Solving VFX workflow challenges with 'virtual content multiplication'
Max von Braun
Issue: July/August 2023

Solving VFX workflow challenges with 'virtual content multiplication'

The art of combining VFX sequences with live-action footage to create scenes that can't be captured in reality can sometimes feel like magic. It requires an incredible creative vision to integrate stunning landscapes, tense battle scenes or fantasy creatures so that they are believable on-screen. But the artistic direction of a production and the technology available to deliver it aren’t always in sync. 

The phrase “time is money” has never been truer than on a VFX production. Utilizing the time of skilled artists means that any errors made during set-up are incredibly expensive to rectify later down the line. So, what if you could create more space in the production schedule by reducing set-up time and minimizing workflow challenges in post production? 

At GhostFrame, we understand the need for producers, directors and actors to be able to work in a compelling and visually-rich environment. Based on virtual content multiplication, GhostFrame is now able to show multiple hidden images or video streams on LED panels simultaneously. Although invisible to the naked eye, these can be captured by other imaging devices to create “multiple realities” in a single video wall and during a single production frame.

The LED wall enables precision alignment of video subframes (or slices) with the camera shutter. By controlling the LED panels’ lightwave output at the nanosecond subframe level, it enables cameras to synchronize shutter angle and capture the desired image. The subframe is only visible to that camera. Even multiple frames can be made available that do not flicker, bleed or exhibit any visual artifacts. This gives production crews an interactive experience during shooting, allowing them to choose which elements are visible to the human eye and which are visible only to the camera. Then, once the shot is defined, teams can provide actors with real content to interact with on-set. So, the exhausting days of shooting on green screen are finally over.

Achieving realism in VFX is a constant challenge, but it is crucial that production stays on budget. Effects need to blend seamlessly with live-action footage and environments so that they appear natural and believable. Some visual effects need intricate detailing or a deep understanding of physics, lighting and other technical aspects that require a high level of skill and attention to detail. With production teams under pressure to adhere to tight shooting schedules, striking the right balance between creative and technical execution can be difficult to achieve. 

The field of VFX is constantly evolving, but until recently there had been more of a focus on technical after-effects than exploring on-set innovation. Of course, even small discrepancies in lighting, color or physics can disrupt the visual cohesion of a scene. But it’s new developments during production that will lay the foundation for VFX artists in post. 

LED hidden realities can be used to sense-check virtual production, improve camera tracking and make green-screen overlays feel more immersive. Virtual content multiplication offers teams the game-changing safety net of a green-screen copy of what’s been shot. If there are amendments, such as fixing continuity errors or implementing a change to the script, then a chroma-key version prevents the need for costly reshoots. There’s no need to recall talent or rebook a studio; GhostFrame means you can shoot a host of different realities, and it delivers a huge reduction in virtual production costs. 

VFX production involves collaboration between various stakeholders, so bridging any communication gap between them is vital. The common ground in production and post production is visual thinking. Virtual content multiplication allows directors, producers, cinematographers and VFX artists to play out different scenarios and explore their options before committing. A camera running at high frame rates can support separate hidden realities that can be captured and viewed at the same time with a 100 percent match while the foreground subject stays consistent. 

From a daytime street scene in New York to a night scene in Tokyo, each camera can ‘see’ and record its own LED background, streamlining the traditional multi-cam process. Notably, this technology has also recently become compatible with stage light sources. Instead of shooting a single camera and blocking the scene out multiple times, or arranging a multi-cam shoot and changing the background on the LED wall for each angle, it’s now possible to capture three or four shots in one go — each with their own perfectly-adjusted lighting. Trying different options at this stage will not only cut costs, but will also ensure that the final product aligns with the overall creative vision. As for saving time, what might have taken two days is now possible in an afternoon. Now that really is magic!

Max von Braun is MultiSource Developer - AGS at GhostFrame ( in The Netherlands.