Virtual Production Popularity Continues To Grow, But Worker Pipeline Presents Challenges

virtual production
(Image credit: Disney)

LOS ANGELES—A new report from global strategy consultancy Altmann Solon finds virtual production (VP) is continuing to grow in the film and TV industry with 40% of respondents saying they are using the technology on current projects and half saying they are likely to do so in the next 18 to 24 months.

“VP grew out of necessity during the COVID-19 shutdowns but is quickly becoming an industry standard,” said Mary Ann Halford, a partner at Altman Solon. “VP includes an array of effective tools that keep projects on track and allow for creative collaboration across sites and even continents. Studios are increasingly exploring its efficacy given the prospective cost savings as well as reduced travel.”

The report, “2022 Global Film & Video Production Report” attributes several factors to the growth of virtual production including the need for virtual and collaborative tools to lower production costs, the ability to improve timelines and offering a solution to overcoming limitations of physical production sets. Altmann Solon surveyed 132 industry executives, each with three years of VP experience, for the report.

While the report identifies the limited global pipeline of workers skilled in virtual production as a challenge, the industry will overcome. “Virtual production is the future of global filmmaking but how and when it maximizes its potential will be determined by the industry’s ability to attract talent to this new field,” said Altman Solon director Derek Powell. “It’s clear that the networking-heavy approach used in Hollywood for generations will not deliver the VP workforce needed now and in the future. The good news is that studios are employing new and creative recruiting techniques, including better outreach to candidates with diverse backgrounds.”

Adjacent industries, including AR and VR animation, automotive and transport, architecture and others are proving to be important sources of talent. Only 28% of respondents reported finding talent in private networks, a staple of studio recruitment, it said.

The report also reveals progress in the diversity of production teams: 52% of survey respondents reported an upswing in recruitment efforts and a noticeable change in representation over the past two years.

Other findings include:

  • The most popular VP application among respondents is motion capture. Half used it over the past 12 months. Cloud-based editing is also popular with executives. Forty-eight percent are attracted to its benefits accessibility and easy storage.
  • The growing number of VP stages in the U.S. and U.K., which have 84 and 40 stages, respectively, shows that content creators and studios are investing in VP. There are other VP stages globally, including Dark Bay, Netflix’s first purpose-built VP stage in Germany.  Sony’s recently acquired Pixomondo to support virtual production in the top filming locations.
  • VP tools enable more collection of data versus traditional production methods. However, data usage has been underused to this point: 62% of respondents cite a “lack of business intelligence strategy.” By comparison, 49% state a “lack of business intelligence impact,” and 45% find a “lack of training and execution” as their top limitations to collecting data. 
  • Production companies should also leverage the power of analytics to make data-driven decisions. One area this matters most is budget forecasting, which was the top data-usage focus of VP executives in the survey (45%).

More information about the survey and its findings is available online (opens in new tab).

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.