Powering Virtual Production with Camp Lucky
We spoke with Jason Starne at Camp Lucky about how virtual production enables them to “create wildly immersive and creative ad campaigns for their clients.”
Virtual Production. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Hollywood and a revolutionary new form of filmmaking? The Mandalorian? Batman? Blade Runner 2049? You’d be right on all counts. Hollywood and beyond is buzzing with talk of virtual production and how it is changing moviemaking forever.
But there’s more to this story. Much more. And it goes beyond Hollywood, movies, and Netflix productions. How about that stunningly gorgeous Dodge Ram commercial in which a young woman drives through the Vegas Strip, its glimmering, iconic lights bathing the truck aglow as it cruises down The Strip, ending up in the foothills with a stunning panoramic view of Las Vegas at night. But wait. Something’s not quite right here. Anyone who’s been to Las Vegas knows that no such vista exists. At least not right outside the city limits. So how?
Virtual Production. Because virtual production is not just about Hollywood, or Netflix, or the next blockbuster film.
Virtual Production Takes on Advertising: Meet Camp Lucky
“Madison Avenue” has taken notice too. The forward-thinking creatives out there in the marketing and advertising world are waking up to the idea that now, because of virtual production, there are no limits to their creativity. During the recently-resolved writers and actors guild strike that crippled Hollywood, forward-thinking production studios have begun fully embracing virtual production to create wildly immersive and creative ad campaigns for their clients. Studios like Camp Lucky based in Dallas, Texas have gone all in on Virtual Production.
We recently spoke with Jason Starne, a media and entertainment technologist with over 25 years of experience implementing technologies to facilitate creative processes. He’s currently the Director of Virtual Production at Camp Lucky, spearheading innovative initiatives in this burgeoning field. His professional experience covers a blend of vision, creativity, and business acumen.
With a specialty in crafting production and post-production workflows, Jason has left an indelible mark through collaborations with industry titans such as Disney, Warner Media, Tyler Perry Studios, and even NASA. Yet, Jason’s impact extends beyond conventional filmmaking boundaries. His career has been dedicated to seamlessly merging production and post-production, reshaping workflows in the process, leveraging his extensive experience and mastery of VFX, CGI, and editing.
Jason shared with us how he made the transition into the world of virtual production and quickly became enthralled with the technology behind it.
“I was with CineSys Inc, a systems integrator specializing in Media & Entertainment, holding the title of VP of Media Solutions and decided it was time to shift my focus to the new industry disrupter that is virtual production. But I knew, it’s not that simple and began looking into it, collecting as much information as I could. First and foremost I dove in and started to learn Unreal Engine, which was the logical step given my background in 3D. I understood that world based on my experience with VFX and CGI.
“It was around that time that Camp Lucky called and asked me to come check out their stages. I saw what they were already doing and where they wanted to move into, and it convinced me to join the team! And the rest is history!”
During the recently-resolved writers and actors guild strike that crippled Hollywood, forward-thinking production studios have begun fully embracing virtual production to create wildly immersive and creative ad campaigns for their clients. Studios like Camp Lucky based in Dallas, Texas have gone all in on Virtual Production.
Camp Lucky Invests in Virtual Production, Leads in Innovation
As Jason describes it, their state-of-the-art volume provides a “never-ending canvas for agencies, clients, brands, and artists alike.” Camp Lucky is providing the region with the only system of its kind; it is a technical wonder full of possibilities.
The Volume at Camp Lucky features a 51 linear foot, J-shaped LED Volume standing 15 feet tall with 3400 square feet of vehicle-friendly support space. The infrastructure of the Volume is a collection of high-definition LED panels stacked to create a ‘wall’ presenting as a single giant screen. The wall, or Volume, displays computer-generated photorealistic backdrops that work in combination with live-action actors, sets, props, and objects creating a seamless in-camera environment.
Jason continued, “Our XR stage incorporates 3 Unreal Engine systems to drive the 1.9mm pitch, 8K (7680×2304) native resolution imaging system. The stage also utilizes the MoSys Startracker camera system for full control of the camera inside the Unreal environment as well as Pixera One software for handling any plate work. And all of this needs some serious system hardware to run it!”
Virtual Production = System Horsepower: Enter Puget Systems
In addition to Jason’s expertise as a VFX and CG artist, he was already experienced with custom system builds while working with his previous employer, CineSys. “When CineSys was building custom workstations, I heard about Puget Systems and had an idea of what they were all about. I knew they focused on ‘purpose-built’ machines, and that’s exactly what we needed to drive the volume at Camp Lucky – that’s what started our partnership with Puget Systems!”
“That Dodge Ram commercial required some serious horsepower and stability, so I was thankful we had our Puget Systems workstations powering everything. I might mention its not just being comfortable about our hardware handling our scenes but also the comfort of having the technical team of Puget at the ready in the rare case something did go wrong with our workstations.
For this job we had to basically recreate the Las Vegas Strip, as well as the entire sequence of the mountaintop view of Vegas, which doesn’t exist in real life. Due to the limited environment build time we had to get creative with our approach for the job. Our first step was having one of our Flame artists build out an 8k still image from Shutterstock and turning it into an image sequence that brought the vegas strip to life. That sequence was then rendered and brought into Unreal Engine and mapped as a media plate onto a material assigned to simple geometry. The geometry sat between our Unreal environment sky and 3d mountain-top assets. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without Puget Systems handling all the complexity of the shoot!
Jason Starne, Director of Virtual Production at Camp Lucky
“…its not just being comfortable about our hardware handling our scenes but also the comfort of having the technical team of Puget at the ready in the rare case something did go wrong with our workstations.”
Camp Lucky’s System Specs from Puget Systems
The Puget Systems team of consultants worked closely with Jason and the team at Camp Lucky to design and build the precise systems to run their complex virtual production workflows. Here’s a snapshot of just what goes into a virtual production workhorse like Camp Lucky’s system:
|AMD Ryzen Threadripper 32-core
|NVIDIA RTX A6000 48GB
|2 x 2TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSDs
|Dual 10GbE NICs (onboard)
|Windows 11 Pro
Learn more about Camp Lucky and the amazing projects they’re developing, or read about our Recommended Systems for Virtual Production.
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