August 01, 2023

Like ‘Entering Uncharted Territory,’ Participants Say After Epic VP Masterclass

The CSC held an unprecedented three-day Virtual Production Masterclass on July 8, 9 and 10 in Toronto that left participant Gurmeet Singh feeling like “I was entering uncharted territory in cinematography and learning about how it works from pre-production to production. It was very exciting.”

Singh was presented with the Best Student Cinematography Award by the CSC in 2022.

“There is a lot of excitement behind virtual production,” according to Singh, who has been working as a cinematographer for about a year. “Being able to learn from the people who are at the forefront of this technology got me excited about this Masterclass.”

The initiative was the brainchild of Philip Lanyon csc, DP for Netflix’s Frontier, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, who developed the curriculum in conjunction with Buckethead creators Marco Bossow and Andy Brown of Transmute Pictures. Chris Mably csc, DP on Star Trek: Discovery joined Lanyon in co-teaching the lighting module. The Masterclass is part of the CSC’s effort to fill the labour market gap in virtual production.

“I believe that VP is an important tool that is changing the game in the world of filmmaking,” associate member Angel Navarro III says. As a DP with more than 10 years of experience, Navarro says he’s always eager to stay ahead of the curve and enhance his skills and knowledge. “I thought that the Masterclass was a perfect opportunity to deepen my knowledge and see how other DPs are using the new tool.”

Lanyon felt that now is the time to develop a unique and comprehensive curriculum for cinematographers, and that given his access to the technology, he felt a need—and a responsibility—to share it.

“It’s not often that we have such a world shifting change in our industry, events like moving from film to digital, like DLSR sensors becoming relevant for filmmaking and democratizing access,” he says. “I feel virtual production is one of those shifts. And I’m very lucky to have had early access to this technology and so feel a responsibility to share the knowledge so that we all benefit from more immersive stories.”

“Virtual Production is a new tool that so many productions are interested in utilizing, often without fully understanding the pros and cons, or the prep work required to integrate it successfully,” Bossow adds. “As a DP, that’s where you can save the day if you know what questions to ask and what challenges and pitfalls to look out for. This technology is still in its infancy, and knowing the ins and outs at this point already can be a real asset as virtual production evolves and becomes more mainstream.”

Because of the costs of mounting a virtual production masterclass, the CSC created a partnership of studios and manufacturers, who sponsored about 80 per cent of the costs. But sponsors were happy to be given the chance to participate.

“Education is a cornerstone of our company ethos at Creamsource, so it was a no-brainer for us to come on board as sponsors of the CSC Virtual Production Masterclass,” Katia del Rosario, director of marketing, North America, says. “We saw this as a unique opportunity … the Creamsource team was blown away by what was accomplished at the Virtual Production Masterclass in Toronto. It was a true technical feat, and we were fortunate to be onsite experiencing three full days of knowledge sharing and hands-on learning.”

IATSE 667, which represents cinematographers in eastern Canada, were also keen to be part of the initiative. “When the CSC reached out to us with their plan to design and create a Virtual Production Masterclass, we were impressed with the depth of information and learning covered by the program,” IATSE Business Agent Roman Neubacher says. “We knew that this would be a terrific opportunity for IATSE Local 667 cinematographers to experience a very high level, specialized and focused training.”

Lanyon feels proud of the Masterclass. “So many of us worked so hard to put it together, but the time we put into it is what made it work, and the format worked. First, we described what VP is and how to use it, then we demonstrated how to use it and then we let the DPs apply their new skills with full access and control of a VP set. By the end, each DP was confident to create their own story and push the tech to its fullest.”

The CSC Masterclass in Toronto was sponsored by 2D House, ARRI, Creamsource, IATSE 667, Pixomondo, The Foundation of Cinematography, and William F. White International.

– By CSC Staff

Photos by IA 667 Stills Photographer, Amanda Matlovich.