How Modern Filmmakers Use Virtual Production: A Few Examples

Virtual Production has undoubtedly revolutionized the way movies and TV shows are made. It offers modern filmmakers a new vehicle for storytelling, with unprecedented flexibility and immersive realism. 

From developing post-apocalyptic landscapes to aging characters over decades, Virtual Production technology has been a game-changer for the Industry. 

Here, we take a quick minute to explore some of the standout films and performances that have taken advantage of VP, showcasing the innovation and creativity that drives today’s filmmaking.

Midnight Sky

“The Midnight Sky” stars George Clooney (who also directed the Netflix film) as Augustine, a brilliant but reclusive scientist researching other habitable planets. This becomes crucial when humanity is nearly wiped out and Earth is contaminated by deadly radiation.

“The Midnight Sky” used ILM’s StageCraft technology for its virtual sets in two main scenes: 

  1. Early in the movie, LED screens created the effect of Augustine observing the vast arctic wilderness from an observatory.
  2. Later, the screens facilitated communication with a spaceship. 

Virtual Production was used from the very beginning to previzualize important scenes, including a spacewalk and a sequence in which a habitation pod sinks into freezing water. 

What’s even cooler is that 3D models of the respective environments were built and populated with virtual humans (synthespians). Everything created was easily viewed on an iPad.

This virtual technology enhanced the realism and immersion for both the actors and the audience. It was planned to be used in the wide IMAX release, which was curtailed by COVID.

The Witcher

Netflix’s “The Witcher” uses a combination of green screen and Virtual Production to recreate entire fantasy worlds on a TV budget.

The series uses extensive virtual sets with CGI elements to recreate elaborate, immersive environments that seamlessly blend with practical sets. Traditional green screen techniques are combined with CG assets rendered in post-production, giving it a particularly gritty aesthetic.

This strategy enhanced the show’s visual fidelity while streamlining the production process, allowing for greater creative freedom and flexibility.

For Season Two of the hit series, the EFX team brought its new AR visualization tool Cyclops to set. This tool provided production team members and crew the ability to view digital characters and assets in a real-world context as they planned the storytelling action.

Giddy-up P.A.’s!!!

The Matrix Resurrections

Nearly two decades after The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions seemingly concluded the saga of our hacker friend Neo and his fellow freedom fighters, the final installation was released in 2021. 

Lana Wachowski directed and co-wrote the film, which brought back VFX supervisor Dan Glass. Using Virtual Production, he achieved the visual effects for Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s sentient, fluid-like Morpheus.

How did they do this? The character Yahya (and actor) is in scenes delivering dialogue with the other actors, and then he’s painted out. The EFX team used a head cam to capture his facial animation so they could mimic what he does and then use that data to drive a fluid simulation for the character.

Another scene that uses various aspects of Virtual Production is the chase scene at the end through San Francisco. It was an excellent collaboration of all different trades. It starts with a lot of practical set elements. Real actors on a gimbaled bike are being pulled around, with stunt extras running after them. However, shots with people dive bombing were all CG.


One of the first significant applications of Virtual Production in a major Hollywood film was for the 2013 sci-fi adventure, “Oblivion.” 

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic 2077 where Earth is uninhabitable, and the Moon has been destroyed due to an alien invasion. Tom Cruise stars in dual roles as two clones of a man named Jack Harper.

For “Oblivion,” the primary use of virtual sets was to create the Sky Tower location. 

While the floors, walls, and ceilings of the towers were physical sets, the surrounding sky and clouds were projected onto a wraparound backdrop.

While earlier movies and TV shows had used basic forms of Virtual Production, “Oblivion” is considered a pioneering example of modern Virtual Production techniques.

Ghost in the Shell

The 2017 live-action remake of “Ghost in the Shell” received praise for its stunning visual effects. Set in a near-future Japan where the line between humans and robots is blurred, the film relied heavily on digital and computer effects to recreate its cyberpunk cityscape. 

One standout feature was the creation of nearly 400 “Solograms” (holographic advertisements), which were integrated into the virtual city setting. The scale of these 3D images was unprecedented.

Other Uses of Virtual Production

Katy Perry’s live performance of “Daisies” on American Idol marked a historic moment in television with the extensive use of Extended Reality (XR). 

The 3D virtual environment included interactive elements like a house, chair, and flowers, allowing Perry to interact with these virtual objects in real time.

Summing it Up

The integration of Virtual Production into filmmaking has marked a significant leap forward for the Industry, allowing for more dynamic, immersive, and visually stunning productions. From early adopters like “Oblivion” to recent hits like “The Midnight Sky,” VP has proven its worth in creating believable worlds and enhancing storytelling. 

As Virtual Production continues to evolve, we can expect even more groundbreaking applications that will push the boundaries of what is possible on screen, transforming our viewing experiences and setting new standards in visual storytelling.

Ready to get started with Virtual Production? 

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Want to learn about virtual production and how to use it?

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