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‘It takes an industry to advance virtual production’: SMPTE’s Rapid Industry Solutions initiative turns two years old

TVBEurope talks to Ryan Hendricks, PhD, senior manager, RiS Initiative, at SMPTE, about its work in the virtual production space, the challenges its faced over the last twp years, and how it can address the barriers of resistance faced by both creatives and engineers

This week marks two years since the launch of SMPTE’s Rapid Industry Solutions (RiS) On-Set Virtual Production (OSVP) Initiative.

The aim of the initiative is to proactively tackle challenges within the rapidly evolving media sector and industry, with a goal of advancing the science and technology behind emerging media technologies, even before they are ready for standardisation.

When we launched the RiS Initiative, our original goal was to create a vibrant and collaborative space for manufacturers, studios, and industry professionals to tackle the challenges of OSVP,” Ryan Hendricks, PhD, senior manager, RiS Initiative, OSVP, tells TVBEurope.

“We aimed to foster innovation, build educational resources, and promote interoperability (InterOp) project sprints. And let me tell you, we’ve made remarkable progress in achieving that goal, all thanks to the RiS Advisory Group and its outstanding sponsors! ”

In April, the InterOP Camera and Lens Metadata subgroup released its public comment on Github and is now working with the Camera Tracking group, while the OSVP Education Workstream is developing a pilot test of an interactive Wallchart that illustrates the intricate world of OSVP. 

Between RiS OSVP and the Open Services Alliance, we’ve brought together an incredible range of experts and stakeholders, sparking meaningful discussions and driving the development of practical solutions to virtual production innovations establishing recommendations for data models, as well as cross-platform and cross-application interoperability. It has been an exhilarating journey thus far!” adds Hendricks.

Virtual production has gained significant traction within the media industry since the start of the 2020s, we’ve seen it used on everything from The Mandalorian to Coronation Street. Hendricks says the pipeline capabilities the technology offers are “truly vast”.

“With the continuous advancement and growing accessibility of real-time technology, we can expect to see OSVP techniques being increasingly embraced across the board, from major studios to smaller-scale productions,” he continues. “In-camera visual effects (ICVFX) and LED Walls present us with unparalleled creative possibilities, allowing us to create immersive virtual environments and elevate storytelling to new heights. Looking ahead, I anticipate virtual production becoming an integral part of almost every production workflow imagined, enabling indie filmmakers and prime-time broadcasters alike to deliver content that is visually stunning and truly captivating for their audiences.”

The RiS Initiative is still navigating the complexities of the rapidly evolving media landscape dealing with emerging technologies, evolving content creation models, and the ever-changing demands of users. “From camera tracking to in-camera visual effects (ICVFX) to AI art and world-building, there are so many areas where innovation is happening,” says Hendricks. “Staying up-to-date and ensuring that our solutions remain relevant and effective has been an ongoing challenge. It requires us to constantly adapt, engage proactively, and communicate effectively with all the stakeholders involved in each OSVP project sprint.

“Cultivating long-term collaboration among diverse experts in the cinema field, each with their own unique perspectives and priorities requires careful coordination and consensus-building,” he adds. “But I have to say, despite the challenges, we’ve embraced them head-on, and it has been incredibly rewarding to see how our adaptability, proactive engagement, and effective communication have allowed us to overcome obstacles and make significant progress in driving innovation within the industry.”

However, while it continues to navigate challenges, the RiS Initiative has achieved a number of successes by being open-source. “Through our collaborative efforts, we have developed practical solutions that address pressing industry challenges between how the cameras speak to the computer processors and the engines speak to the walls,” states Hendricks.

He believes that the initiative has fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration, bringing together experts from different domains to collectively drive the industry forward, but not necessarily through standards as one might think. “Instead, we value the flexibility of recommendations in our rapidly evolving technological landscape,” he says. “This collaborative spirit and the resulting positive outcomes are the true measures of success for RiS at SMPTE.”

Despite all that success, the work of RiS doesn’t stop yet. Over the next couple of years the initiative wants to multiply its workstreams, expand membership and support filmmakers’ abilities to adapt to the advancements in real-time innovations and cinematics, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual cinematography, and extended reality (XR)

“Understanding the psychology behind filmmakers’ willingness to adopt real-time innovations is crucial for the industry,” Hendricks states. “This understanding will help address the barriers of resistance faced by both creatives and engineers.”

Hendricks wants RiS to establish itself as a central hub for virtual production education, with the support of leading corporations, academic leadership and engineers on the frontlines. “Our aim is to foster a collaborative environment where knowledge sharing and learning opportunities thrive, ultimately shaping the future of XR filmmakers,” he says. “Our focus will continue to shift towards embracing real-time creative technologies and staying on the cutting-edge of OSVP industry trends.

“Get ready, Hollywood. While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire industry to advance virtual production and the next generation of filmmakers. With your support, the RiS Initiative by SMPTE will help cultivate faster solutions for OSVP adoption industry-wide.”