all day. I don’t think anyone who has worked in an LED volume is going to go back.”