The year 2020 has been one of disruption, with marketers and creators having to come up with innovative ways to keep the wheels turning. If there was a doubt whether lateral thinking kicks in during times of crisis, this year has proven it. But has this new, remote way of content production helped or hindered the future of advertising? What innovative and effective strategies are now defining marketing success? More importantly, how are production studios gearing up and leading this change?

Campaigns using immersive and experiential techniques are current industry favorites in grabbing attention for promoting new launches, but even disruptive creators compete not only for audience attention but also production talent and resources. They experience problems ranging from time management to resource issues and creative roadblocks all the time. The more trailblazing the campaign, the more challenging its production. Traditional forms of content production have successfully pushed the creative industry forward but the rise of virtual production solutions is creating a paradigm shift both in how campaigns can be conceived and how they are produced.

Real-time gaming engines such as Unreal or Unity offer holistic creative and production solutions that are empowering creators to develop their concepts and ideas for visual assets in real-time, rather than relying on basic animatics, sketches, or Photoshop compositions to sell in ideas and deliver campaign creative. The nature of the software allows creators to design and interact with CGI in real-time to build entire environments, change the direction of the sun or studio lights, compose shots and animate, and even add 3D-scanned digital talent as placeholders.

Since creators are able to visualize their productions in real-time, they can continuously refine the final look and feel throughout and get instant visual feedback. This helps ensure that the storyline, captured footage, and CGI conceived at the time of production accurately reflect the art director’s vision.

This technology also allows for expanded ideas, with new perspectives unlocked by being able to manipulate real-time assets. Naturally, it requires a certain type of skill and talent to work within gaming tech, but there’s no denying it’s empowering artists with quicker iterations and learning. With the tools of storytelling back in the hands of creators, ideas can be further explored a lot faster with intuition and stronger creative vision, enabling brands to tell more ambitious stories and promote uniquely immersive customer experiences for the same budget.

That’s because virtual production offers a streamlined process to graphics, where feedback and updates are given instantly, streamlining creative feedback. Traditional production methods, on the other hand, might encourage a “fix-it-in-post” mentality that requires expensive VFX labor and reshoots. Virtualizing sets also saves on travel, transportation, and location costs.

In addition, digital assets can be reused further down the line to refresh or create new campaigns, as opposed to needing to reshoot everything from scratch. Better yet, visuals can be distributed across different media platforms, from social media to TV and print, interactive, or experiential.

The television and cinema industries, in fact, have already started to explore the gaming technology across shows and movies, with Disney leading the way in recent years. The majority of the scenes in The Mandalorian, the “Star Wars” bounty hunter series for Disney+, for instance, was produced utilizing real-time game engines and virtual LED production sets. But it seems that brands, agencies, and production partners are yet to utilize real-time game engines to their full potential.

The way we create is shifting to a completely online model, and virtual production tools can yield great outputs. It allows studios to achieve bigger experimentation whilst being in control of the time and cost of production. It’s time the advertising industry included virtual production techniques and real-time engines in their toolset of modern content creation. Naturally, as with every new technology, there will be a learning curve until full adoption but the early adopters should embrace the opportunity to innovate the way stories are told to achieve their marketing goals whilst also saving time and money.

Cover image source: Samuel Chlpík