Blending technology with creative direction, London-based Bild Studios specialises in visual engineering and creative design for live productions. Founded by live industry veterans Rowan Pitts and David Bajt, Bild now has a 14 strong team that has decades of experience working on some of the world’s largest video installations. After a successful pilot in summer 2020, Bild ventured into a new territory of film and TV by introducing its cutting-edge Mars Volume virtual production facility. Powered by Brompton Technology Tessera LED processing and featuring an Aoto LED volume, the facility is dedicated to technical precision and has been serving up the infinite creativity of VP technology to companies of all sizes and budgets with the aim to service the widest range of projects
“Traditionally a live events company, Bild Studios worked mainly in media service, specifying content workflows and designing systems for large-scale opening ceremonies, concerts, corporate events, broadcasts, etc.,” says Pitts. “Mars Volume is essentially a sub-brand of Bild Studios and was specifically created to make virtual production as accessible as possible. One of the biggest blockers for productions right now is the cost associated with virtual production shoots. Because Mars is permanently set up and has a dedicated in-house team, we have been able to make it much more cost-effective meaning it’s relevant to a broad range of projects.
From higher budget TV commercials to some of the lower budget feature film projects and everything in between, Mars has the team and the technology to accommodate it all. “Mars is utilising quality LED panels by Aoto and industry ‘gold’ standard Brompton Tessera LED processing which when partnered with the team’s world-class expertise in Unreal Engine, Notch and disguise is a formidable offering. That, as well as their knowledge in engineering for tracking solutions, server hardware, and AV infrastructure, has earnt Mars its prestigious position within the industry and made them one of the ‘go-to’ VP facilities in a very short period of time.
Forming delivery partnerships with LA-based Lux Machina and working with them on bigger-scale productions located at Warner Brothers V Stage and Apple Studios helped the Bild team gain the necessary expertise in real-time in camera VFX production technology. They brought this back to their own Mars virtual production facility, offering the same quality of service and technological advancement, but to a much broader market.
When the BBC got in touch with MARS about utilising its virtual production set for BBC One’s film Dinosaurs: The Final Day with Sir David Attenborough, the team was thrilled.
“After working together on the brief for several months, the BBC team came into the studio in October last year,” recalls Pitts. “We started with a couple of test shoots, and then we had Sir David in the LED volume for about three days, surrounded by real and virtual desolate environments, showing minute-by-minute what happened when an asteroid hit the Earth.”
Joanna Alpe, Bild’s chief commercial officer, echoes Pitt’s thoughts. “It was an absolutely immersive filming experience for a VIP presenter.” she exclaims. “The team had built a huge, prehistoric foreground that resembled a real jungle, and it was amazing seeing Sir David sitting amongst all that staging and propping; you are not quite sure where the foreground gives way to the LED. It’s when this happens that Virtual Production comes into its own. It was a true privilege for us to host the BBC team, and especially Sir David, who has such an outstanding heritage and catalogue of amazing work.”
The setup at Mars comprises a 25.5m by 5m LED volume, offering a sweet spot when it comes to scale and price, powered by three Tessera SX40 4K LED processors and multiple Tessera XD 10G data distribution units.
According to Pitts, choosing Brompton Tessera processing for their Mars volume was a ‘no-brainer’, as the team used the company’s Tessera processors for many years when they worked at disguise. Aoto LED display products RM series were chosen due to their great performance, simple structure, and high reliability.
“Our high resolution Aoto LED panels powered by Tessera SX40 bring any type of video content to life,” shares Rowan Pitts. “For Mars Volume, precise onscreen colour adjustment and control was a key requirement. Tessera is the industry’s gold standard and is just brilliant at bringing a full spectrum of colours out on the screen and providing us with the control required for even the most challenging shoots.”
In line with Mars’ brand promise of Hollywood level Virtual Production made accessible, the team works on a wide variety of projects: from feature films and episodic dramas to short form content such as TV commercials.
“Even though virtual production technology has been around for a few years now, there is still a lot of education needed to demonstrate what’s possible and what’s not,” concludes Pitts. “By working with companies that produce reliable, quality equipment such as Brompton Technology, we can make sure that no matter how big or small the production budget is, we can always deliver what the client wants. We are positive we will see a lot more productions being filmed at Mars as the year continues to unfold, and we continue to develop leading innovation techniques within the Virtual Production workflow.”