Weta, Avalon, Streamliner Team In Virtual Production Offering

Participants aim to offer another option for working amid COVID-19 and "another compelling reason" to consider shooting in New Zealand.
AP Images

A trio of Wellington, NZ-based companies — Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings VFX powerhouse Weta Digital, technical production services provider Streamliner and Avalon Studios — have partnered to offer virtual production services.

These workflows features large LED panels configured to display imagery as a way to augment practical sets and reduce the use of green screen for backgrounds and exteriors. Amid COVID-19, this way of working has been presented as a potential option to reduce travel and crew size. The newly-announced offering — combining the capabilities of the partners — supports various technologies and workflows. Each configuration would be deployed to meet the individual needs of a given production. 

“Adding LED stage capabilities to Wellington’s Avalon Studios adds yet another compelling reason for productions to consider shooting in New Zealand,” said Weta Digital executive producer David Conley in a statement. “LED stages are the latest technique to take advantage of game engine technology to provide virtual production workflows that can greatly expand what is possible on set. Being able to shoot final VFX imagery at the same time as principle photography adds another level of creative control for producers and filmmakers.”

Weta, whose team has received six visual effects Oscars and 10 Academy Sci-Tech Awards, is no stranger to virtual production; they handled VFX for James Cameron's Avatar and is currently working on its sequels.

Avalon’s facilities include four main stages and dedicated space for additional departments. “We’re all focused on providing the safest work environment possible as productions look to ramp back up,” said CEO Gary Watkins. “This new setup allows producers to think very strategically about what they shoot and limit the number of actors and onset crew required – changing postproduction requirements.” 

Added Streamliner general manager Richard Manu of the workflow, “We have the established infrastructure to make this a plug and play pipeline rather than a science experiment. Our investment in several LED screen types; large format laser projection and world leading media server platforms will give productions confidence we have it all covered.”