Based in London’s Fitzrovia, Epic Games’ London Innovation Lab is a hub for the creative community, offering creators across industries a platform to produce real-time content and immersive virtual experiences, using Epic’s Unreal Engine technology. The new curved LED volume, recently installed at the Lab and supported by Brompton Technology processing, is a testament to the company’s continuous commitment to empower and demonstrate new ways of content creation using the latest technology advances.
Whilst Unreal Engine has been at the forefront of virtual production (VP) since the first workflows began to emerge, this is the latest instance of the company working with partners such as Brompton Technology, ARRI and creative technical production company 80six, to bring the magic of virtual production to life for in-camera VFX (ICVFX).
“Our initial conversations with Brompton took place at this year’s ISE where we discussed our needs to create a virtual production studio at our Innovation Lab in London,” says Ben Kidd, Technical Artist at Epic Games. “Brompton’s Tessera processing ticked all our boxes, so we were very keen to go ahead and test the full LED solution on site.”
The arrangement was made between teams at 80six, Brompton and Epic Games to have demo ROE LED screens and Brompton Tessera S8 LED processors delivered to the Lab facility. However, due to the pandemic lockdown the project had to be postponed until late April. Following eased restrictions, the equipment was finally shipped to Epic and further tested by the team on-site for over a month.
“Following the initial testing phase, we were very pleased with the performance of the ROE and Brompton combo, and so it was an easy choice to make the full investment,” continues Kidd. “We acquired three of Brompton’s latest Tessera S8 LED processors to drive the entire volume.”
The complete LED fleet – including 144 ROE Black Pearl 2 LED panels, 38 CB3 Carbon 3 full-size and eight half-size panels – has been calibrated with Brompton’s Hydra advanced measurement system to take full advantage of Dynamic Calibration features and Brompton HDR (High Dynamic Range).
The space is a mix of lighting emitted by LED panels and also traditional lighting fixtures that one would normally find on a professional film set, with all of the traditional fixtures provided by ARRI. Additionally, the company offered its high-end AMIRA camera system with various lens packages for the studio.
“At ARRI it’s been clear to us for some time that virtual production with LED will be a key part of many of the projects we see and work on going forward and the interplay between cameras, video and lighting is crucial to the success of these projects,” says ARRI’s Regional Business Development Director, David Levy. “We have seen our cameras work brilliantly with Brompton processors in the most demanding environments and this project has been no exception. It’s been a pleasure to work on the London Lab with Epic, Brompton and 80Six to deliver a facility which can be a proving ground for more ground-breaking developments in this field and we are excited to see the content it will produce.”
Whilst the design service has been managed by the team of ARRI’s System Group, the technical service for Epic’s Lab has been provided by the team at 80six.
“We were very pleased to have been asked to deliver this permanent installation for Epic alongside ARRI,” comments Ben Annibal, Project Manager at 80six. “It’s always extremely satisfying to install equipment from our long-standing partners at Brompton and ROE.”
“We’re thrilled that Epic has selected both companies, not only for the build quality and performance of their products, but also for the level of technical support that both parties provide their clients,” adds 80six’s Director, Jack James.
With all the technical elements coming together to create a beautiful high-spec curved LED screen, the driving power, the Tessera S8, has been chosen for several reasons.
“A single Tessera S8 could easily cover the pixel count required at 12bits per channel for the main curved wall, but we decided to split the curved wall across two processors in order to demonstrate the ability sync across multiple nDisplay nodes, and distribute the rendering power to maximize performance” explains Kidd. “We have more grunt inside of the GPU and can still take full advantage of a wide range of the S8’s features, including its full support of Brompton HDR to provide stunning realistic imagery, which was another key consideration for the team.”
With all final testing sessions completed, the team at Epic cannot wait to put the LED volume to its full use by opening it up to their Unreal Engine community of creators.
“What we stand for here at Epic is empowering people to create content,” concludes Kidd. “Our new facility is another way of breaking down the barriers in content production and enabling great things to happen. Thanks to our close-knit community of virtual production partners, we have been able to create a platform that delivers a new level of immersive visual experience. The Innovation Lab with its LED volume, expert processing and our Unreal Engine software can support all the latest technology advances in virtual production, and we’re excited to see how it continues to transform the art and craft of filmmaking.”