Everything about the world of virtual production seems to be moving at pace. The technology behind the game-changing process that allows productions to be filmed in an immersive setting continues to see new developments each month, making solutions even smarter and workflows even easier to navigate.
At the same time, the popularity of the tech is spreading further around the globe as studios race to be the first to take advantage of the cutting-edge tools it offers. Powered by disguise, MGX Studios are the first to open a virtual production studio in Turkey. Eke tells us about the company’s ambitions for their new venture.
When and how did MGX Studios form?
We bought the studio space in Istanbul seven months ago, and undertook a period of bringing all the necessary components together. We prepared for three months initially, choosing our ideal tech and business partners. We opted to use disguise to power our virtual production, alongside specialists in other areas like Brompton Technology and Mo-Sys. After two months of preparation we were ready to start our first production: an eight-episode TV series called Prens - a project we have just completed.
Why open the first virtual production studio in Turkey?
There are only little studios in Turkey. MGX is the first big studio that can deliver virtual production for film with cinematic quality. This is very exciting for us. The Turkish film and television industry has been struggling during the pandemic. With the travel and crew restrictions, movie producers are having a tough time getting anything into production.
MGX founder, Müsvik Guluzade was inspired to create a virtual production studio as an innovative response to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual production allowed us to proceed with next-level production tech like LED production.
In our first full virtual production project, Prens, which is yet to be released, we significantly cut the time it took to film. It was a lot easier to shoot scenes in our studio instead of on location, as we would have done with past shoots.
We also considered budgeting as a major benefit. Virtual production is a much cheaper process than regular filming. Reducing the number of locations needed in production by filming using an LED volume in a studio saves on having to pay hefty booking fees at multiple locations or pay for travel between each location.
Also, one of the biggest additional costs in traditional production is if a reshoot is needed as you would need to get back on location, set everything up and build it in exactly the same way. With virtual production, this is not an issue, you can just load the same background onto the LED walls and then you are good to go again with no extra hassle. Customers choose us because of this.
What made you excited about the possibilities of virtual production?
Time control is the biggest benefit that excites both us and our customers. We don't have to wait for the sun to come out, or for it to set so that we can shoot night scenes. Directors don't have to skip shots or scenes because the weather changes. You have full control of the environment, which means no more wasting time because the conditions are not perfect.
How do you develop the cinematic quality needed for films?
Partnering with tech companies operating at a global level and working alongside them is exciting for us, and we are proud to be able to offer them to our customers. We use Brompton, Mo-Sys and OptiTrack for the cameras and our camera tracking system, and customers are eager to work with such established brands.
We also use the Fujinon 18-85 Cinema lens with the Mo-Sys Startracker, and LED Panels provided by Ledeca. They've created a custom LED setup solution specially for us, which is supported by Brompton's Tessera SX40 image processors.
disguise technology forms the core of our set-up. At the moment we operate using a vx 1, three vx 2s, four rxs together with RenderStream. This hardware and software enables us to use set extensions and offers the high-quality output that we need.
disguise is very flexible to work with. Through RenderStream we can implement set extension, which gives us far more options because, unlike other alternatives, when you update things in the Designer software, it updates everywhere across your whole production.
The ACES integration available in disguise is also a game-changer, because of its enhanced cinematic experience and the abilities it opens up around colour calibration and colour management.
Using disguise also gives us access to a high-end xR workflow that integrates with Unreal Engine. We also work with Quixel and similar Epic Games companies and use their content workflow. As a member of the Unreal Engine Enterprise Programme, we are working on our own Custom Unreal Edition, building on the know-how from the UDN and NVIDIA communities.
Fatih Eke, Chief Technology Officer at MGX Studios
How did you find the production process for Prens?
It’s been a great experience - we used disguise's xR workflow, including RenderStream, set extension, 10-bit and OSC features for the project.
As we were in the disguise xR Insiders Programme, we were able to start when xR functionality was still in a Beta version. During the project, we had the chance to try all the Beta xR versions in between. From time to time, the support team also created a release specifically for our studio. It was a very dynamic process. We look forward to seeing the final release of the project - it’s an eight-part medieval dark comedy series!
What are your upcoming plans for the studio?
The studio is built and ready to shoot. Every day new game-changing technology comes out, and we continue to integrate these technologies into the studio.
We may have only just opened, but next year's calendar is already full. Some of these projects are ours and some of them are the projects of international production companies. A new filmmaking culture is happening, fueled by developing technology and the restrictions brought about by the pandemic. Virtual production studios have a significant role in the formation of this culture. With our MGX Studios, we intend to contribute to this, and continue to focus on using and supporting the newest technologies. We want to ensure that Turkey is a part of this change.
Virtual production is getting bigger everyday so being a part of the industry is thrilling. In the future there will be no more green screen technology which will change the shooting experience across so many areas.
In our future plans, we want to use and develop this technology together with the world. We will be striving for global projects to benefit from our country's location and attractive opportunities.