Digital Day 2020

Digital Day 2020: Expanding Your Virtual Production Toolkit

July 29, 2020 A Special Projects Committee Event

Since 2003, the DGA has hosted Digital Day events dedicated to providing members with presentations about the creative and technical issues emerging from cutting-edge technologies designed to enhance and improve productions. While many past symposia have looked to the future of the industry, on Wednesday, July 29, DGA Digital Day 2020: Expanding Your Virtual Production Toolkit, was fully-immersed in the present and emphasized and illuminated technologies for use in virtual production.

Co-hosted by DGA Special Projects Digital Day Subcommittee Chair Randal Kleiser and AD/UPM VFX/Digital Technology Committee Chair Susan Zwerman, DGA Digital Day 2020 welcomed more than 800 members to an afternoon of online presentations.


Digital Day 2020Making Final Pixel A Reality

Following a welcome from DGA Special Projects Committee Chair Jeremy Kagan and remarks from Kleiser, members were able to view the first online presentation of the afternoon, Making Final Pixel A Reality.

Guided by Stargate Studios Founder & CEO Sam Nicholson, ASC, the presentation was an exploration of the emerging virtual production pipeline and how real-time, in-camera VFX benefits Directors and the Director’s team to achieve final pixel on set using the ThruView system. The presentation was followed by a Q&A with Nicholson, moderated by Kleiser.

Nicholson has been a DGA member since 2002. His Stargate Studios has provided over 30 years of award-winning visual effects for numerous shows including The Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy, 24, the feature film The Happytime Murders, and most recently oversaw the real-time, in-camera visual effects for HBO’s Run.

(See video from this presentation in the gallery below.)


Digital Day 2020LED Walls and the Future of On-Set Augmentation without Using Game Engines

Zwerman then introduced the day’s second presentation, LED Walls and the Future of On-Set Augmentation without Using Game Engines. Production Resource Group’s (PRG) Director of Camera Imaging Solutions, Scott Dale and PRG’s Vice President of Production Services Jeroen Hallaert revealed how LED display walls are revolutionizing virtual production, giving Directors on-set control in real-time with moving background plates replacing green screen, and allowing actors to be immersed in a dynamic-enhanced environment.

Dale and Hallaert fielded online questions in the post-presentation Q&A moderated by Zwerman.

Dale provides cinematographic solutions for innovative Directors and Directors of Photography. With over 30 years of camera-imaging experience, he has helped to develop technical advances for in-camera creation of ‘looks’ and specialized, in-house developed optics and is active in the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), as well as the Society of Camera Operators (SOC) and ICG Local 600.

Hallaert leads PRG’s Production Services department, including overseeing PRG’s feature film and television offerings in Virtual Production. His team is the 'force' behind PRG’s Enhanced Environments feature film and television services, creating dynamic lighting so talent and crew alike see and perform against real-time backgrounds without the guesswork of an empty green screen.

(See video from this presentation in the gallery below.)


Digital Day 2020Virtual Location Scouting: Google Earth Studio to Captured Worlds

Virtual Location Scouting: Google Earth Studio to Captured Worlds featured a live demo of a remote location scout from the comfort of your home using the latest digital tools and techniques. The demo was presented by Halon Entertainment Founder and Chairman Daniel D. Gregoire, who also covered questions about this process with Kleiser serving as moderator.

With more than 20 years of experience and creative leadership in filmmaking, visualization, virtual production, video games, XR and technology in entertainment, Gregoire oversees Halon’s high-profile projects including Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s DGA and Academy Award-winning feature Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), James Cameron’s DGA Award-nominated feature Avatar, and other notable films.

(See video from this presentation in the gallery below.)


Digital Day 2020Real-Time Production Using “Expozure” Virtual Film Tools

The Real-Time Production Using “Expozure” Virtual Film Tools presentation led by Unity Technologies’ Head of Film Development Habib Zargarpour and Creative and Technical Director Ron Martin, covered how state-of-the-art virtual film tools can transform every aspect of production — from previz through post — to achieve the Director’s vision.

The Q&A with Zargarpour and Martin was moderated by Zwerman.

Zargarpour was nominated for Academy Awards and won BAFTAs for his VFX work on Jan de Bont’s Twister and Wolfgang Petersen’s The Perfect Storm. His visual effects career has included developing ground-breaking effects while at Industrial Light & Magic, Electronic Arts, and as Director of Visuals for XBox Publishing at Microsoft. He is an active member of AMPAS, BAFTA, and a founding member of the Visual Effects Society and the 5D-Conference.

Martin has created CG content for over 30 years, developing innovative software and hardware for the entertainment industry and has produced film and television, VFX, video games, immersive virtual reality experiences, and architectural visualization.

(See video from this presentation in the gallery below.)


Digital Day 2020Magic Hour

In Magic Hour, the final presentation of Digital Day 2020, Background Images Vice President Alan Barber and S4Studios Owner/Director Geoffrey Kater discussed how members can utilize the latest in digital driving plates (both contemporary and period) and see how “Infinite Road System” is created and displayed on LED walls for car process shots, as well as show placement of digital extras into background plates. Kleiser then moderated a Q&A with Barber and Kater.

Focusing his career on video displays as a backdrop since 1997, Barber is an industry vet with film credits that include some of the most memorable films and TV shows in the last 20 years. Recently, he has immersed himself into virtual stage technology, which the production industry is quickly realizing is a path to efficient filming.

Kater co-founded S4 Studios in 1999 specializing in VFX, Animation, Live-Action and Motion Graphics. He has designed, directed and produced content for a variety of trailers, feature FX, television shows, commercials, industrial films and network branding for clients that include Paramount, NBC Universal, 20th Century Fox, Capcom, Sony PlayStation, Cartoon Network and Honda.

(See video from this presentation in the gallery below.)


DGA Digital Day 2020: Expanding Your Virtual Production Toolkit concluded with a short Q&A where all the presenters fielded final questions with moderators Kleiser and Zwerman.


About the Moderators:

Randal KleiserRandal Kleiser, Digital Day Subcommittee Chair
Kleiser has been on the forefront of experimenting with technology. Based on his experience directing the Disney theme park 4D film Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, the US Government signed him to develop a 360-degree full-scale simulator to train soldiers to deal with Improvised Explosive Devices. In 2019, he released Defrost, a 12-part virtual reality series that he wrote and directed. In 2020, he won the Advanced Imaging Society's Lumiere Award for Best Use of Augmented Reality in a Musical Experience for Intel and Paramount's Grease XR. His narrative credits include Grease, White Fang, Flight of the Navigator, The Blue Lagoon, North Shore, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and It's My Party. A DGA member since 1974, Kleiser has programmed Digital Day for 18 years and has also served on the Guild’s National Board.


Susan ZwermanSusan Zwerman, AD/UPM VFX/Digital Technology Committee Chair
Zwerman has worked as the Studio Executive Producer for Exceptional Minds where she provided young artists on the Autism Spectrum career opportunities in digital animation and visual effects on feature films such as Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Green Book and Black Panther. She is also the editor, with Jeffrey Okun, of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects (Third Edition) published in July 2020. A DGA member since 1979, Zwerman received the 2013 Frank Capra Achievement Award in recognition of career achievement and service to the industry and to the Guild. She is also a member of the Special Projects Committee and has been involved in programming Digital Day for the past 10 years.


About the Special Projects Committee

Special Projects is the educational and cultural arm of the Directors Guild of America, providing its members opportunities for creative exchange to advance their craft and celebrate the achievements of directors and their teams. The Committee is chaired by Director Jeremy Kagan. The Digital Day Subcommittee members are: Randal Kleiser (Chair), Brian Frankish, Michael Goi, Scott Rindenow, Barbara Roche, Oz Scott, Arthur Allan Seidelman, Christina Stevens and Susan Zwerman.


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