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Entering Star Trek: Strange New Worlds with ROE Visual LED Technology

The latest installment from the Star Trek Universe, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, premiered on May 5th on Paramount+. Shot on the co-branded Pixomondo & William F. White stage in Toronto, Canada, this 10-episode spin-off from Star Trek: Discovery utilizes various ROE Visual LED products to bring the sci-fi storyline to life. The action-packed new series takes audiences across the galaxy as members aboard the Starship Enterprise explore new worlds.

Photo Credit: Paramount+

A prequel to the original Gene Roddenberry series of Captain James T. Kirk (played by the inimitable William Shatner) and his crew, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds takes a new approach to the familiar narrative. According to the show’s description, “The series will follow Captain Pike, Science Officer Spock and Number One in the years before Captain Kirk boarded the U.S.S. Enterprise, as they explore new worlds around the galaxy.” (Paramount+).

While the Star Trek franchise is no stranger to using cutting-edge virtual production techniques over the decades, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is only the second installment to utilize LED technology for virtual backdrops. The fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery was the first, applying the power of LED walls for in-camera effects. This time around, the new series was created with LED advancements in mind, allowing the crew to expand their creative capacity in real-time.

One major example of this set for engineering on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Supported by PXO’s expert team, the massive ROE Visual LED wall, and Unreal Engine, the Toronto space created a realistic engineering room for today’s fans.

Photo by Marni Grossman

The Tech

In collaboration with William F. White International (WFW), the largest equipment rental company in Canada, Pixomondo (PXO) has successively established three virtual production spaces in Vancouver and Toronto, all of which feature ROE Visual LED products. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was filmed at the main Toronto stage.

Occupying over 22,000 sq ft, the stage houses a 70x30 ft horseshoe-shaped volume made up of 1,800 ROE Visual Black Pearl (BP2V2) LED panels. To complement the wall, the volume’s ceiling is made up of 650 Carbon Series (CB5) panels driven by Brompton Tessera SX40 LED video processors, which output real-time animation from Unreal Engine. The impressive volume is also outfitted with OptiTrack motion-capture cameras for multi-camera tracking to ensure the visuals move with the actors.

All of these features came together in support of the otherworldly set design, including the many new environments and planets the crew visits in the series. In an article with American Cinematographer Magazine, Nathaniel Larouche virtual-production and visual-effects supervisor for Strange New Worlds discusses the difference in production when using LED technology on camera:

“‘There’s something tangibly better about capturing these shots in front of a real lens versus compositing everything in post. The natural depth of field and the way the light falls on fine details like hair and cheekbones — all of that definition and accurate lighting are what you’re losing when removing greenscreen spill to get a good composite. Using the LED volume gives you back all of those highlights and creates a beautiful and natural-looking image that we’re all very proud of.’” (ASC Magazine).

Installed in countless virtual production studios worldwide, the Black Pearl and Carbon series continue to outperform expectations on set. Particularly, BP2V2 offers a trusted in-camera performance with a 2.88 mm pixel pitch and true-to-content color representation that specialists rely on in post-production as Larouche mentions. Acting as the volume’s ceiling and lighting source, the CB5 panels (5.77 mm pixel pitch) possess excellent brightness while maintaining a low panel weight. A reduced weight is instrumental for large projects that require extra considerations and rigging.

A second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has recently wrapped production.


Additional Info

Products used: BP2V2, CB5

Original Source: Boldly Going Virtual with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - American Cinematographer


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