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Virtual Production vs traditional shoots – Getting you closer to your content

Dec 19, 2023

Is Virtual Production just ‘faking it’ compared to traditional methods of film and photography, or is this new technology a way to control the previously uncontrollable, telling your story exactly the way you want to? Over to ITG’s Executive Creative Director, Andrew Park, to dig a little deeper.

Any location shoot is going to come with its own specific challenges, from the weather being a little too unpredictable, to endless hours of reset as you struggle to find the storyboard angle the client has signed off on.

But, however much we may complain in the moment, the truth is we love it.

The thrill of the unknown, the creative challenge of battling the elements and, let’s face it, the excitement of being somewhere new (and possibly exotic) are all probably reasons we got into this whole advertising gig.

Enter Virtual Production to spoil the party.

On the face of it, shooting from an anonymous unit on a trading estate just outside Tamworth may seem the equivalent of having your eight-day LA beach shoot pulled and replaced with two days in Bognor Regis (readers outside the UK, a quick Google will show you what I mean).

But Virtual Production shouldn’t be viewed simply as a replacement for a traditional shoot, but rather a smart way to squeeze more out of less.

Less budget? Perhaps.

Less time? Definitely. And, in the creative process, time is the most precious commodity.

You don’t scout the location. You build it. From a pixel-perfect, Unreal CGI backdrop that tracks in real time to your camera, to propping the studio foreground to match, it is, by definition, a more creative process. And in all but the most extreme of cases, it’s all the better for it.

Because, for every mega-budget ATL spot there are hundreds of hard-working pieces that need to look beautiful and engage audiences in seconds, even microseconds. Content that stretches your core narrative in an infinite number of ways.

Plus, you can replicate the essence of that halo film with complimentary vignettes of super-engaging multichannel content, without burning a rainforest just to get the crew on set. When you really think about it, it’s a no-brainer.

Next, it’s worth confronting the “yeah, but it’s fake” thing head on. We are not creating documentaries.

In ad land, absolutely everything we do has an element of fakery to it. Do you really think the Venus Fly Trap that starred in the 2023 John Lewis Christmas ad has an agent? Have you ever questioned why Walkers crisp packets are always so suspiciously symmetrical in their commercials?

No – because it’s the overall story that you are engaged by. And that brings us to the core of the Virtual Production silver bullet.


Complete control of your location. Want golden hour all day? You’ve got it. A rainbow glistening over a lake after a heavy downpour? Done.

Want to shoot from the other side of said lake, without dragging your kit eight miles and writing off half a day of shooting? Simple – just leave the camera in position and move the lake.

With Virtual Production you’re closer to the output because you’re literally controlling it. The variables that hamper even the most tightly managed shoot don’t apply anymore. It’s like having a god complex, but without the overwhelming temptation to start a cult.

The stories you need to tell with your creative are as much about the locations they’re told in as they are the concepts that deliver them – and with Virtual Production those locations can be crafted from scratch…

…pixel by pixel.

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