Amazon Opens Stage 15: New LA Virtual Production Facility

Amazon Studios has officially opened its 34,000-square-foot virtual production stage in Culver City, California. On hand for the Monday ribbon-cutting ceremony was director Reginald Hudlin, whose Eddie Murphy-starrer “Candy Cane Lane” will be the first feature to shoot there. Once the set for films including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “RoboCop,” Stage 15 has undergone a transformation from its original 1940 configuration, now housing a wall of more than 3,000 LED panels as well as 100 motion capture cameras in what is LA’s largest virtual production stage.

In addition to formally launching Stage 15, Amazon “announced the formation of the new Amazon Studios Virtual Production (ASVP) department to run production on the volume stage, which “combines two former stages to accommodate an LED wall that is 80 feet in diameter and 26 feet tall,” writes TV Technology. The stage relies on “an optimized workflow developed in partnership with — and powered by — Amazon Web Services (AWS).”

Working on a volume stage, “production creatives can interact with digital assets and processes in a manner that mirrors live-action to enable digital world capture, visualization, performance capture, simulcam, and in-camera visual effects,” TV Tech explains.

Popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic, VP stages allow makers of movies, TV shows and commercials to produce all manner of action and environments on the LED screens, shooting live-action on the stage in a controlled environment that has become an alternative to greenscreen.

The AWS cloud connectivity makes material shot on Amazon’s new stage available in real time to creative teams anywhere, a handy feature for globe-trotting producers who want to stay looped in on dailies. As a director, Hudlin tells Los Angeles Times “it means a lot” to be able to shoot in his home base of Los Angeles yet “go anywhere in the world or to other planets.”

“With Stage 15, Amazon is marrying its technology and entertainment businesses and expanding its economic footprint in Southern California,” LA Times writes, noting that the stage is “powered by the latest in gaming technology,” allowing “filmmakers to cut costs by reducing the need to rebuild stages and giving them flexibility to film from any location with continuous daylight — regardless of the time of day.”

In 2017 Amazon announced it was relocating its Amazon Studios headquarters to Culver City. Since then, it has amassed roughly 630,000 square feet of business space there, LA Times reports. This year Amazon closed its $8.5 billion purchase of MGM.

In addition to renting out Stage 15, Amazon plans to use it to produce content for its more than 200 million global Prime Video subscribers, who receive the service as a perk for becoming paid subscribers to Amazon Prime. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy recently said at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit that based on customers response he believes “over time we have opportunities to make our Prime Video business a standalone business that has very attractive economics.”

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