Universal Opens Virtual Stage


Reflecting the increased interest in virtual production following the success of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, Universal Studios has opened Universal Virtual Stage 1 on its lot.

Representing an investment of $4.5 million and counting, UVS1 is a pre-rigged, pre-calibrated virtual production setup with technologies for applications including motion capture and camera tracking.

It includes the 6,800-square-foot Sound Stage 36 at Universal, which has been transformed into a self-contained facility with a 40-x-80-foot green-screen cyclorama; editing bays; VFX and animation workstations; and production office space with a conference room. The facilities are available to internal and third-party productions and part of the studio's production and postproduction services arm.

Jeff Berry, executive director of Universal Studios Virtual Effects & Production Services, noted that it can be cost-prohibitive to build virtual set environments from scratch. So, he anticipates the facility to attract TV work, as it would allow productions to minimize time and costs, as well as features, which he hopes will keep more productions in the Los Angeles area.

"This stage has the ability to do pre-viz, production and postproduction all under one roof," Berry said. "The stage is designed to be as turn-key as possible, from simple green-screen work to complicated camera tracking and motion capture in real time."

The stage also is part of the "Green Is Universal" initiative. The company noted that by going virtual, productions don't have to build physical sets, saving construction materials as well as landfill space when the sets are discarded.