Virtual Production in Portland

Kevin Fletcher on set Virtual Production
DP Kevin Fletcher and actor Nancy Ortiz on set


In a not-so-distant future, an off-world syndicate of couriers transport precious and illicit packages via inter-planetary portals. They alone hold the secret to the dust that powers them. Our story takes place in the early morning hours, when a disheveled retired bureaucrat wanders through the unfamiliar streets of Neo Tokyo to hand off a mysterious briefcase.
That’s the premise of the short narrative technical test recently completed on the LED Volume at Picture This.
Afuera, created by noted Director of Photography Kevin Fletcher, Lower Boom founder Matt Schulte, filmmaker Wil Magness, and produced by Devin Fei-Fan Tau, with additional VFX by Hinge Digital, showcases the fact that the  same tech that made The Mandalorian possible is now in Portland. This has the potential to have a huge impact on the local filmmaking scene, as well as an additional incentive for projects from out-of-town to shoot here.
The combination of the LED volume and Unreal Engine falls under the umbrella of  Virtual Production, and marries Unreal Engine’s video game rendering technology and LED screen ‘volumes’ to create immersive new worlds on a film set.

Imagine bringing Transylvania, Mars, Mexico City, or the Pacific Ocean to the Picture This soundstage in Portland, Oregon.

Watch Afuera

A next step in the evolution of storytelling using Virtual Production is education. Unreal Engine has a thorough learning platform to learn the technical aspects of Virtual Production.

This leaves an education gap, however, when it comes to the actual storytelling. How should writers, directors, directors of photography, etc., approach learning about, and developing projects for, Virtual Production? Not everyone will want to do the deep dive into the technical aspects of creating worlds in Unreal Engine. What storytelling constraints are there, what new freedoms are there?  How do we engage, educate, and inspire storytellers (not just the technically-oriented) to expand the boundaries of independent filmmaking?

Virtual Production in action at Picture This

The sooner that the Oregon filmmaking community can start to answer these questions, the better it will be positioned to be a leader in the brave new world of Virtual Production.

Do you have ideas on solving that education gap? Interested in joining in the conversation about Virtual Production here in the NW? Reach out to Matt Schulte of Lower Boom at [email protected]. Matt and Lower Boom are leading efforts to bring community partners, filmmakers, and the tech world together to not just expand, but explode, the boundaries of independent filmmaking, and help establish Oregon as a leader in this marriage of storytelling and technology.

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