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Traditionally, advertising production has been characterized by extensive globe-trotting, significant environmental impact and substantial costs. But I invite you to consider a future where these age-old norms and conventions have become obsolete. This is a revolution powered by a convergence of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and their remarkable potential to reshape the industry through the rise of virtual studios.
Begin by acknowledging a simple truth: The conventional advertising production model, as we have known it, is no longer viable. A pivotal force driving this paradigm shift is the growing awareness of the environmental footprint of traditional advertising production. One ad campaign can produce 70 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions—for perspective, that’s the same as what seven people on average release into the atmosphere in a year.
Embracing sustainability isn’t just an ethical stance; it’s also becoming a business imperative. Today’s consumers are increasingly drawn to brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility. Similarly, shareholders often regard sustainability as a key performance indicator. In advertising, we don’t just narrate stories, we architect them. Therefore, we have a responsibility to scrutinize our own environmental impact to ensure we are a catalyst for change.
In a world increasingly concerned about climate change and ecological sustainability, the industry can no longer afford to maintain the status quo. The urgency for change is clear, and virtual studios are emerging as a powerful solution. Here’s why I predict a game-changing shift in the future of advertising production, along with some practical strategies to make a seamless transition into the virtual space.
What is a virtual studio, and how does it work?
A virtual studio harnesses cutting-edge technologies to project lifelike environments onto LED screens, serving as the backdrop for actors during filming. Within this studio setup, green screens and LED walls replace specific elements or even the entire set, seamlessly merging real and virtual elements.
AR introduces an exciting dimension by using sensors, cameras and displays to capture the real world and superimpose virtual objects onto it. While interdependent technologies, AI can enhance AR as it tracks and analyzes object movement within the virtual set, ensuring realistic interactions between virtual and real elements. Meanwhile, VR immerses users in a digitally crafted, three-dimensional environment, facilitated by specialized electronic gear like headsets and gloves. It transports actors to a virtual realm where they can naturally interact with objects, people and surroundings as if physically present.
The core premise of virtual studios is grounded in efficiency, which, in turn, has a positive knock-on effect on sustainability. AI, VR and AR technologies enable us to streamline production processes, minimize resource consumption and drastically reduce carbon footprints. Companies like Reckitt have adopted this and achieved up to 75% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to traditional production methods.
When agencies consider implementing virtual studios, they should first assess their specific needs, budget and location. For high-frequency and high-quality productions, investing in LED screens and in-house sets is an option, but often it’s much better to tap into specialized studios that already have the capability and know-how. Early adoption of software like Unreal Engine, with ongoing hardware and software choices being informed by the rapidly evolving nature of the field, plays a pivotal role in the early phases. From there, it’s possible to convert an existing in-house conventional studio into a virtual production studio by setting up an LED volume wall.
When it comes to investing in equipment, opt for efficiency rather than top-of-the-range, or consider renting equipment if you’re looking to save costs. Renting virtual production studio space, which is now easier as more facilities become available and more talent has been trained, can be a more cost-effective solution. With the virtual production global market expected to reach $7.6 billion by 2030, it’s clear it will become increasingly prevalent and accessible for agencies—there are some 80 virtual production studios in the U.S. and 40 in the U.K.
Transitioning from a traditional production model to virtual studios may seem daunting, but it’s crucial to explore the pragmatic strategies and tactics to navigate this shift.
Audit and optimize
Start by conducting an audit of your current production processes. This includes assessing the equipment, personnel and workflows involved in traditional advertising production.
Analyze the financial impact of your current production model, and identify areas where costs can be reduced and optimized—consider whether there are inefficient processes or unused equipment. From there, you can invest in the necessary technologies for virtual production or seek out a suitable LED studio for the asset creation you need.
Start small and measure
Instead of immediately shifting all projects to virtual studios, begin with a small-scale project or pilot. This could be a short video ad or a digital campaign. This will help you ease into the transition and evaluate its efficiency and impact.
Measure how much time and resources were saved compared to traditional production methods. Collaborate with organizations like Ad Net Zero and AdGreen to calculate the carbon footprint of your virtual production process. This will help you align with sustainability goals.
Maximize resources and efficiency
As advertisers, the key to success in a virtual studio transition doesn’t solely rely on the tools and technology at your disposal. It’s all about how you orchestrate the planning and setup to maximize efficiency. This not only includes leveraging existing expertise and data but also adopting key tactics like bundling tasks and shooting multiple ads over a span of a few weeks.
This approach allows you to make the most of your access to virtual studios, enabling seamless transitions between different backgrounds and efficient production of various content, helping you tackle everything in a short amount of time, from television commercials to social media posts. This tactic not only saves time and resources but also reduces the environmental impact by eliminating the need for time-consuming travel. Overall, it’s important to prioritize the preparation phase rather than relying on the “fix it in post” mentality.
Virtual studios, supercharged by AI, VR and AR, represent the future of advertising production. These state-of-the-art technologies are not only redefining how we create content but also fundamentally altering the industry’s DNA. The age of virtual studios promises to make advertising more sustainable, efficient and creatively liberating than ever.
The industry cannot afford to sit still; change is not only imminent but also necessary. Our future depends on our ability to adapt and adopt strategies that are in harmony with environmental preservation. This shift is an opportunity to lead the way, reshape our industry and captivate worldwide audiences in innovative ways.