Over two years have passed since Netflix released the last season of Dark, a German time-travel epic that reimagined the genre and demonstrated that international entertainment could succeed on the streaming service. Now, series creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese have released 1899, a naval thriller in which nothing is as it seems.
Inspired by the virtual production techniques pioneered on the Disney Plus show The Mandalorian, the team redesigned the show to be shot entirely on a gigantic LED volume erected at Studio Babelsberg, just outside of Berlin. A massive turntable on which the show’s modular sets were placed and oriented within the space was one of the innovations integrated into the Dark Bay Virtual Production Stage.
What is Volume, the virtual production stage used for making 1899?
A virtual production facility, often known as Volume, is simply a massive high-performance display that is a filmmaker’s dream come true in many respects. It also has an industry-first revolving stage – a motor-driven 360-degree turntable that permits the filming of genuine sets from various angles without requiring conversion delays. The “Brain Bar,” which holds 13 high-performance workstations, controls the virtual studio. To be able to switch between photorealistic backgrounds at will, to include effects in-camera rather than shooting against a green screen and adding effects in post, to use the massive walls of panels as variable and creative lighting — it truly is a box of toys that creators have only begun to unpack.
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However, Philipp Klausing, the show’s producer and managing director of Dark Bay, emphasised that these capabilities come with some major limits that aren’t immediately apparent.
“However you build a volume,” he added, “you try to achieve a full cylinder or circle around you so you can place your camera wherever you like. You soon realize you have all kinds of limitations on all sides, and you have issues with how to access the stage.”
Even if you design a large room, the volume itself is a constraint.