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1899- Netflix - Alex Forge

ROE Visual provides cutting-edge LED volume for Dark Bay

Leek, The Netherlands (August 30, 2021) - It's late July when we meet the team from Dark Bay outside the studio at the famous Babelsberg complex in Berlin. Today we get a private studio tour where the ROE Visual Ruby RB2.3 LED panels are installed.

In the picture left to right: Philipp Klausing, Roelof Bouwman, Jesse Kretschmer, Erik Baum, and Christina Caspers.

While all productions at Babelsberg are strictly compartmentalized, featuring their facilities such as catering and production, COVID testing is obligatory to guarantee safe working conditions for staff, crew, and artists. While we wait for the results of the tests, we make introductions with the team. Christina Caspers, Philipp Klausing, and Jesse Kretschmer take their time like they have no production running. They introduce us to the renowned Babelsberg studio complex, where once Marlene Dietrich shot Der Blauwe Engel and their unique take on virtual production technology as deployed for the Netflix production 1899.

Picture credit: Alex Forge- Netflix

Once we enter the custom-built virtual production stage, owned by DARK BAY, a dedicated company set up by DARK WAYS and Studio Babelsberg with Netflix backing, we enter another world. Here, we are eye-to-eye with the most significant LED Volume of its kind in Europe. The Led Volume is built in cooperation with FrameStore and Faber Audiovisuals and supplied by ROE Visual. Seeing the LED Volume in action, we also experience the sheer complexity of virtual production at work during an actual take on the set.

The Dark Bay studio is permanently situated at the long-standing Babelsberg Studios in Berlin. It offers creators the chance to capture complex visual effects shots in-camera through virtual sets and locations created with game engine technology. The first production housed in this studio is 1899, a mystery drama from the creative powerhouse behind the award-winning Dark.Production on the eight-part series started at the beginning of May and is helmed by Dark creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar. The design and setup of the new Volume were in the capable hands of Dark Ways, Framestore, Studio Babelsberg, ARRI Solutions Group, and Faber Audiovisuals.

Picture credit: Alex Forge- Netflix

State-of-the-art hardware was combined with high-end engineering performance to create an innovative overall system and achieve the highest production quality possible. The 55 meter-long and seven meter-high, bent at 270-degree LED wall, comprises 1470 cutting-edge ROE Visual Ruby RB 2.3 LED panels, running on HELIOS processing. The LED wall is complemented by 70 SkyPanels from ARRI, combining to illuminate the Volume interactively.

Dark Bay Floor Plan Studio

"In spring 2021, we built our high-end LED studio in a record time of three months on the premises Studio Babelsberg AG. The teams from Framestore, Faber Audiovisuals and ARRI Solutions Group work closely together", comments Philipp Klausing, Managing Director of DARK BAY GmbH and producer of "1899." "The balanced inclusion of the needs from the specialist departments of direction, camera, lighting, and VFX were indispensable for us to guarantee a satisfactory recording result in the studio."

The LED panels were supplied through Faber Audiovisuals. "The choice for Ruby RB2.3 on HELIOS processing was a deliberate one. At the time when we needed to decide on the investment, Black Pearl BP2 was the proven technology, as used on the Mandalorian series and many other projects. However, after thorough testing at Faber Audiovisuals, ARRI, and ROE Visual, the combination of Ruby RB2.3 and HELIOS processing had the best look and feel for this production, so we took the leap of faith," states Niels Pauwels from Faber Audiovisuals.

Ruby RB2.3 LED panels were selected based on the excellent product specs that tie in quite well with in-camera requirements. The pixel pitch of 2.3mm. had the right balance for the envisioned shots and the light thrown from the LEDs on the scenes. The screen's refresh rate has a bearing on visual quality. It's imperative to sync this with the type of camera used and the content rendering capacity. The Ruby LED panels have a wide viewing angle, which is essential to maintain a stable colordisplay under different viewing angles, making the virtual scene more realistic. The raw data of every single LED can be measured, and because we work closely with ARRI, we can calibrate the color science of the LED Volume to the sensor and the specific needs of the D.P. on the project".

Picture credit: Alex Forge- Netflix

HELIOS was selected because of its ability to deliver cinema-grade color workflow and industry-leading image quality. "The HELIOS LED processing platform has been fantastic to work with, providing a powerful, robust platform with excellent support", says Kretschmer. "In Virtual Production, a clean pipeline and accurate color reproduction are essential to a great looking result in camera. HELIOS provides this with a precise representation of the content. HELIOS integrates easily with the other systems used at the stage, making it very easy to work with for all teams involved.

"We're well underway in this project, and we're delighted with both the results and the options that this LED Volume offers. The results are stunning. The close cooperation between ARRI and ROE Visual also makes it possible to get the most out of our LED Volume. Any issues we run into are picked up and solved. The cooperation is very supportive. The LED Volume, image processing, and ARRI camera are perfectly tuned to achieve superior in-camera visuals", says Klausing.

Picture credit: Alex Forge- Netflix

The studio also features an industry-first revolving stage. This motor-driven 360-degree turntable allows filming entire sets from different angles without conversion times, while the virtual studio is controlled via the 'Brain Bar,' which provides 13 high-performance workstations.

VFX supervisor for Framestore, Christian Kaestner, said: "1899 is a brilliantly complex and contemporary piece of storytelling, and the technology supporting it is equally ambitious. Being involved early in the project planning and realization required us to draw from our extensive pool of knowledge and expertise to assemble a team that could accommodate every facet of production. State-of-the-art technology and our diversely skilled team gave us the flexibility to work hand-in-glove with the showrunners and production designers, bringing their vision to life while complementing the practical set-builds with the virtual production technology. It's a huge yet exciting undertaking, and I am thrilled to be pioneering this way of film-making alongside a strong creative team – putting technology and artists through their paces."

Explore Ruby    Explore HELIOS

Further reading:

About DARK WAYS GmbH  - After their worldwide success with the hit series DARK (Netflix), the showrunner duo Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar founded the production company DARK WAYS. They want to produce quality stories and market them globally with their company. With the series 1899, DARK WAYS starts its first production.

About DARK BAY GmbH - DARK BAY is Europe's first permanently installed LED studio for virtual productions. Founded by DARK WAYS and Studio Babelsberg in the historic sound stages of Potsdam Babelsberg, the "Virtual Production" studio is one of the world's largest LED installations, using state-of-the-art ROE Visual LED panels. In addition, industry partners ARRI, FABER A.V., and FRAMESTORE are involved in the development of the studio. DARK BAY's first customer is the Netflix production 1899 and will offer future customers a proven setup.

About Framestore - Framestore is known globally for its visual effects. Framestore has a proud history creating extraordinary images and scenes for some of Hollywood's biggest pictures, collecting every possible industry award along the way.Framestore has grasped the opportunities of new technologies and works with brands, studios, artists, and organizations to bring immersive experiences to both new and existing audiences. Fuelled by a relentless curiosity, they continue to look to the future, carving out new spaces, screens

About Faber Audiovisuals - Faber Audiovisuals is a leading international company in the audiovisual sector. From offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Dubai, and the United States, they provide solutions for broadcast, corporate, live and online events, media, and more. Since 2015 Faber Audiovisuals is part of the American NEP Worldwide Network: one of the largest providers of outside broadcasting, studio production, video displays, and facilitator of live events around the world. 

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