USC Partnering With Hollywood Studios to Test Limits of Virtual Production

A virtual stage from xR Stage (Image credit: xR Stage)

LOS ANGELES—The University of Southern California has been the starting point for many well-known entertainment careers, and could now serve as a key point in the progression of virtual production.

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC has bestowed its 2020 Innovative Technology Award on the virtual-production-based project “The Ripple Effect” from writer/director Hannah Bang, Margo Sawaya and writer Sabina Vajrača, with Eric Weaver serving as the project’s executive director. The focus of this year’s Innovative Technology Award is on using technologies to minimize the amount of time and people on set to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Ripple Effect” will use a game engine to minimize on set crew while also providing better controls for talent and staff, Weaver explained.

The project is being supported by Amazon Studios, Microsoft, Universal Pictures, WB Entertainment, Equinix and Seagate, as well as in-kind project support from Verizon/RYOT, Technicolor, Halon, ICVR, Lux Machina, Stargate Studios, 5th Kind, SilverDraft, ARRI, xR Stage and Xsens.

“As we look to the future of filmmaking, there’s never been a more appropriate time to leverage technology to help us protect the safety of our cast and crews, and ‘The Ripple Effect’ applications of game engine and other technologies will give us an opportunity to do just that,” said Annie Chang, Universal Pictures’ vice president of Creative Technologies.

“This is a rare moment in our industry where the trials and tribulations of society can legitimately be helped by the advancement of technology,” said Sawaya.

“The Ripple Effect” is a futuristic live-action story of the strong-willed, passionate Ara, who in an age of propaganda attempts to find agency only to eventually become a tool to the machine that she fought against.

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