TV and film are making groundbreaking leaps in the metaverse era


How virtual production is breaking boundaries in creativity and fan engagement

Starting May 17th, for 48 hours only, Hadean will be hosting a live virtual event around a new documentary about British cultural icon Twiggy. Learn more here.

6 min read

Changing expectations in the entertainment industry

In most areas of business, but most concretely in the entertainment industry, changes in consumer tastes are the leading influence on the bottom line. 

As of 2023, there is no doubt that expectations are changing with regard to how people are choosing to spend their free time. 

The evolution of the internet has sustained a shift away from passive consumption of media, towards a preference for media platforms that are interactive and social. This has turned mass audiences not only into visible critics and commentators, but equally into full-on contributors to the broader creative landscape. 

Brands and content creators are making the most of this by changing their approach to outreach, advertising, and engagement. They are focusing less on simply ‘getting in front of eyeballs’, and more on supporting and rewarding creative activity in interactive events based on their brand or IP. This enables them to receive far greater engagement, loyalty and lifetime value from their target audiences, by providing consumers a space to exercise their individual agency in memorable ways rather than acting as mere consumers. 

TV and filmmaking, meanwhile, have remained largely unchanged in their adherence to established forms for almost 100 years, when talkies first graced the big screen. As an inherently passive medium, it has resisted change not least because it has been so successful and beloved, but also because video of real people and places is difficult to turn into an interactive experience without making fundamental changes to the medium. However, with such an overabundance of such content online nowadays, as well as a growing desire in younger audiences for interactivity and socialisation, it is time for creators in the TV and film industry to consider how they can adapt their output to match the times we live in. 

Luckily, new technologies are giving them the chance to do just that. 

Virtual Production and the interactive future of filmmaking 

Virtual worlds have become ubiquitous in the cultural entertainment landscape. This is largely accreditable to video games which, by providing a wondrous range of narrative, competitive, and social experiences, have exploded into a $200bn behemoth of an industry. 

Now, virtual production is changing the game for TV and film too. 

TV and film directors have always sought the best way to bring stories to life. From practical effects to CGI, the film industry has taken giant technological leaps in its ability to bring thrilling and believable fantasies to the big screen. 

Until recently, using CGI in film meant watching actors performing in front of a green screen, with visual elements added in post-production. Because of the high computational demand of film-grade CGI, these scenes would take hours to render, with producers only then being able to judge whether or not the scene fit their intended outcome. A botched or unsatisfactory cut would mean starting over again, creating frustrating inefficiencies in the production process.

Thankfully, new technology is providing a much more efficient alternative. Directors are using virtual worlds displayed on immersive LED walls to merge physical actors into the virtual scene directly at the point of filming. This virtual scene can be customised in real time, enabling changes to be made on the fly to reflect the creative vision and ensure the best outcome. The Mandalorian, Lion King and Blade Runner 2049 are examples of productions that have used this to critically acclaimed effect; it is also a well-established practice in advertising, where quick turnarounds are paramount. 

The emergence of virtual production would not be possible without the leaps taken by gaming engines over the last few years. The core function of these engines is enabling real-time interaction with high-fidelity virtual worlds worthy of the silver screen. Does anyone see an opportunity here?

The use of gaming engines in virtual production creates an unprecedented opportunity to build virtual experiences based directly on the environments of a film. These experiences can be activated in real time, during filming, to give fans an opportunity to engage with the production process, and even contribute to it.

Real-time collaboration on the shaping of virtual worlds is the fruit of massive strides in the development of metaverse-ready technologies. These enable multitudes of geographically separated users to share exciting experiences within worlds that can be persistently and dynamically shaped according to their own ideas. Such capabilities are on display in Epic Games’ recently released Unreal Editor for Fortnite, based on Unreal Engine 5, which also underpins many virtual productions for TV and film. 

Beyond this, there is a tremendous opportunity to improve on conventional TV and film promotion cycles, which in today’s fast-paced media landscape are undoubtedly a bit of a slog.

Virtual environments being used for virtual productions can be leveraged to create engaging promotional experiences leading up to the release of the film. Within these, users can experience the wonder of the film’s environments, while finding opportunities to exercise their creativity, interact with exclusive content, and make the worlds their own. Crucially, these can be far more engaging, memorable, and fandom-inducing than the sporadic trailers, stills, and elusive interviews through which publishers are still often promoting their films today.

Post-release, the high-quality virtual content used in virtual production can be harnessed to create equally high-quality fan experiences that keep fans engaged with a film and its IP well beyond its initial release. In line with consumer preferences, these can be social experiences, creating meaningful interactions between creator and viewer, while tying in with digital assets that work across the various gaming and metaverse platforms that younger audiences are likely to spend time in.  

The possibilities are endless. Virtual production has opened up tremendous opportunities for TV and film to provide better interactive and social experiences without compromising the core qualities of its medium. It is a change, but one that is evolutionary and highly timely. 

To see how Hadean are contributing to the transformation of TV and film, check our virtual experience created around the upcoming documentary on Twiggy, in partnership with Film Soho, disguise, AWS, and Epic Games. 

The experience will be available starting on May 17th for 48 hours only. Click here to register.

We will also be at Cannes Marché du Film to give a workshop on how we brought it to life. To schedule a private meeting, feel free to contact us.