ETC Executive Coffee: Warner on Future of Virtual Production

Ryan Beagan, vice president of virtual production at WarnerMedia, met virtually with USC students on April 21 for the fifth installment in ETC@USC’s Spring 2021 Executive Coffee with… series. Beagan engaged a group of six students and one recent alumnus in a one-hour discussion on “The Post-Pandemic Future of Virtual Production.” Graduate and undergraduate students in computer science, industrial engineering, theater, applied data, and film and television production discussed topics including sophisticated game engines, collaborative processes and new tools, and adapting to evolving compliance rules.

Beagan (pictured below) kicked off the discussion by stating that two things have put virtual production at a tipping point: game engines that can render in real-time something that is photo-real, and the pandemic, which has forced a rethinking of collaborative processes and accelerated the development of tools that support or accommodate remote collaboration.

Aurellia Himawan gave a detailed description of the processes involved in filming her senior capstone project during the pandemic. The half-hour comedy pilot was prepared, shot, and edited entirely remotely by making extensive use of Zoom and other collaborative production tools and techniques.

Michele Chung, a sophomore industrial engineering major who has worked as a COVID compliance officer on shoots, reported that compliance rules have forced on-set scheduling, such as checking people in and out, to be more efficient.

Senior theater major Benjamin Wendel relayed that you can tell when someone has worked on a virtual set before because they know the tricks. Both Wendel and game design alumnus Szeka Tse noted that remote collaboration is not good for creative processes. Their creative activities often devolve into note-taking.

For more of the discussion, check out the 8-minute highlight video online.

The ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… Series

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC produced its second series of virtual “executive coffee discussions” during the Spring 2021 semester. These one-hour discussions provide an opportunity for students and ETC member company executives to connect and discuss topics of mutual interest during this period of remote learning and social distancing.

For each session an executive posed one question or topic, students from across USC submitted brief statements of interest, and the ETC invited between 6 and 12 students to participate in the Zoom meeting. Each session was recorded and a 7- to 10-minute highlight video was produced.

The sessions included: Verizon — “Expectations for Entertainment and UI/UX” (March 15), Verizon — “What Comes After Zoom and Entertainment Apps” (March 24), Warner Bros. — “AI and Ethics” (March 30), Disney — “The Future of Immersive Media Storytelling” (April 7), and Warner Bros. — “The Post-Pandemic Future of Virtual Production” (April 21).

The videos are available on the Executive Coffee with… page online.