ARRI equipment enriches virtual production technologies in Korea

South Korea’s leading organizations for virtual production utilize ARRI lighting and camera systems to push boundaries in the field.

Apr. 15, 2024

YN Culture and Space (YN C&S) and the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) Studio have joined forces to offer Korean filmmakers and content producers the opportunity to experience and explore cutting-edge virtual production technologies. NIPA has constructed a 1600 square-meter (500 pyeong) LED studio equipped with ARRI SkyPanels and Orbiter lights. YN C&S, in turn, is conducting research and development activities utilizing ALEXA 35 and ARRI Signature Prime lenses.

“NIPA Studio is the largest studio in Seoul. It has recently expanded with a curved 16-meter-wide by 6-meter-high LED wall, a 16-meter by 6.5-meter LED floor, a 7-meter by 3.2-meter LED ceiling, and a 3.5-meter by 2.4-meter moving LED wall supplied by ROE Visual. The lighting system is made up of ARRI SkyPanels and Orbiter lights with DMX controllers,” reveals NIPA deputy director Jin-seo Lee.


ARRI camera and lighting at NIPA’s virtual production studio

“When engaging with local production crews, we have observed a sense of uncertainty and preconceived notions surrounding virtual production. We firmly believe in the need for an environment where these technologies become both enjoyable and challenging for all creators. We wanted to be the catalyst for this, which is similar to the path ARRI has taken, so we thought it would make for a great partnership,” explains YN C&S COO Boon-hong Min.

“Our main purpose is to establish a space that facilitates high-quality content creation and to increase the production capabilities of Korean content producers through research and experiment, incorporating new features that go beyond our conventional understanding of virtual production,” continues Lee.

Virtual production is still a budding market with high barriers to entry, so NIPA had to go through serious deliberations when planning the construction of the LED studio. Lee states: “The first thing was to ensure that the system is user-friendly in terms of both hardware and software. To do this, we first looked at the most used and proven systems in the world. We thought that overspecialized systems might impede creativity by limiting data sharing and hinder prompt problem-solving on set.”


ALEXA 35 captures the test shoot by YN C&S

“The main factor in YN C&S choosing ARRI equipment was the widespread adoption of ARRI cameras and lighting by Korean film and television crews for their productions. Virtual production is already an unfamiliar environment for the crew, and it will be more accessible if they utilized reliable equipment. It was a priority to choose tools that can be used with confidence,” Min elaborates.

To demonstrate the studio’s capabilities, the YN C&S team recently conducted a test shoot simulating a garage and racing circuit. The shoot was captured using the ALEXA 35 paired with Signature Primes lenses, while the lighting was designed using ARRI SkyPanels and Orbiters.

“The test shoot was led by Studio EON, who specializes in virtual art creation for game engines, and supported by NP Studio, who also operated the entire stage system during the production. Through collaboration with lighting designers and cinematographers, we gained valuable experience in minimizing disparities in lighting, color synchronization, and camera direction between the virtual and real environments,” says Min.

Video 04 Image

A shot test with a virtual garage background asset

Supporting the test shoot were cinematographer Eui-kwan Kim and gaffer Seok-won Yun. The LED screen served as both a backdrop and a partial light source. A color thermometer was used to fine-tune the whites of the LED, while SkyPanels and Orbiters, used as key and fill lights, were set to match the exposure of the background. This created a more efficient and realistic atmosphere without overexposing the virtual background space or distorting the colors, making the virtual light assets look identical to the stage lights. The team also ensured that the lighting on the actors didn’t interfere with the background LEDs, so they needed to be precise but had to avoid excessive darkness. 

“Given the need for delicate adjustments in this virtual scenario, it was essential to have lighting equipment that could deliver detailed lighting expressions. We needed control over the finer details of the color temperature, green/magenta balance, and light output to achieve the perfect harmony between objects and people within the background assets. ARRI’s lights can do all these, making them the best choice for virtual environments,” says Yun.

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Flicker test using G733 Nostalgic ARRI Texture

“As for the camera, once we got our hands on the ALEXA 35, we knew it was the perfect choice. The crew was highly satisfied with the 17 stops of dynamic range, enabling real-time metadata integration into Unreal Engine using ARRI Metadata plugins. Moreover, the camera's ability to capture the depth of the assets' imagery, even within an LED environment, further solidified its suitability for the project,” says Min.

Once we got our hands on the ALEXA 35, we knew it was the perfect choice. The crew was highly satisfied with the 17 stops of dynamic range, enabling real-time metadata integration into Unreal Engine using plugins.

Boon-Hong Min

Chief Operating Officer YN Culture & Space

“Compared to conventional sensors, the ALEXA 35’s improved dynamic range is great for virtual production and capturing changing exterior scenes. It alleviated concerns regarding exposure,” adds DP Kim. “The ARRI Textures were the most fascinating part. The change in texture alone was enough to remove the disparity between the lighting in the virtual space and the real world. The ARRI Signature Prime Lenses also perfectly matched the ALEXA 35.”


Signature Primes and ALEXA 35 captures an LED image with depth

With South Korea’s ongoing advancements in virtual production, YN C&S is already in discussion with production companies about several projects adapted from digital comics. Min elaborates on their plans: “Virtual production is a technology that is optimized to bring fictional worlds to life, so we are actively discussing how to use it in a clever way that can break the scale and limits of creativity. The more professionals utilize it well, the greater the diversity of content we can create and enjoy.”

“In Korea, virtual production studios are being built, not only by NIPA but also by leading companies and local governments. Simultaneously, Korean content continues to rise and gain global recognition. With the expansion of VFX-based genres, I believe virtual production will be more valuable,” Lee predicts.